Manna from Heaven


So.  Three people spontaneously decided to donate small sums of money to the film.  I hope what moved them is contagious, I really do.  Because the money is the hardest thing with films, especially independent films with uncompromising producers (that would be me).

Here’s the thing.  I am a strange mixture of bad girl nonconformist with type A overachiever.  So as an artist, I wanted to just go…go for what interested me, go for that voice that calls from beyond the boundaries of the expected, learn whatever it had to teach me, pay any price to hear it all the time.

I was twenty-one, twenty-two.

In creative writing workshops, when I wrote lesbian stories, this forty-something man would scrawl his phone number on the pages with the sex scenes.

Meanwhile, the teacher talked about arc and specificity, about keeping the reader at arm’s length.  The class generally didn’t like what I did.  I went and got drunk after.  Then I’d rewrite and rewrite and to get the craft.  I wanted the craft.  I wanted the craft and truth, but I didn’t know how to make them come together.  I was fascinated with a multi-perspective view of the world.  I didn’t want to commit to one way of seeing.  I wanted to show that there were too many ways to choose from.  (This revealed an early tendency toward Buddhism, which states that all ways of seeing are constructs or dreaming anyhow.)

My teacher nominated me for the honors program in spite of the brutal critiques.  He told me I was thick-skinned (clearly he didn’t know about the drinking after critiques).  Then he told me I should go to graduate school, where they would kick the voice out of me, but I would learn craft like anything.  I said, “I don’t want to go anywhere where I’m going to lose my voice.”  The critiques were bad enough.

I could talk about the intervening workshops and editors, all of whom, up until Stuart Spencer, my playwriting god, tried to lead me back to craft, craft, craft.

I’m an overachiever, so I have craft, craft, craft.

But that voice?  The one that called from beyond the boundaries of the expected?  I was thirty-seven when I heard it again, ringing out of Angels in America by Tony Kushner, who clearly didn’t obey all the rules when he wrote that very amazing play.

What does this have to do with the small donations?  In 2006 I started writing a memoir, just for fun.  I thought, f$%^ it, I’m going to throw away all the rules, all the craft-craft-craft, and write how I want.  And I won’t show it to anyone.

The memoir exists beyond the boundaries of the expected.  It was, up to that point, the best thing I had ever done.  It does possess craft, because face it, craft is now a part of me.  But it breaks into the sound of who I truly am.  No keeping the reader at a distance.  No hiding, no showing off what I can do with the craft.  That’s a lie.  I show off, and then I say, “Look at me showing off!” which in my logic somehow doesn’t quite count.  Like, do I really believe I can get away with anything by being honest and funny?  It seems I do.

So, when it comes to the screenplay, I get feedback that would turn the story into a strong woman who is screwed up and her long-suffering husband.  Because the fact that they are both flawed and you don’t quite know who to blame–and this is true of the young lesbian couple as well–is, well, anxiety-producing.  It seems.

But the Episcopal priests really like it.  They say ambiguity is Episcopal.

Those 3 donations that fell from the sky?  They give me hope that I can have my voice uncluttered by the expectations of craft or ease of vision.  They give me hope that this film can whirl in from beyond the boundaries of the expected and surprise all of us.

So, 3 people who shall remain anonymous, living on the other coast, thank you.  Such small things can change a life.

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