12 February 2009

How to tell timely tales

I invariably question what I do around film fest time. Do I want to write? Direct? If I did any of those things it would take forever to hit the screen in the event a screenplay or project would survive against all odds, and we'd see something like the film we saw tonight. Rod Lurie's film Nothing But The Truth is about an issue that a few people care very passionately about and most people think is long over. If you asked most people today why Judith Miller was jailed a few years back, would they be able to answer the question? Would they understand why a journalist might be jailed for not revealing a source? And do they understand what it meant for Bush to pardon Scooter Libby? So it makes me wonder what's left for me, this little oddball who cares about these things that in the context of public discourse seem arcane and remote: Upholding our First Amendment rights, not just for us here in the U.S. but also for the sake of much of the rest of the world, which holds up our freedom of speech as a sterling example of what a free press can accomplish and how that can keep a government accountable. People think Blagojevich was bad? It can be so much worse.

The biggest question looming for me is this: How do you tell a timely story, in the time it takes to write a novel or screenplay, then get the film made and distributed? How to get in, get into it, and get out, before the story is not a story any longer?

The one I'm looking forward to is Terri Jentz' story, which she wrote in prose in the book Strange Piece of Paradise and only later, as she was seeking stories to tell in screenplays, realized her own story was far more interesting than anything else she was coming across. Now she's writing the screenplay of a movie about her story. That will be very intense. Jodie Foster, are you listening? This sounds like it could be your kind of project.

No comments: