My life would provide a weak basis for a Hollywood action blockbuster.
That thought popped into my head while looking at the schedule for the 15th annual Traverse City Film Festival, which kicked off Tuesday and runs through Sunday.
But back to me: Some of the locations in my life have been visually pleasing, and the occasional bit of dialogue has been amusing. But the plot so far has been rather muddy. There’s no grand theme, no philosophical lesson to be learned from my experiences.
There have been no cliffhangers, no arch-villains foiling my plans, no car chases, hardly any fight scenes. Some of the supporting roles have been interesting, but the protagonist is a yawn.
Whoever is writing the story of my life needs a remedial class in screenwriting. Oh, wait — that’s me. I’m responsible for my story, my destiny, my character development. I’m still just wandering through life like everybody else, stumbling my way from day to day. An action flick it is not.
But back to the festival: This year’s People’s Choice Winner, “Back to the Future,” airs Friday at dusk at the Open Space. It is one of my favorite films.
The movie’s action is nonstop. The plot is a complex web of relationships and situations. The characters are oversimplified but somehow believable. Coincidences crop up constantly to add spice to the film’s flow. The witty dialogue — and Doc Brown’s hairstyle — still make me laugh out loud. Many factors contribute to the film’s success — but writing is the thing on which that success is based. The screenplay, like the flux capacitor, is what makes the film’s success possible.
I’ve been reading William Goldman’s book “Which Lie Did I Tell: More Adventures in the Screen Trade.” I agree with Goldman, one of Hollywood’s most successful writers: A great screenplay is an essential first step toward a great movie.
The “Back to the Future” screenplay is a masterpiece of storytelling. (You can read it at https://tinyurl.com/ scriptbacktothefuture.)
Marty McFly’s fictional adventures are much more interesting than my real-life experiences, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. He sails through situations far beyond my personal comfort level.
I enjoy a good adventure — but prefer to plan my adventures ahead of time. That way, I have some confidence I can return safely to my starting point in case the adventure turns into a horror movie.
The average life story would provide a poor foundation for an action flick or a horror movie. Most of us haven’t experienced anything that would provide entertaining plot points for a film in either genre (though, tragically, every one of us probably knows someone who has lived through a real-life horror story, whether or not we’re aware of that fact).
Other genres also fall outside the norms of the typical human lifetime: fantasy, science fiction, thriller, superhero, mystery.
But a few movie genres do apply to the average American life. Some sort of coming-of-age drama lurks in every adult’s past. A few of us have tasted of comedy. Most of us are lucky to have experienced some form of romance, be it heartwarming or heartbreaking.
If my life ever became a movie, it probably would be a sappy comedy involving parenthood and mildly amusing home life. I’m happy with that reality. An imaginative screenwriter could craft a fictional romantic comedy from most any adult American’s real experience.
Action movies, though, tend to provide the best numbers at the box office. They draw in viewers because they offer us a glimpse of something most of us, thankfully, never experience in reality: life-or-death situations. Most of us can’t relate our lives directly to the wild action scenarios depicted on the silver screen — and that’s alright with every movie-goer I’ve ever run across.
Romance, comedy and drama are plenty for most of us stay-at-home types — with maybe the occasional bit of mild adventure thrown in for variety. I prefer to keep horror, tragedy and violent action as far away as possible from real life. Those kinds of things belong on the movie screen, not in my living room.