CHRIS’S CORNER Welcomes Guest Blogger Matthew Krause: Shh! Your Favorite Movie Is Sharing Your Secrets

CHRIS’S CORNER Welcomes Guest Blogger Matthew Krause: Shh! Your Favorite Movie Is Sharing Your Secrets

When I first connected with Matthew Krause on Twitter, I liked him immediately, especially his fresh take on things and wicked sense of humor. And then I went out to his website to read his bio and learn more about his work as a writer and come to find out that not only is he an award-winning screenwriter, he is also a filmmaker. Now, all you have to do is spend 15 minutes with me to learn rather quickly that I love movies. So this was quite an exciting discovery for me.

 

As I read more and more of his work, I found that some of Matthew’s interests include baseball, animals and the human condition…all of these things that mean so much to me in here *points to chest* In my heart. Just like that! I was hooked. I had found a kindred spirit once again via my wonderful friend Twitter and I just had to ‘meet’ him. We’ve been chatting ever since.

 

At the time I approached Matthew about serving as a guest blogger, I knew I wanted him to do something about movies given our shared interest and his own background as an independent filmmaker. I also thought the timing was perfect. Here this week, I just released my first novel THE MUSE UNLOCKED about of all things – duh! – a film screenwriter! And the book has quite a few moments throughout that pay tribute to film. So I knew Matthew was my guy for the job this week, if he had the time and interest. And thankfully, he did!

 

I had no idea Matthew would come back to me with such a creative, thought-provoking essay. So I’m incredibly proud and honored to feature this guest blog on my site. I hope you find it as fascinating as this movie buff did. Matthew, you really outdid yourself. And my favorite film is either It Happened One Night or On the Waterfront, so what does that say about me? I’m guessing that I’m a sappy old-fashioned romantic who likes when the little guy takes on and topples ‘the man’ but you can tell me offline. 🙂

 

Please check out Matthew’s work including his book and fantasy series Strays (with 5% of all sales going to animal charities!) and Pitch, combining two of my favorite things – baseball and time travel. Yes! And be sure to connect with him on Twitter at @StorytellerMatt.

 

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You don’t choose the movie.  The movie chooses you.

 

Midway through La Dolce Vita (1960), Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni), an unhappy tabloid journalist in Rome, returns to his artistic roots by working on his novel. While typing away at a charming seaside restaurant, he befriends a beautiful young girl named Paola.  Marcello marvels at her unspoiled innocence and compares her to an Umbrian angel.

 

Upon his return to Rome, Marcello falls into a downward spiral. By story’s end, he is disenfranchised, virtually stripped of his humanity. As he slouches hungover on a beach after a night of depravity, he spies young Paola calling to him from across an estuary. Unable to be heard above the waves, she mimics a typing motion to remind Marcello of his essential nature. Marcello fails to recognize the girl, and in a classic shot he shrugs, hides his eyes, and goes to rejoin his fellow partygoers. Paola waves goodbye … and seems to be looking at us.

 

I was exposed to Fellini in college, but I didn’t really discover him until I watched La Dolce Vita in 2010. I was so taken with the film that I purchase the Criterion DVD and downloaded a digital copy onto my iPod Touch. Sometimes, in long lines at the grocery store, I’ll pull out my iPod and watch my favorite scenes.

 

For me, it all comes down to that final shot of Marcello teetering between his options.  Should he choose his “angel” and a life defined by his craft?  Or should he turn away, resuming a comfortable but vacuous existence devoid of artistic challenge?

 

That is the moment that resonates with me.

 

By 2003, I had finally graduated from “creative typist” to established writer. In the first three years of the 21st century, I had earned a Screenwriting Fellowship with Walt Disney Pictures and placed in both the quarter and semifinals of the Nicholl Fellowship Screenwriting Competition (hosted by the Academy). I had then gone to direct a low-budget independent feature called Baby’s Breath, based on a screenplay of mine that had been well-received in several Hollywood circles.

 

Screenwriting at the time seemed to be my thing. As a young boy falling in love with movies, I appreciated the minimalist approach of the medium, the barest bones of action, description, and dialogue on a page to be trusted to other artists to bring to visual life. Having acted in plays from a very young age, I had witnessed this process work on the stage, and filmmaking to me was just an expansion of theater.

 

All of this culminated in the production of Baby’s Breath, a screenplay I still love. Sadly, the finished film did not come out as my screenplay had promised. My lack of directorial experience led to amateurish behind-the-camera choices, and consequently Baby’s Breath failed to find a distributor. Beaten down by the culture of commerce surrounding the creative process, I fled Los Angeles for a time and plunged myself into a seven-year moratorium from writing.

 

It wasn’t until 2010, the year I saw La Dolce Vita, that I returned to the blank page, once again tasking my words to bring order to the whole.

 

But La Dolce Vita was not the film that got me writing again.

 

A few months before viewing Fellini’s masterpiece, the abuses I had suffered at the hands of my fellow man had left me jaded and angry. One day while shopping, I stumbled across a book at the Dollar General bargain bin about “Godwinks,” those little messages the universe sends to you like signposts on your journey. I bought the book, read the prologue in my car, and opened my mind to this idea of “Godwinks.”

 

And then the “Godwinks” started happening.

 

For the rest of the morning, the number 7 began to pop up–on signs, in radio ads, in the price of items, and most prominently, on the change I got back at one of the stores ($7.77). I ended the shopping run at Walmart, where I wandered into the music section and discovered a CD of Kind of Blue by Miles Davis … for $7.

 

While not a jazz fan, I had a niggling sense that I should buy Kind of Blue. No reason, just a sense. Once back home, I listened to the CD while researching the significance of the number 7 on the internet. The first thing that jumped out at me was the passage in Matthew where Jesus instructs his disciples to forgive “7 times 70 times.”

 

I took the signs to heart. I silently forgave those who had inflicted injury upon me as “Blue In Green” was playing on my stereo. I also fell in love with the music of Miles Davis.  It is almost as if Miles had come tumbling out of the sky, bringing peace to a troubled life.

 

The same could be said for John “Dingo” Anderson in the Aussie film Dingo (1991). Growing up in tiny Poola Flats in the desolate Australian Outback, young John’s life is forever changed when jazz legend Billy Cross comes tumbling out of the sky. Billy’s touring plane, you see, is forced to make an emergency landing at the Poola Flats airstrip, and to kill time, Billy Cross and his band play an impromptu concert on the runway. Young John falls forever in love with the jazz trumpet.

 

Dingo_Miles

 

And it should be noted, Billy Cross is played in the film by the inimitable Miles Davis, who died shortly after the film’s final audio tracks were completed.

 

John grows to adulthood (played by Colin Friels) and becomes a talented trumpeter himself, even saving money so he can one day fly to Paris and reconnect with the aging Billy Cross. His every waking moment, every fantasy, every focus is on this dream of sharing the stage with Billy, playing trumpet side by side with the jazz legend.

 

And damned if he doesn’t succeed!

 

The parallels to my life are there, of course. Billy Cross falls from John’s sky and inspires him to focus on his dreams, just as Miles Davis (Billy’s alter ego) fell from my sky, compelling me to set aside resentments and follow a few dreams of my own.

 

Dingo was the film that got me writing again. La Dolce Vita only exacerbated the condition.

 

Consider again that final scene from La Dolce Vita: Marcello on the beach, torn between chasing or ignoring his muse. In the years since I first saw La Dolce Vita, I have stood on that same precipice, debating whether to put my voice back out there … or to pursue a much “safer” path. Marcello turns away, I believe, because he has no choice. He has become so attentive to his meaningless existence that he cannot possibly break its spell.

 

The same attentiveness could be attributed to John “Dingo” Anderson.

 

John, however, has fixed his laser-focus on the dream. As an adult, he is mocked for this dream, and cruel jokes are played on him because of it. His own wife and best friend urge him to dismiss it.  But when he plays his trumpet alone in the Australian Outback, he literally sees Billy Cross and his jazz combo, waving from across the landscape for John to come join them.  As such, in the film’s third act, John finds himself in Paris, playing trumpet with Cross in a jazz club.

 

Whenever I meet new people, I often ask their favorite film. I believe this small piece of information reveals something about the individual. Perhaps it is presumptuous of me to say so.

 

Nevertheless, this has certainly proven true for me.

 

Be it Star Wars when I was 13 and longing to escape my small town, or Field of Dreams when I was 30 and reconnecting with my father through baseball, the cinema de l’année that charts my life’s journey offer the best insight into my essential nature.

 

My favorite films have always shared my secrets. What do yours say about you?

 

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  1. Guest Blogger Matthew Krause: The Seven Most American Movies of the 1980s, Part I | Chris Kuhn Author - […] Matt had been an incredible contributor previously as a guest blogger at my website, with his blog Shh! Your…

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