Last spring, I had an idea for a little movie about a ghost haunting a house for 200 years. I wrote it down, and it came out to about ten pages long. A week later those ten pages had become thirty, and I called Toby and James and suggested that there might be an opportunity to shoot them over the summer. There was a window of about a month and a half between the time we finished Pete’s Dragon and the run up to its release, and surely, I thought, that would be enough time to make a small, self-financed St. Nick-scale movie.
And so we did just that (although it turned out a littler bigger than St. Nick). I finished post-production on Pete’s Dragon on June 10th, and at sunrise on June 12th I was back in Texas with a small but intrepid crew of friends, shooting the first scene of what was until recently simply called The Ghost Movie. The image of our lead character below is from this first day of shooting.
We carried on from there, shooting into July and then regrouping again in late August to pick up a few necessary pieces. I must admit, it was a terrifying, gut wrenching experience. I took to gnawing on my finger in front of the monitor, agonizing on a shot-by-shot and second-by-second basis over whether this experiment was going to work out and become something more than an experiment. The questions one normally works out during prep were being discovered and solved as we were filming them. At times the whole endeavor felt flat-out ridiculous, the dumbest idea imaginable, and I was just waiting for someone to pull the plug and tell me it was terrible. There were plenty of times when that would have been a relief! But it never happened. And by and by the bad, awkward stuff started to turn good, more quickly and in greater quantities. We started to figure out what the movie was, and how to make it, and by the time we finally wrapped (technically just over a week ago, since we did a few pickups on December 9th), we knew what we were doing.
And the movie does work. The almost-finished product is strange and challenging and leaves me with a feeling I can’t quite describe. I made it, and it still surprises me every time I watch it. I saw a blog recently query whether it would be more art-house friendly than ATBS was, and I don’t know how to answer that question. I think it’s a better film than ATBS, but it’s also smaller, stranger and probably a great deal more alienating. There will be plenty of people who call it pretentious, plenty more who walk out at a very specific point about twenty minutes in, and others who will shrug it off, for whom it will be neither here nor there. But some people will love it, and I’m excited for them to discover it. Our joke pitch for the project was Beetlejuice as remade by Apichatpong Werathesakul. It didn’t turn out like that, but still, that’s sorta the spirit in which me made the film, and if that appeals to you, you might be in our target audience.
It’s called A Ghost Story but in my head I still just call it The Ghost Movie. It premieres next month at Sundance, a stamp of validation for which I am immensely grateful. Great thanks to Toby Halbrooks, James M. Johnston, Andrew Droz Palermo, Annell Brodeur, David Pink, Jade Healy, Tom Walker, Daniel Hart, Bret Curry, Casey, Rooney, Will and the rest of our amazing crew and cast for realizing this crazy idea with me. I couldn’t have done this alone, and I thank everyone for helping me maintain confidence when the going got crazy.
Equally prominent on the personal achievement front, Toby and I ran the Dallas Marathon yesterday. It was the second time for both of us, having first run it in 2011. It was awesome. Horrifically painful towards the end, but awesome all the same. The weather was perfect, and we both shaved considerable time off our first go-rounds, which given that we’re both five years older makes us feel a whole lot better about the passage of time and whatnot (I finished in 4:01:57, which is about 12 minutes faster than my first one).
Look at those crazy eyes as I crossed the finish line! My body is still deep in the process of ceasing to hurt, but already the rose-colored glasses have come on and I’m thinking about waiting a whole lot less than five years to run one again. It’s a microcosm of life, wrapped up in one four hour bundle of joy and ardor and blistered toenails.