There is nothing new under the sun. Moderngrumble grew slowly, over many years in response to this fact. As a screenwriter it drove me nuts on a regular basis that I could not escape the structure, archetypes and rhythms of conventional storytelling without veering into experimental, un-readable at least by industry standards, territory. At the time, I was already expressing myself through numerous experiments with film and did not wish to explore or otherwise transfer these ideas to the screenplay format. Such an exercise would have been pointless as much of what I was exploring with film was of the moment and not plotted or designed. There appeared to be no middle ground, at least for me and my capabilities at the time. I could only produce, at best, a new context or perspective on a story already told. Add to this, the fact that this particular period in cultural history, that of the dreaded post modernism, makes it virtually impossible to create a non-self conscious take on such a story especially a genre story. That very realization being the root of the entire problem. Genre Revisionism was not the answer.
Around the same time, as digital innovations were democratizing filmmaking, it became apparent that someone could realize a genre masterpiece of mass appeal on a shoe-string budget, something that in my mind still has not been achieved. So I set about writing Moderngrumble with very lofty goals indeed. However, as I wrote those first few pages, of a film that resembles in no way what I am presenting as Moderngrumble today, it became obvious that if I was to get at an honest story, something at once personal and universal I was going to have to turn off my conscious mind. At first, I came at this idea in a direct way, I simply stopped writing when my mind made a linear connection, i.e. anything resembling a character arc or plot development. As such the script began to take on an episodic or vignette style. Realizing that even this was not enough, I restricted myself to drawing inspiration from spontaneous ideas, free association, music, dreams, and visions received during transcendental meditation, a practice I was once very passionate about and returned to periodically during the writing of Moderngrumble. Of course when my mind should have been empty during these sessions, often I indulged myself and followed the rhythms of my subconscious instead. This process took several years. I was in no rush, as I had a son to raise and more and more the idea that Moderngrumble may be the only feature film I ever produced took a hold and provided a level of comfort and patience I had not experienced before.
When I finally completed the script, I hesitated in the editing. A part of me felt that like Kerouac, a jazz musician or filmmakers from the French New Wave to No Wave, that I should let it stand as it was, blemishes and all but I relented, my excuse being that I needed to know what I had written, as there had been no review or revising during those years of detailing reveries, especially if I was going to move forward with making the film a reality. In the review that followed, I realized initially that in drawing from meditation, dreams and free association I had created a road map to my own secret traumas, desires and fantasies and that terrified me. How could I bring something so personal to the screen and expect others to enjoy it? While I have always felt that film and literature can be excellent therapy for the troubled mind, I did not and do not generally think that makes it acceptable for wide release. Lars Von Trier not withstanding, most of us do not possess the talent or discretion to render our own nightmares palatable for a mass or even niche audience. That of course does not stop anyone from trying but I digress.
The second thing that I realized in my first reading of the script was that nearly every scene was a re-working and revision of something that had come before. I despaired. In allowing myself to indulge the subconscious I had produced a mix tape of scenes that had been lodged in my skull, in some cases since early childhood. Genre revisionism here we come. I sat there after that first reading, a failure, years of my life wasted in a silly endeavor that I should have known better than to start.
Then I read it again and began to see a bigger picture: 1) Yes, it was intensely derivative but it was and is a story realized almost entirely un-self consciously. 2) As a Rorschach of my own soul it was bound to resonate with others of a similar dis-position. Both artistically and emotionally, it was honest. 3) The structure and archetypes of Story are all very present, and not just a few but damn near all of them. It is a ready-made. Because of it's ambiguous design and honesty anyone could apply their own ideas about what the story is about and they would be right. It can be read as a road movie, a coming of age tale, a horror story, a philosophical treatise on modern art, a cultural and political metaphor and even a very dark romantic comedy. It is all these things and more. 4) It was pretty damn entertaining and could be enjoyed on a purely visceral level.
As such, Moderngrumble, when complete was at once everything I had tried to escape as a writer/filmmaker; self indulgence, navel gazing, derivative and everything I had wanted to achieve; a universal truth about the human condition laid bare, an honest rendering of my own soul's journey no matter how dark the recesses, and an original love song to the genre and art films that formed my early years, and not an homage.
In the year since I finished the script, my mind has been occupied with the nuts and bolts of the business of filmmaking and the visual design of the film. I have accepted that there is nothing new under the sun but my own interpretation. I have embraced that realization and it has freed me as a writer and artist from my own self-imposed restrictions and expectations. And as the script makes it's way into the world, I continue to be amazed and thankful how many of my fellow movie lovers and madmen see it for what it is.