2010: The Year I Make Contact

2009 seems to have been a tough year for many. I know it had its share of challenges for me. I move toward 2010 with some real-world optimism as I have signed with a new agent and have some projects in the works that I am actually quite excited about.

No one knows how it will all pan out. But like many, I have my desires and my goals. One of the biggest for me is getting my next film off the ground. After losing THE PLAGUE to a set of producers and an industry-mindset that are the creative equivalent of artistic genocide, I have found myself with an opportunity to re-examine my goals and the way in which I try and manifest them. I have also tried to look even more deeply at my desires, actions, reactions, instincts, strengths, and weaknesses.

One of the realizations that I’ve come to understand on my journey is my need to be seen for who I am. Maybe not a unique desire, but one that has guided my actions and emotional reactions for many years. A lifetime, in fact. As a Scorpio, I seem to fall into a category of folks who somehow manage to never actually feel like others see us for who we really are. While that belief may be true in some instances, it is indeed a definition of myself that I maintain and create in my worst moments. Having THE PLAGUE taken from me in post production put me face-to-face with one of my worst nightmares; that the part of myself I was sharing with the world –the part I felt showed me for who I was– was taken away from me, dramatically altered, and placed out there with my name on it for all to see.

What an odd experience. I suppose not every filmmaker feels that his or her film is a reflection/representation of who they are and therefore losing that film is not quite as traumatic an experience. But for me, even though this was a low-budget genre film, it was the culmination of a lifetime spent trying to figure out who I am and how to share that.

Why is this so important? I don’t know that it is in the grand scheme of things. My closest friends and family members know who I am and can see me quite clearly, I believe. As best as anyone can. But I still have this desire to express myself in an even larger sense. I’m not talking fame here. That holds very little interest for me. But expressing some part of myself that comes from deep inside, some human element, something unmasked and vulnerable, something pure. So how does that translate into a low-budget horror film, you ask? Damn good question.

I suppose it has to do with the fact that I rely quite heavily on my subconscious in both my writing and my filmmaking (not altogether unique as this often can’t be helped regardless of intent). It is not just “technique’ that interests me. It’s like telling someone the details of a very personal dream, but bumping it up a notch and allowing others to actually participate in and even “feel” what my subconscious has exposed. So any film that comes from that place in me is going to be quite revealing, even if the viewer does not see it as such. And honestly, that part is not for the viewer’s benefit, but my own. But hopefully that element brings something unique to the film and the experience of watching it that is true to who I am and an honest reflection of the human being inside. An honest reflection of Hal.

A bit much to place on the shoulders of a movie? Not in my eyes. Anyone who allows themselves to create, in any medium, has the opportunity to reveal themselves through their work. Quite often, for some, it is impossible to do the work and NOT reveal themselves. But Hollywood is a town and an industry not particularly concerned with the human element or in being an avenue for self-expression. It is not anywhere near the top of their list of requirements or demands. But these past few years have taught me that it is at the very top of my own personal list.

So I enter 2010 with the knowledge that this is within my reach. My next project, CLEAN, is a part of me unlike anything else I have written. It is my goal to turn that script into a film that reflects me equally. And to make it my number one priority to put that film out there unadulterated. Pure. Regardless of how it is received or interpreted. It is the only reason I have for doing it. In many ways, it is my therapy. But it is also my gift. To both myself and to anyone else who takes interest in or is effected by it.

And while I fully expect this to be another tough year, I at least believe I have a legible roadmap and a pretty damn good sense of direction.

So to speak.

2010: The Year I Make Contact

Even Big Directors Get The Blues

Remember that childhood passion you had for telling stories? The reason you wanted to be a filmmaker in the first place? Well, Hollywood sure doesn’t! Anne Thompson‘s Variety article “No ‘Action!’ for Hollywood vets“, spells out just how difficult it is to tell those stories in Hollywood. Even by our most admired directors who are now slowly returning to their indy roots to get their films made. Of course, this means giving up that hefty paycheck. But for some filmmakers, that’s a trade ultimately worthwhile. It is also exactly the same reason I’m putting together my second feature, CLEAN, in England and not here in Hollywood. After my experience making THE PLAGUE, I learned that this is a town where a director needs to focus more on the quick paycheck and less on his or her storytelling passion. In other words, you wanna make a good film? Get outta Dodge.

Even Big Directors Get The Blues

The CLEAN Blog

I’ve decided to start writing about my journey getting my next feature film, CLEAN, made. I will try to add to this story as new events unfold. It may be a bit slow at first, but hopefully as things begin to come together, I’ll have more to share. 

The story so far…

My production company, Off Leash Films, has teamed with British Production Company, Lock & Loru Productions, headed by producer Amyra Bunyard. At the moment, we are sending the script out to talent and raising finances at the same time. We plan to shoot in England with a largely British cast. We are also looking into other various locations that offer tax incentives, etc. 

I am both the writer and director on the film and the script is loosely based on a story idea by myself and Teal Minton. CLEAN will be produced independently and I will be maintaining full creative control throughout to ensure the film we make is the one released. Those familiar with my first feature, THE PLAGUE, will understand.

CLEAN is a psychological thriller dealing with personal, cultural and social identity. It is a series of complex, interconnected stories that move back and forth in time while building steadily toward its climax. I have been told that it’s MEMENTO meets MAGNOLIA (for those in need of a more commercial description). And though I call CLEAN a psychological thriller, I believe that it encompasses many genres and cannot be easily categorized (much like the Writers & Director’s Cut of THE PLAGUE is not really a horror film as most people think of horror today, yet it’s the closest genre description one can apply). 

As our filmmaking journey continues, so will these posts. Please stop by and see how we’re doing. I intend to speak openly and honestly as to the events that unfold so that both fans and other filmmakers will have a good idea of what it takes to get a film made and what can happen along the way. 

Glad to have you with us!

Hal Masonberg

The CLEAN Blog