Monday, February 10, 2014

Better Days Part 2: Visions of Marion

You gotta meet Aeon Cruz

My process began in February 2013. “Better Days” was the first scene I wrote. In February 2013, we were still living in Portland, OR. My son was approaching six months of age. I watched the baby all day, and at night I was waiting tables at Portland City Grill. We were not getting much sleep. February in Oregon, much like February in Colorado, is my favorite month. February to me is the possibility that the winter is nearly over, this is the optimism I feel during the short day. During the long night my imagination rolls through every noir I've ever read. I think about Jim Thompson, Dashiell Hammett and James M. Cain. And I think of them in that order. In February I think about suspense, and my mental soundtrack is something dark. February of 2013 was no different.

In February of 2013 I knew we were going to be moving back to Denver. I knew I would be working with Gio at Rocket House again. I knew it was time to work. But 2013 was not an easy year for writing. As I said, my son was six months old at the time I wrote this screenplay, I worked full time and there was little time for thinking much less writing.

From John Anderson Photograhpy
Marion, as a character came to me relatively quickly. I was walking to work, in the rain, one night when I thought about her. I love to write women. Women are the onion skins of possibility. One layer then the next then the next then the next. Women can be heroic, subtle, tragic and nearly godlike. Women can pull triggers of the guns of war and women can birth the generations to come. I feel like the act of writing women is just as dimensional as the women we all know. With Marion, I really wrote three separate 'women' or in Marion's case, three different times of her life.

Initially, I saw a playful Marion who can carry more weight than Atlas. If Atlas can hold the weight of the world on his shoulders, I saw Marion able to hold Earth and Mars and Venus. As I began to sketch the first scene, I saw a young woman who balanced perfectly strength and vulnerability. I saw a woman who was at once too wise beyond her years and as playful as a child. I saw a character who was capable of love and kindness but also capable of terrible, spiteful things.
And so, I wrote on.

The screenplay “Better Days” is comprised of 5 separate scenes. As I wrote the scenes, I knew the brevity of scene, the vagueness of set direction and the simple, if not tacit dialogue would appeal to the filmmakers at Rocket House. Here, they would have a manageable script to work and endless possibilities in the shoot. What I didn't realize at the time of writing, February 2013, Portland, OR is that I would be directing this film, I would be a filmmaker.

My family and I returned to Denver in August. The first week of September I was a full fledged member of Rocket House Pictures and we were auditioning actors for “Better Days.”

I was hellbent of getting the perfect 'girl' for the Marion character. I thought that the perfect actor for this part would make the film. To me, it was nothing but Marion. Before I digress further, two things that I've learned: film is collaboration and Marion, although a lead role is not the main character of the story. What the audience sees, is the trajectory of the lead character, Thomas. It is his story. But all I see, from the pages of script to the last shoot of the day, is Marion.

Perhaps the strength of a film is the perfect casting of the characters.

I'm probably not the first one to think this: the moment I met Aeon Cruz, I knew I had to have her. From the start I could see her on screen. I saw her as bestilling and perhaps disquieting. I also met her at the end of a very long day of auditions. We had her read through a few scenes. We asked her a few questions. Once she left, we all agreed that Aeon would make the perfect Marion.

What makes the perfect role for the perfect actor?

I don't know if there's a specific formula that makes a perfect match for actor and part. In the case of Aeon, here was a woman, a grown, mature, adult that could look like a adolescent girl in one scene and an adult in the next. In the situation of the “Better Days” scene this was an actor who could go from playful girl to very serious adult in one breath. On set, with cameras rolling, I watched Marion come to life almost the way I had envisioned her on the page. I say almost because on the page Marion was nothing more than a fabrication of my imagination and a composite of a dozen elements from dozens of people I've known. On set Aeon did what actors do, she played the part of Marion. She had the benefit of my conception, but she had the benefit of her experiences in life to channel into the performance.

Glass Delirium
I hope anyone reading this, anyone following either me, my blog, Rocket House Pictures, or Aeon Cruz will have the opportunity to see “Better Days.” When you see “Better Days” you will see Marion. If you want to met Aeon Cruz, she's a Denver (soon to take over the world) superstar. She's a bassist for the wild rock Denver based band called Glass Delirium. Aside from being a musician and actor, she's got the whole package: model, dancer, performer and artist. I would expect Aeon to be in high demand in the near future. In the meantime, I am immensely grateful to have worked with her on our short film “Better Days.”

Aeon Cruz

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