Steve Yeager – the only Maryland filmmaker to win an award at the Sundance Film Festival – is also the Executive Director of the Young Filmmakers Workshop. Steve asked me to write the screenplay for the 2014 project, Invasion, based more or less on the original 1956 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. At the world premiere of the film – made entirely by students at Park School – at Baltimore’s historic Senator Theatre, I was the guest speaker. Here are my remarks:
Thank you. As Steve said, everything in this theater is historic. Including me.
You know, I really don’t think I deserve the honor of being the guest speaker. But I have bursitis and I don’t think I deserve that either.
I know you’re all eager to see the movie, so I won’t talk long. I too am eager to see the movie. I sometimes enjoy seeing what others have done to my screenplay. Except in this case. I know it was in good hands. And I know it will be fabulous. And I know I will love it.
I want to ask all of you two questions. Just two. They may not be easy questions and some of you may not be able to answer either of them.
The questions are:
What was the firstmovie you ever saw? And…What was the movie that changed your life?
Some of you may not be able to answer the first question, because you may have been so young when you saw it, that you have no conscious memory of having seen it. In my case, it was Bambi. I know I saw it because my mother told me. But I really have no memory of it. However, as an adult, I love animated movies. I’ll watch any animated movie. So perhaps – in a subconscious way – it did make an impression on me.
If the first movie YOU ever saw was Howard the Duck, I feel very sorry for you and maybe a little afraid of you. On the other hand, if THIS is first movie you’ve ever seen, LEAVE NOW!
What was the movie that changed your life? That’s a different question. And more complicated.
Some of you – maybe –haven’t yet seen the movie that changed your life. Although I suspect that most of you have because – here you are – getting ready to watch a movie you made.
For me, it was The Wizard of Oz. It’s a flawed movie. It has a terrible ending – right? Dorothy should have stayed in Oz. I mean, after meeting talking scarecrows and tin men and lions, who in their right mind would want to go back to Kansas? Have you ever BEEN to Kansas? You don’t want to go there in the first place let alone go BACK to it!
But the Wizard of Oz has taught me some valuable lessons. Yes– there’s no place like home. Even if it is Kansas. It’s taught me the value of family and friends. And of having a brain, a heart and the nerve. Most of all it’s taught me never never ever to listen to a woman in a balloon skirt who tells you to put on a pair of ruby slippers.
The Wizard of Oz is the movie that made me want to start making movies. And of course Howard the Duck was the movie that almost made me want to stop.
Oddly enough, I just finished making a music video for a song called Red Shoes. And of course, I had to put in a shot of the ruby slippers – my homage to the film that changed my life.
I didn’t make any movies when I was your age, so I envy those of you who worked on the Invasion. You’ve gotten a rare opportunity to learn from creative people and to be creative. Never forget that lesson.
I can’t tell you with any certainty how many of you will actually end up in the movie business. It’s a tough business. I know when I made my announcement that I wanted to be in the movie business, it was met shock, horror and ridicule. “Do you know how difficult it is to get into the movies?” Yes. “Do you know what the odds are?” Yes, I do. “Do you really think you can do what those guys in Hollywood do?” Yes, absolutely.
The key was persistence. I rarely give advice, but in this case I’ll make an exception.
Never let anybody talk you out of your dreams. Whether it’s movies or sports or the dry cleaning business, the only way you can guarantee that your dreams will fail is if you give up. That’s a promise. So don’t do that.
My other advice: if you want to make movies, watch movies. AND read books. Yes, books. Why? Because while you’re reading the book, you’re making the movie in your mind. Pretty cool, huh?
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to talk to you. Ie specially want to thank Mr. Steve Yeager for bringing me into this project.
And I hope you will enjoy the films. Thank you and God bless.