One fine winter’s day, I received my fifth grade report card. It was a spectacular one. I didn’t particularly love math and science (still don’t, yawn), but survived with a C. My parents were so proud that they decided to reward. They took me to the record store, where I bought Green Day’s “Dookie” album. Then they offered to take me to the movies.
I kept seeing previews and reading about Pulp Fiction. It looked beyond interesting. Of course, my parents were oblivious to movies, especially those with blood, guts and the words fuck + shit being uttered after every declarative sentence. Therefore, I told my folks, let’s go see Pulp Fiction. ” John Travolta is in it,” I told my mom. She replied ” Oh I loved him in Saturday Night Fever.”
We arrived at the movies; I was sitting in between both parents. From the get go, Pulp Fiction started off with “fuck, shit, fuck.” It was followed by violence and then the opening theme song ” Miserlou” by Dick Dale. Both mom and dad starred me down. They feared I was enjoying the profanity and violence a bit too much. I just smiled nervously.
Then came the famous dance sequence with John Travolta and Uma Thurman. They calmed down a bit, until the drug overdose scene came on. That was followed by another stare down. More gun violence, cars running people over and strong sexual scenes made up the remainder of the Quentin Tarantino classic.
My parents walked out in shock. I tried to hold back my gleeful interior. Wow, that was some movie I told them. Thank you for my good report card present. They just nodded. We drove home. That very night, I decided I wanted to grow up and become a film major. Pulp Fiction also set a standard of high film achievement in my book. I never saw films the same.
Pre-film school years, I found myself quite attracted to independent, low budget and foreign films. Trainspotting, Kids, Last Days of Disco, Velvet Goldmine, Virgin Suicides and Metropolitan helped shape my love of excellent story lines and character based films. It was a stark contrast to the big budgeted blockbusters, which I saw more as appealing to the masses.
In film school, they wanted us to write those mainstream blockbusters. I opted for indie style films. In the tradition of Pedro Almodovar meets Wes Anderson, my characters were dark and quirky. They wrestled with mental disorders, coming out of the closet and getting their brains zapped. It didn’t fly in film school, but I enjoyed writing them.
After graduating with a BA in film, I did the quintessential office jobs in New York. However, I still found solace in the dark and chilly movie theatre. One of my favorite holiday memories in Manhattan revolved around the Sunshine Cinema in the Lower East Side.
I went there one Thanksgiving with Natalia. We watched a Pedro Almodovar flick with a gaggle of East Village/LES hip people dressed in all black. It was not only fun people watching, but it reminded me why I studied film. It brings people together and is another very effective tool of storytelling.
After walking onto Houston Street after watching the great film, I felt energized. It reminded me of the good old days in film school after we watched classics like Network and the Graduate.
I opted to pursue a career in copywriting as opposed to screenwriting. However, I learned a great deal about character development in film school, which in turn helped with the storytelling process through ad campaigns.
Not to say, all mainstream films are bad. The Addams Family, Bring it on and Legally Blonde are a couple films, which I love to watch. I do enjoy and appreciate the lack of special effects in indie films. The genre also tends to be more centered on a character driven premise. Thanks to my parents who surprisingly sat through all of Pulp Fiction and didn’t make me walk out.