What can I say about The Other Side of Me? It was my first screenplay. A few years later, it was my first film.
As I grew and developed, I realized that I was one hell of a movie critic. I had my thoughts on what was right and wrong in a story and as it seems, it was something that was always there. This was long before I decided that I was actually a writer at heart.
As funny as it sounds now, my first instincts to take on movie making and screenwriting came from a couple places. One, I had always been a movie fan. It was Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark at a very early age that shaped my imagination. Two, Kevin Smith, some dude from New Jersey made a really funny film from nothing. Three, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon won Oscars. And that was the beginning. If those nobodies can do it, so can I.
My first story told a fictional tale of how I had met my, now, ex wife. I was working in a video store. I hung out in the sub shop next door. She worked at the pizza place in between. As I got to know her, my friends at the sub shop told me her story about having half a brain. She had had a surgical procedure as a newborn that removed an abscess in her brain.
She had told me of seizures that she had when she was around the age of five.
I worked all of that into a semi-autobiographical story where boy meets girl. Boy falls in love. Girl gets pregnant. Girl begins having seizures. Girl dies. Boy is left with a baby and his best friend there by his side. It was talky. There was a lot of dialogue. Sure. A lot of it was Kevin Smithy. Why wouldn’t it be? It was a major influence at that age.
I wrote the script in 1998 and then proceeded to write and write and write other stuff. I wrote all sorts of stuff in between. It wasn’t until I was living outside of New York City and constantly bitching about movies that my co-workers convinced me to man up and just do it.
So, I did.
I had no idea what I was doing, but I bought a camera with the insurance money from someone ramming the side of my old blue Dodge Neon. I took a few trips into the city and met with some folks for casting. We read. I scheduled a two week shoot. We shot. And then… I had to figure out how to edit.
The very first piece of work I had ever edited was the opening title sequence to The Other Half of Me. Some people start small. Not me. I went balls deep and just took off running.
The shoot was fast. It was frantic. I was in over my head, but still found a few magic moments, especially when it was just Shay and I alone on a shoot. I was unknowingly developing a bad habit of doing EVERYTHING on a shoot. A habit that would later break me and cause me to completely collapse physically, mentally and creatively after The Coldest Winter.
The movie itself was very amateur, yet, it still had it’s surprising moments. There was some tension. There was some tragedy. And, somewhere beneath all that, there was some charm.
Enough for it to be “Accepted” into the New York International Film and Video Festival in New York and Los Angeles. Accepted is in quotes, because it became very clear that the festival at that point in time was more of a market. There was a lot of money spent to get you the things you needed. I had spent thousands of dollars and really felt belittled and cheated by my experiences at the festival. And, I spoke out very vocally about it. I wrote a very long and heartfelt letter to Chris Gore at filmthreat.com and just said, you know… what the hell happened to me? I was overall happy with my trip and my screening in Los Angeles, but I knew many others there that spent tens of thousands to get their place at this festival. I felt for them and I was the one to step out and step up and speak my mind. I didn’t care what effect it was going to have on my upcoming New York screening.
Film Threat ran with the story and Chris took my place as they had heard so many horror stories about this festival.
The cease and desist came from the festival lawyers. Ultimately, my voice was heard, but I did have to publish somewhat of an apology. I did say some pretty accusatory things in there and really, yeah, it probably was slander. So… I did that and got my money back for the scheduled screening on September 11th, 2001. I was blacklisted from their festival and I was off and running. I was a rebel film maker.
So, I decided to up the ante, take my shop out of the big city and settle down with my friends and family back home and do this MY way… which led to The Revenant in 2002.
One last thing…. For the archive, I ask you to take a look at what the internet looked like in the year 2000!