As a film school alum, no cinema question phases me in the slightest. “What’s your favorite Billy Wilder film?” SOME LIKE IT HOT. “Who is your favorite foreign director?” Easy – Pedro Almodovar. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Please – writer/director and probably a producer, especially if I want to have my own production company.
I can shoot off answers to questions like these all day long. But sometimes, questions come along that require a little more thought. One of the interns here at the office asked me one day what I’d like to do in the future. Again, no hesitation whatsoever: “I’d like to write and direct my own films, and essentially own my own production company.” I didn’t even stutter. “Oh wow,” she replied, “well, what type of stories do you want to write?” “I –…” I paused. The immediate answer didn’t come to me. So many options ran through my head: good stories, of course, but not cheesy good, really feel-good stories, ones that make you feel your heart in your throat. But not leave a theater sobbing…
What type of stories do I want to write? I had to tell her I would get back to her because I didn’t honestly know. Ever since she asked me, I have thought long and hard about this. I finally realized I should examine a few of my favorite films for this answer. The one that truly stuck out in my mind was THE WIZARD OF OZ. Do I want to write a story about a rural girl who gets whacked in the head and dreams she’s in a magical land? Not exactly. So what is it about this film that makes it one of my favorites?
It was the first time I had really ever dissected a story, really got into the cracks to see what makes it so appealing to me. And there, I discovered my answer: I used to watch this film all the time as a child. I would sing all of the songs, and make believe that I, too, could travel somewhere magical. I used this story as a basis for wanting to dream, for wanting to explore places that I could only imagine, and maybe even go there someday. But like Dorothy, I remembered the importance of home and how much family means to me. I vividly remember watching this film the night before I left for college and crying my eyes out, because I knew that my life was about to change.
And it hit me: those are the types of stories I want to write. The ones that evoke memories, that trigger that deep feeling and emotion within us that only we know. I want to write stories that make someone remember the importance of all the people in their life, and how taking a risk can be worthwhile. I want to write stories that make someone realize that it is perfectly alright to be exactly the type of person that they are.
I’ll have to tell that intern that I finally know the answer to her question! But for today, I also challenge you to answer the question of: what kind of stories do you want to tell?
-- Marcie Mayhorn, Austin Film Festival Office Manager