In making a film like “Tideline,” it’s inevitable that real life comingles with the fictional world of the story you’re trying to tell.
Tideline deals with some deeply emotional issues; suicide, death, PTSD, sexual assault and redemption.
Still, it was unexpected when my wife received a call last night from the principal at the school where she teaches, telling her one of her students committed suicide that day by shooting himself.
We were actually just about to turn in for the evening, as we both had school to attend in the early morning (she as a teacher…me as a student). But that call shattered the stillness of our night and brought down a torrent of grief and sorrows.
My wife has been through that exact scenario before. In fact, sadly, she’s been to too many funerals and memorials for students who have passed from suicide or substance abuse. However, it never gets easier…the pain is always a punch in the gut and a dagger in her heart.
Almost immediately, she turned to me in tears and said, “I think I’m responsible.”
The young man, 17-years-old, was a respectful student with a great sense of humor. He had recently transferred to her school and was still trying to fit in. What made my wife think she played a part in the tragic emotional spiral that ended with a bullet in his brain? He was failing her class.
On a rational level she knows that whatever drove him to end himself goes far beyond his grade in math class. She knows that his pain, his desolate state-of-mind had to be pushed so far against the wall as to believe this – THIS – was the only way out. She knows that in her mind…but, in her heart, she agonizes over it.
That is the legacy of suicide; pain. Not just pain of loss but also the pain of guilt and helplessness. As a combat veteran, I know that feeling… I know the guilt of being the one who survived. “What if I had…” will always take you down a dark slope. With suicide, as with combat deaths, there are no easy answers.
I gave my wife a stuffed bear today. It was all I could think to do, other than hold her tight and wipe away her tears. She named him “Tyler” in honor of the student they lost.
The death becomes another watermark in the tideline… and the waves slowly wash it away.
"Damn you for walking by, silent and alone.
For the tattered wisps of your despair
entangled with the ribbons of my joy...
and clinging as we passed, you have drowned my soul." -Rick Wood, prelude to Tideline
Writing, especially screenwriting, is a lot like painting. Every word lays down texture, color and meaning. Elegant words feel elegant...harsh words feel harsh. If you put them together in the right way they can also be open-ended and interpretable on several levels.
To say, "it was a dark and gloomy night," is far less powerful than paint in the abstract.
"An icy blackness, intermittently pierced by the tepid vapors escaping her mouth, crept in like an army of shadowy wraiths. Kept awake only by the pain of hunger within, she drew her knees closer for what little comfort they could provide."
Granted, that is definitely a lot longer and wordier then saying, "it was a dark and gloomy night," but it paints a better image - one left open to some interpretation.
For a short film like Tideline these words not only have to work on the level of being readable, they also have to paint images so vivid that they can easily translate onto the screen.
That's my challenge. Take 18 pages of words and turn them into 18 minutes of film.
Right now, seeing the finished script, I'm pretty confident it'll be done and done quite well.
The role of "Nicole Young" has been cast! I will formally introduce the actor in a different blog entry in a day or two.
Suffice it to say she's talented and fits the role really well.
There were more than seven actors who auditioned for "Nicole." All of them had talent and enthusiasm. It wasn't easy narrowing it down and Micah and I are both grateful to those folks who took the time to submit for the role.
In the end it comes down who is "Nicole Young?" She's a mother, a counselor, a combat veteran and so much more...but she is - above all else - a normal, flawed soul seeking redemption.
Aren't we all?
These aren't easy things. These aren't pretty concepts. But the sum of it all...the full melody it composes...is truly and simply beautiful."
Micah and I went out and scouted another filming location today. We started, as we normally do, talking about the shots, looking at the angles and "pre-blocking." But this production always brings us to a point where we dig deeper into the moment. We search inside ourselves to see the world through the eyes of the characters.
In doing that, we let them "teach" us a little about their lessons. Tideline packs a lot into a short amount of time. There are some hard, tough concepts compressed into a 20-minute film. You won't have much room to breathe as a viewer...and that's intentional.
The idea is to give you as little time to digest the magnitude of each scene before throwing another huge concept into your face. Not in an effort to overwhelm but to help connect the viewer to the emotional hemorrhaging cut from the jagged, caustic themes inherent to war, loss, violation and redemption.
That last one is key: Redemption.
So, Micah and I walked the tideline. We could see the lines left by what had come before. We watched the subtle waves create new lines, too. At the end of the day, we know those lines are all washed away and tomorrow, another set of lines will be made.
There will be a lot going on soon that will be far more interesting than me simply writing about what we're "going to be doing."
However, I thought I'd start by welcoming you to the film, the webpage and to Lima Charlie Productions.
To get started on the right foot, let me say here and now that this film is a labor of love. As such, every member of the cast and crew are putting their time and energy into something they believe will make the world a better place upon completion.
I hope you'll support and enjoy Tideline for those reasons and for what it means to you.