Finding Inspiration on the Road to (and from) the Wild and Scenic Film Fest

I TRY TO SPEND as much time on the road as possible, whether it’s going across the state to see family, or crossing state lines on an epic trek. There are a lot of reasons I’m attracted to long-distance travel. One of the best is that no matter what I might be worrying about, there’s nothing I can do about it while driving. This allows me to let go of a lot of stresses that I carry with me. It’s the letting go of the everyday that allows stories to come to me.

I’ve been toying with the idea of posting ideas that hit me on the road on my twitter feed with some kind of an #dailyidea hashtag. That didn’t happen when I went to the Wild and Scenic Film Festival last week, but I did want to share some of the places that served as inspiration while I was off gallivanting.

1. Nevada

On the road through Nevada. This is the first time I've been on this road. Who knew Nevada was so beautiful?

On the road through Nevada. This is the first time I’ve been on this road. Who knew Nevada was so beautiful?

I’d never been on this highway before. Long and wide-open, Nevada has a sense of the Old West that competes with Montana’s. The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering was held in Elko a few days after I passed through. I’m already working on a screenplay set in the old west (kind of a departure for me), but I found myself thinking about famous cowboys and outlaws while driving through this wild landscape. As the dry landscape rolled by, my brain began constructing a bio-pic about Doc Holiday, the sickly dentist who fought along-side the Earp brothers at the OK Corral.

2. South Yuba River, Nevada City, California

I did get out to explore the South Yuba River on a trail that reminds me of an enchanted fantasy tale.

I did get out to explore the South Yuba River on a trail that reminds me of an enchanted fantasy tale.

I’m not sure who could walk this trail along the South Yuba River, and not be transported to another world. Soft ground beneath the feet muffle footfalls into silence. Trees seem to bend in overhead making a magical corridor. Then the trees part to reveal an almost other-worldly green river. This “enchanted” place inspired the film festival that I’m here to be a part of. Almost any magical story could be set here.

And, yes, the South Yuba River really does really look like this.

And, yes, the South Yuba River really does really look like this.

3. Ocean Park Motel, San Francisco, California

San Francisco's first Motel. Imagine what kind of stories could come out of this place.

San Francisco’s first Motel. Imagine what kind of stories could come out of this place.

I hadn’t intended on continuing all the way to the coast when I started out on this trip, but that’s the great thing about travel: Sometimes you just end up places. And this Motel (San Francisco’s 1st) is a destination all its own. Ocean Park opened in 1937, and has been no stranger to drama over the years. According to the newspaper article reprinted by the motel, “In its early years the Ocean Park attracted the ‘hot sheets’ trade…” aka “trysting lovers”. I’m sure that each room could tell true stories that would make any plot I came up with seem bland. But that didn’t stop me from imagining a noir detective uncovering an insidious plot hatched in room #7 (or, perhaps, being uncovered by a gorgeous femme fatale.)

Welcome back, after all these years

Anyone following this blog will know that it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. About three years. A lot of changes have occurred in my creative life since then. By far, the biggest change, and the one that will be my focus here, has been my entry into the film industry.

It’s been a pretty natural transition throughout my different creative lives, from fiction, to travel writing, to travel video, and now back to fiction through screenplays.

Photo by: When I was a Bird via Flickr

Photo by: When I was a Bird via Flickr

Movies have always been important to me, and have served as inspiration for my writing. Back when I was writing fiction, I was constantly told that my stories read like movies, and that I should write screenplays. I always refused. What I loved about writing fiction (esp. science fiction at the time) was the world-building. I thought of screenplays as stripped-down shells for the directors to put their visions inside.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

It wasn’t until I read my first screenplay, a quirky love story called One Night in Seattle, that I realized the error of my nay-saying. The world in a screenplay is just as full, it’s just far more concise. (If that’s not a skill, I don’t know what is.)

With that little slice of backstory out of the way, this post is just to say that I’m back. This site is where I’m going to talk about my adventures as a screenwriter and filmmaker. I’m still in Billings, Montana, which is a long way from LA in every way imaginable. My focus will be on building a filmmaking community wherever you are, rather than chasing your dream to Hollywood or NYC. Also, I want to show that stories can be found anywhere. Not only do you not need to be in LA to be a screenwriter, but your stories are going to be more authentic and engaging if the places and people you’re writing about are right outside your window.

At least, that’s what I’m telling myself. I’m just getting started in this business. So, I’ll probably end up talking about my own attempts to “break in”. I’m sure that there will be successes and failures. Hopefully, those successes and failures will be entertaining and inspiring to people who hope, against all odds, to get their stories up on the big (or many small) screen(s).