Friday, 10 October 2014

"Don't go out there! There's something in the mist!"

"Welcome to Sesame Street, kids. Today's word is 'expiation'."

If John Carpenter's 1982 classic "The Thing" is about trust (and distrust), then Frank Darabont's 2007 under-appreciated gem "The Mist" is about FEAR - and BELIEF.

Much like a lot of 1970's paranoid thriller/horror movies (Invasion of the Body Snatchers in particular), 'The Mist' could be taken as a film about monsters in the mist. Or, if you watch the black and white version, it could be seen as some sort of pastiche/homage to 1950's creature features.

After some poking around on t'net, I read that Darabont's intention was to make a commentary on the post 9/11 America.

In 'The Mist', Tom Jane's Dave is yer normal, ordinary movie-poster artist-type: Intelligent, creative, free-thinking. A solid sort. When the mist arrives, bringing all sorts of alien interlopers with it, Dave finds himself trapped in a supermarket with a cross-section of society: A couple of blue-collar less-intelligent types, the bible-stomping Mrs. Carmody, and his grumpy, litigious next door neighbour, Brent..

"It appears we may have a problem of some magnitude."
The eighty-or-so shoppers eventually break into their own groups of mindsets: The religious, God-fearing judgement day crazies; the sensible non-believers who don't believe anything they are seeing, and the 'normal' people who don't necessarily believe in God but believe in monsters.

What the film eventually boils down to is a study of fear and belief - and how they affect our attitudes towards each other. The head-strong, no fear types come a cropper very quickly. Those controlled by fear become monsters themselves. Those who would be considered as heroic and fearless die (seemingly) cowardly deaths.

SPOILER ALERT! (But seriously, if you've not seen 'The Mist', go and watch it now.)

By the end of the film, the small, central 'heroes' have fought man and monster to survive, but ultimately fall prey to their lack of belief. They give up.Stop believing that all will be okay - which is understandable as everything around them is a vision of hell. The ending is an ironic, sad one - but one that got me thinking.

"As a species we're fundamentally insane. Put more than two of us in a room, 
we pick sides and start dreaming up reasons to kill one another. 
Why do you think we invented politics and religion?"

As a writer, you often hear advice along the lines of 'It's not about the destination - It's about enjoying the journey' i.e. Nobody ever 'makes' it. You sell a script. You get paid. Then you're on to the next project, trying to sell the next thing. Very rarely do the legendary big pay days arrive for the normal screenwriter.

Yes, we live in hope. We want to keep working, keep earning a living - be able to survive on what we earn and provide for our families. Nobody should choose the career of a screenwriter for the money! Not to get too over-sincere, but you write because you have to write. I once knew a guy who quit his job to become a screenwriter. After four years of not making any money, he remarked "If I knew it was going to take this long, I wouldn't have quit my job."

The second big piece of advice is probably 'DO NOT GIVE UP. KEEP GOING.'

When you're repeatedly trying, sometimes getting further down the line than other attempts, but you still hit a brick wall - how do you keep going? How many times do you dust yourself off and start again? And what about when those around you lose faith (if they had any!) in you and your ambitions? Over the years, I've had countless things said to me and behind my back, almost always out of spite from family, 'friends', even people that I didn't know too well (and they certainly didn't know me well enough). All these little 'sound-bites' have a way of coming back to remind you - especially when you've just received another rejection letter.

"You can't convince some people there's a fire even when their hair is burning.
Denial is a powerful thing."
Is belief partly denial? Choosing not to focus on the 'What if's' and concentrating on what could be?

It's right that we should be checking in with ourselves regularly; trying to assess and understand why things aren't working out instead of burying our heads in the sand and hoping it'll all work out somehow. Are we doing things for the right reasons? Are we trying our best? Taking positive action?

We've all seen bad movies and awful tv, and the little voice in your head says "Ha! I could do better...". If these movies and shows are so terrible, how do they get made? (If you find yourself saying this out loud a lot, read THIS blog post! "CRAP PLUS ONE" by "Pirates" writer Terry Rossio) 

Is it simply down to a mental block or lack of? (Man, this is a lot of questions...). Do we fear success - not to sound too Tony Robbins.When the opportunity arises, do we believe we're good enough or "deserve/have earned it"?

So - back to 'The Mist': The realists, the pessimists, the lunatics and the believers: None of them come out on top. Apart from one character who leaves the store very early on. Everyone thinks they're crazy to go outside. They are dead for certain. Never gonna work. They all refuse to help this person.

Against all odds, we see this character again at the end of the film.

However difficult your job is, whatever tough, impossible situation you're going through in life - losing hope due to frustration, angst, fear, or desperation is something most people can relate to. We all feel like giving up sometimes. In despair, salvation can feel light years away or just out of reach. To keep going when things appear futile can seem like lunacy to some. Somewhere in the mist, the realists have a point. The lunatics and pessimists fear the situation. The believers keep going.

If it were easy, everybody would be doing it, right?

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