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The City of Fallen Angels

Making my first film, THE BANNEN WAY, was one of the most painful and exhilerating experiences of my life.  The process of figuring out how to make the impossible possible with little money and less time, suffering through impassioned- yet compassionless- criticisms, then being praised for achieving unprecedented views and a handsome payoff for my bosses… it all made me feel like- I dunno- a “Made Man” after performing his first “Hit.”

Future Mafioso Industry Execs will be looking for Artistic Assassins to carry out missions for them; but how would they know to entrust me unless I establish my brand?  So I compiled a list of my favorite writers & directors who were making the kinds of movies I wanted to do:

  • David Fincher
  • Christopher Nolan
  • Michael Mann
  • Quentin Tarantino
  • PT Anderson
  • Darren Aronofsky
  • Rian Johnson
  • Joe Carnahan
  • Guy Ritchie
  • Shane Black
  • Tony Scott

Then I made a list of movies I wished I had written and/or directed (in no particular order):

  • True Romance
  • Fight Club
  • Se7en
  • The Dark Knight
  • Boogie Nights
  • Memento
  • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
  • Smokin Aces
  • Brick
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Heat
  • The Usual Suspects

Then I noted the consistencies:

  • Crime/Thriller genre
  • Modern noir
  • Morally ambiguous protagonist
  • Villains you fall in love with
  • Strong women who can’t always be trusted
  • Bold, in-your-face style
  • Dark tones balanced w/levity

Suddenly I had a recipe for Awesome Sauce!

A year later someone asked me why I like crime stories so much.   I didn’t have to think much- it’s simple: “Because they’re one big noir-ish metaphor for what it’s like to struggle in the Entertainment Industry.”

I mean, think about it — What kinda racket pays an actor millions of dollars to make a cameo in a movie for one day’s work?   What other business is as wrought with nepotism?  Aren’t the Studios and Networks just a bunch of crime families fighting over territory?

Niko-BellicI feel like the lead character in GRAND THEFT AUTO; thrust into this new world with no connections, willing to do any small job I can get my hands on, meeting tons of sociopaths with questionable motives, blowing up helicopters with rocket launchers – you know the drill.  

crawfords_slapI’m convinced the invention of “pilot season” was the impetus for the therapy movement in LA .  Of the handful of actresses I coach on their auditions, every time one of them gets rejected there’s a dame in a dimly lit room getting slapped across the face… but then — she’s pulled into a kiss (an audition she’s perfect for!) which keeps her coming back for more!

imagesIf landing a series regular gig on a pilot is difficult, then where does selling a pilot series rank?   When I’m pitching an idea to a studio exec I prefer to think of myself as Michael Corleone trying to convince the Godfather I’m ready to take over the family business.

There’s no question it takes a superhuman effort to have a career.  The town is fraught with underpaid, no-name artists desperate to become overpaid and infamous.  No matter our level, we’re either surrounded by the unhappy and unlucky trying to pull us down into their pit of despair, or else we’re dealing with the opposite: those who’ve had careers given to them because a) their famous last name… b) they’re lucky… or worse, c) because they’re actually more talented!

This does something to a man.  It makes him forget his moral code he came into this city with; it makes him turn to drugs and alcohol; it makes him betray his own partner-in-crime; it makes him a criminal in his mind and soul, even if his body hasn’t yet acted on it.

Let’s face it, how many actors would lie about their experience if it meant working on a Spielberg film?  How many would-be staff-writers, if there were just one more slot on a Showtime Series, would go “Dexter” on his competition?

Why do I write crime…?

Because they say to write what you know, and one thing I’m certain of is, in a town called Survival, I’m living amongst desperate men and women who are capable of doing anything it takes to get what they want — they just don’t know it yet.

~ JW




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