Excerpt: 'There and Back Again'

It was during this trip that I met (via telephone) the woman I would eventually marry. I was sitting in the bathtub of a fancy hotel in Tokyo, watching CNN and listening to Bernie Shaw as he crawled around the floor of the Al Rasheed Hotel, when the phone rang. The voice on the other end sounded as though it belonged to a beautiful young woman, and as it turned out, that was precisely the case. Christine was working for a commercial agent who had set up meetings for me in Japan. It was bizarre to think about "selling" myself as a marketable commodity to advertisers while we were in the first stages of a new war. I couldn't help but wonder about my place in the grand scheme of things. I remember the issue came up of whether the draft might need to be reinstated if the war dragged on. As David Putnam and I were arriving at the airport for our journey home, I said quite emphatically, "I'll go. If they call, I'll go" I knew that I was saying it just because it sounded good, so it was somewhat self serving. But I meant it, too. Although my political feelings about it were not necessarily the same as my personal feelings, I believed that if the draft had been reinstated, I would have been obligated to serve, and I would have embraced that obligation. Of course, I'll never really know what I would have done.

I guess I was trying to take myself seriously, maybe too seriously, but then there are worse mistakes a young man can make. I was not all that sophisticated and didn't have an extensive vocabulary. Ever since I was a kid I wanted to accept the responsibility of being an adult. I needed help, though. I needed guidance. So as I walked that day through the garden with David Watkins, one of the great artists of the medium, I solicited his opinion and advice. I told him that when I got home, I planned to shoot a 16 millimeter short film about this image in my head, the one of the two soldiers.

"Why do it sixteen?" he asked. "Why not thirty five millimeter? You know, it's not that much more expensive."

I felt like I'd been hit over the head with a bat. Until then, I had thought of myself as a student, someone not yet ready to embark on the journey of a grown up filmmaker. But this simple suggestion from one of the industry's giants changed my life. He wasn't talking to me like a kid or a student. Implicit in his comment was the idea that we were equals. Maybe not in terms of accomplishments, but certainly in terms of potential. I don't think he realized what he did for me in that moment, but I will forever be grateful to him.

Practically speaking, David was right, of course. I'd planned to shoot the film in 16 millimeter partly because it was cheaper, but mainly because it seemed less pretentious. Real filmmakers shot in 35 millimeter; aspiring filmmakers settled for 16 millimeter. David Watkins understood the difference, and now so did I.

When I got home, I poured tons of energy into my work. Along with two of my friends, I produced and starred in a play. I took an acting class with Stella Adler, and I went to work on my short film. I also began building my own production company, Lava Entertainment.

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