Tuesday, January 4, 2011

View through a window

by Mischa Livingstone

Today I'm hosting a writer director friend named Mischa Livingstone. Mischa's award-winning films have screened at festivals worldwide and been added to the Smithsonian permanent collection. His films have been screened at festivals from the Berlin International Film Festival (where he was nominated for a Crystal Bear) to the Montreal World Film Festival to Cinequest (Viewers’ Voice Award winner). The full list of festivals is longer than my arm.

Most recently he's been working on a music video for an LA indie band called City City. I'm looking forward to seeing the video in early 2011. To catch up on what he's doing, visit his web site at www.mischalivingstone.com.

So, I gave him this week's question of reporting on a picture from two different points of view and then let him go. The result was, as expected, provocative.

Her name is Cathy, or Johanna, or Maggie. Says she heard from a Facebook friend (someone she actually knows in person!) that I am the best bartender in the East Village. Yeah, yeah. Regulars are always telling you you’re the greatest, the best, a true friend. Just so long as you look after them, keep the buy-backs coming. But the moment the prices go up, poof, they vanish. Probably just over at Pat’s place on 1st, but they might as well be on the moon for all I’ll ever see them again.

I know her type. Laughs too loud. Talks too quickly. Smiles too broadly. House-sits some mangy cat up the street and can’t for the life of her figure out why at 42 she’s still alone. Well, sitting in my bar at 1:35am isn’t going to solve that dilemma, dearie. And no, you’re not weaseling your way home with me tonight. My back’s killing me and I’ll be happy just to smoke a bowl, eat that leftover spaghetti, and watch some Family Guy. But there she goes, flapping her tongue about the douche-bag she’s banging. As if I give a rat’s ass. But I’ll nod and smile. It is, after all, my job. Not here to offer opinion, just dispense the libations and soak up the verbal swill. I might as well have a sign above my head that says, “Deposit shit here”.

So sip your Blue Moon, sweetheart, and blab on to your heart’s content. You’ve got my ear for as long as you need. Or at least until 2am when I close.

“But there’s a blizzard outside,” he half whimpered. Outside our apartment all you could see was a hypnotic white. I didn’t care. I had to get out, and rabid horses from Hades couldn’t have stopped me.

My husband Julius, sweetest of men, has had as little sleep as I have since Wally was born but somehow he’s handling it better. I joke with him that it’s because he’s slightly autistic. Nothing fazes him. Me, though? Woof.

It’s hard to explain what the crying does to me. I’d like to think I’m this normal, mostly well-adjusted (Thanks, Dr. Hannover), rational person. But then the baby cries, something in my brain flips, and I’m a neurotic banshee. And after ten months of not sleeping (seriously, this child does not know how to sleep) can you blame me for wanting out?

So I threw on my coat and fled. Last thing I saw was Julius bouncing an atypically quiet Wally in his arms, my husband’s eyes simultaneously mournful and relieved.

I don’t know what I was looking for, what I even expected to find. But there it was, emerging from the swirling silent whiteness like the prow of Carpathia arriving to rescue Titanic’s survivors. Ok, I might be overdoing it a bit, but to a new mother in need of rescue herself it was pretty damn welcome.

The ill-tempered bartender barely nodded at me as I sat down.

“A pint of Blue Moon, please.”

Moments later I was looking down at my first real drink since the little stick with the plus sign proclaimed my life forever changed. Forbidden nectar. I started laughing then realized I should have asked for a half-pint. I’m breast-feeding and can’t arguably liquor myself up. At that the floodgates of regret opened. What would Wally think of me? How could I do this to Julius? But I didn’t get up and rush home. No. I drank my beer, joked with bartender, even flirted a little.

I am a terrible mother.


Meredith Cole said...

Thanks for being our guest today on Criminal Minds, Mischa! I loved how you found so much in that photo, and from the characters--the opposing views from the man and woman were hilarious (and spot on).

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Thanks for stopping by, Mischa!

I loved your two points of view. It really underlines how little we understand other people's motives, even when we think we do.

Out of curiousity, how would you shoot those two scenes?

Unknown said...

First of all, thanks for much for inviting me to contribute. It's been a blast.

To answer to your question, Rebecca, it's all a matter of point of view.

The photo itself is a little distant, not giving you any clear insight into the characters' minds, keeping us guessing. Shooting a scene from that distance would inevitably give you an emotional distance from the characters.

To change that up, I would focus on what each character is either seeing or thinking about. For example, if the bartender is disinterested in his customer, I might show him spending his whole time picking dirt from under his fingernail. We would hear, but never see, the woman chatting away to accentuate his disregard for her.

Whereas you novelists have the luxury of taking readers inside your characters' minds and letting them hear every thought, we filmmakers have to find other tricks (aural and visual) to convey the emotional travails of our heroes and heroines.

Rochelle Staab said...

Mischa, I loved this story!

cece said...

You mined the photo beautifully, revealing much more about the man and woman than it suggests....
the candle between them shining no
light on either.
Bravo. Great job.
Happy New Year,

Unknown said...

Thanks for the great feedback.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

WOW! Loved them both and if you put them together, it shows how we generally misinterpret or misjudge others.

Thanks for visiting, Mischa.

Shane Gericke said...

Me: Hmm. Will her shirt ride up enough to let me peek at her undies which I hope are a thong . . .

Then again, maybe that's why they don't let me comment on these here photos any more :-)

Nice to see you here on CM, Mischa. It's a fabulous group of very talented writers and poets. Hang around, you will love them all.