The Love of Movies
Every episode of Into the Storymaze = writing insights or a work-in-progress; something creative I’m digging; a highlight from my comics-writing credits; plus a quote that’s worth thinking about. (At least that’s what I’m thinking.)
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NYU film school gave me many lessons I didn’t completely understand at the time, but later learned to appreciate and incorporate in real life — whether that life involved film or video or just making shit happen. How to work with a crew. How to hack technology so it does what you want, instead of what it was “made for.” And a couple of semi-pretentious ways to describe film, to drop into conversation to impress (ha!).
Chief among those, the title of this episode, cinéma vérité — that being “a style of filmmaking characterized by realistic, typically documentaries, that avoid artificiality and artistic effect and are generally made with simple equipment.” In other words: life, and how you appreciate it.
Remember the last time you took a chance on winning a movie theater in the upper, furthest, northernmost reaches of Maine? An all too common tale, am I right? But indulge me, if you will…
It was a post by comics creator Larry Hama that clued me into the contest. The longtime owners of said theater wanted out of the exhibition racket, but weren’t getting their asking price. To make their number, they needed just 3K contest entries at 100 bucks each. The winner would score the real estate, the business, biz plan, candy stand, screen.
Maybe a closet full of old posters. Probably an unﬁnished Orson Welles masterpiece on a reel in the basement. Who knows? For a single Benjamin and a short essay explaining why you were the rightful heir to the projection both, it could all be yours.
Forget about you. I. Me. This guy.
How best to make my case? Get straight to the point, of course!
"My qualiﬁcations include…"
"Please allow me to outline my plans for…" "I am the best candidate because…"
I wasn't calling the approach a Story Maze then: this idea that you go inward to purposefully explore the twists and turns of a situation or an idea — even a product. That's the way to surprise, to character, to a richness of narrative worth spending time with. There had to be something more to the "why" of this cray-cray contest catching my interest.
The moment before is everything.
Popcorn in hand — we like M&Ms mixed in. Settled back in the seat. Lights are low.
And you’re imagining. How much that screen will share. How much you’ll laugh. Be scared. Thrilled. Wrought with emotion.
There was a time when the dream was to direct. Film school taught technique, a deeper appreciation of the craft. It's always more fun, though, for it to be so good that I forget all that behind-the-camera and just get lost in the story. Rocketed away on wonder.
Full black. That ﬂicker of light becoming persistence of vision to project the illusion of — anything is possible.
With the exception of family, my best times arrived at 24 frames a second. Believing a man wearing a big red “S” can ﬂy. Wiseguys debating the merits of being a clown. An alien’s glowing ﬁnger touching a boy’s temple with the promise of, “I’ll be right here.”
Even if Netﬂix is more convenient… being in the audience is the experience that matters. A ﬁrst lightsaber. A ﬁnal round knockout. How will we do it? One part family adventure, two parts family friend — a cinema fan looking for a new start. All together, it’s worth being a part of. It’s worth helping to make happen for folks in Houlton, ME.
Every ﬁlm won’t deliver on its hype. But every theater-goer deserves the moment.
It’s why we love the movies. It’s why we’re right for the Temple Theatre.
So…was it the golden ticket to calling the shots from the golden buttery popcorn booth? Like what's in Marcellus Wallace's briefcase, I'll never know. Sadly — madly, incomprehensibly — the theater owners never hit that minimum number of entrants. The contest was canceled, the money refunded. The only prize to be had would be that singular storyteller's gift of, "What if…?"
Go on now, and share your favorite movie with someone special.
Know someone who moves through their Storymaze in frames per second? Give ‘em this link…
It doesn’t get more “maze” than the twists, turns, slopes, climbs, chambers, branches, drops, dead ends and narrow confines of a cave. I’m fascinated by their mystery — and creeped out by their pitch black finality, the idea that exploration could just as easily end in extinction. Oh, sorry — I thought this was a therapy session!
Let’s lighten things up a bit, shall we? Let’s trap 12 school kids and their coach in a cave system rapidly filling with water during monsoon season. Always count on me to bring up the room!
Do you remember this? In 2018 that’s exactly what happened to a football team of young Thailanders. Their rescue is a matter of record — thank God. But the reports would have likely been the sort of “across the world, isn’t that tragic, hope they’re ok” — the limited detail that modern media reserves for “the foreign news.”
The headline that capped the story for most of us was probably something like, “They’re out and they’re ok!” But the full story was nowhere near assured. Even knowing its safe conclusion, the documentary “The Rescue” is a tense affair of THOUSANDS at work digging out, pumping millions of gallons in a mostly futile effort to divert the surge of white water nature is pouring down.
The military from multiple countries put forward their very best people. But it ultimately comes down to a ragtag collection of independent cave divers — a fire fighter, a contractor, a mechanic, a veterinarian, an IT guy — who had the unique experience in all the world to navigate the freezing dark waters to find the boys. And then conceive a daring, untested plan to sedate them into unconsciousness so they wouldn’t panic as they were pulled along the long underwater journey back to safety.
Gripping, uplifting — an incredible test of and testament to character. Check out the trailer, and then settle into the edge of your seat for the full movie. (I found it on Disney+.)
What are you diving into in your Storymaze?
My own timing stumbles waylaid my carefully laid "plans" to talk up Spidey the week of Spider-Man: No Way Home's premiere. So I'll have to settle for somewhere between this episode’s “movie theme” and — "just 'cause."
While the latest Peter Parker angst + adventure is a film deep into the multiverse, I kind of think of Marvel Cybercomics as their own little pocket universe. These late nineties era interactive stories were too early in the history of the interwebs to have much of an audience, and I don't think anyone inside Marvel paid much attention to what we were up to aside from the specific folks working on them.
As such we got to have a lot of fun with little interference — and experiment a bit, too. There were no rules as to what these online comics had to be, and all things considered I think they were quite a bit ahead of their time.
We eschewed the expected choose your own adventure storytelling in favor of adding little interactive flourishes of animation and "click to reveal" that the reader had to trigger to advance the story. Bandwidth and tech of the day limited how big the art could be, and how polished the animation was, even how smooth the sound effects played.
But as someone pointed out to me not too long ago, they were pioneering efforts in digital comics — which is a pretty cool territory to have explored. (Even if that territory was initially a dim back corridor of AOL on a 14.4 modem connection.)
In the link to the first part of Sandblasted below, our friendly neighborhood webslinger heads to Coney Island as Peter Parker, snapping Daily Bugle photos for a lifestyle feature on a sandcastle contest. (We consciously choose to put this story in an "earlier, simpler" Spidey timeline — another strategy for keeping our game off the continuity radar. )
Naturally, there's a cursed mirror in a funhouse, which twists an ordinary turn of larceny by Sandman into a much bigger and kookier threat. A special highlight: writing J. Jonah Jameson is a real kick.
There are 4 parts to this story, so if YouTube doesn’t serve them all up to you via algorithm alchemy, hit me up and I’ll provide all the links!
(As with all these cybercomics, the underlying software no longer runs on the modern web — so I've captured the action in video. Less interactive, but also less lost to the unrelenting march of code.)
“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” — Pablo Picasso
Thanks for taking a break from the dark web to check out this share-out of projects I’m working on, plus things that have me jazzed. I’m D.G. Chichester. If that looks pretentious, feel free to just call me “Dan.”
I earned my word-cred writing comic book titles like Daredevil, Terror Inc., Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD and Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, along with digital widgets in the world wide web of advertising. I keep my storytelling cred by trying new things — this is one, with more on the way. I like weird tales, so if things here bend that way — now you know why!
Folks seem to like the comic book adventures I’ve written, so if you haven’t checked one out — please do. Many are now available in fab collected editions.
For the lonely moments between these emails…
@dgchichester — 280 characters from the Twitterverse
@dgchichester — images + context via Instagramland