Thoughts and observations from the author of Awake While Dreaming, Christopher J. Aran, on the book’s germination from his primary work as a film director, his creative inspirations, and the challenge of matching his final work to its ideal scale…
And Then I Woke Up | Thoughts…
In my better moments of least distraction, I’d like to think that my family and friends hold center stage. It’s through them that my life is enriched and my singular dimension expands into creative thought. The cycle then repeats into the distraction itself which may in many ways, is like looking into a kaleidoscope of possibilities.
What I am second might be a nurturer of those possibilities. Primarily I do that as a filmmaker which can take many forms. Some directors are visual technicians, while others (legitimately) focus on bringing the creative stories of others to life on the screen.
And those like myself, combine what is for all of us, the craft of story-telling with a hyphen, writer-director. So I spend a great deal of time thinking, and reading, and in imagination – that process of bringing images to life, whether in my head in writing, or visually in film.
What I am then is somewhat of a chameleon driven by the scale of my thoughts and distraction.
Arthur Miller | The Challenge of Scale
I remember working on a project with my friend and creative collaborator, Martin Bayless. We began writing a screenplay that kept growing more involved. At one point in our frustration, Martin told me about how the great playwright, Arthur Miller once described his approach to writing as one of scale.
An idea might have begun as a poem. If it outgrew that form, he wrote a short story. If it outgrew that, he continued the process through novel, screenplay and stage-play, stopping only when the idea matched the form that would contain it, ideally.
Which is exactly what Martin and I had been going through with our own screenplay…
So what then is my outlet for thoughts not scaled with the potential to bring to life as film?
Some should probably remain forgotten either in my head or perhaps in that nebulous file somewhere between the trash and maybe one day…
Others might be compiled as they are here, for an intermittent delight, or distraction; my head to yours.
In fact, Awake While Dreaming centered originally around another story that was to be the core of the book, whose theme was to be more heavily derivative of our sleepful twilight thoughts. And Then I Woke Up was written from the ideas I got while staring at a photo shot from my best friend and one of the film’s producers, Christopher Villafuerte. I’d been lacking in ideas and begged for a new source of inspiration.
But I was too invested to leave it as a short story that didn’t quite fit, and decided it would be my next short film. It began what may continue to be an ongoing exploration with other stories treated as short films, much like Beethoven used string quartets to experiment with his germinating smaller ideas before they would become symphonies.
Happily in the end, my efforts as a filmmaker necessitate smaller ideas as the building blocks of self-discovery undiminished in their own right. And so I find myself for better or for ill, a writer as much as a director, a distracted hyphen that resulted in this book, and another already percolating…
Terry Gilliam | Success and Failure
As a filmmaker better known as part of the comedic troupe, Monty Python, and a man who struck out on his own to direct some of my favorite films of all time, Gilliam is no stranger to shorts and ideas that started small and became something much bigger.
A source of tremendous inspiration, his body of work, including those in particular he claimed to be total failures, have at some point or another passed through the forefront of my mind as I’ve encountered my own creative challenges in writing. They serve as a reminder that however much you may or may not love your own work, there are people out there who will disagree with your own misgivings as an artist.
Whether these stories are my best, or even good, ideas is for others to determine. My job is to simply share them, perhaps even as an encouragement for others to share what is intrinsically them, you and me rather than hide (from) the things we don’t do.
I do hope you enjoy them…