(This appeared in its original form at www.muckfuppet.com on October 27, 2005)
Muckfuppet is largely based in truth. The character names aren’t even that far removed from reality (which prompted one of my readers to comment, “Why can’t you filmmakers ever use names of people that you don’t know?”) — Kevin = Kenn and Celia = Neely.
Yes, I know Celia and Neely aren’t that close. But can you think of a name other than Celia that even comes close in sound?
This, fellow writer/directors, is the importance of bringing in outsiders to work with you, and being open to their input:
Because it’s so largely grounded in truth, I know how it ends (and yes, I’m aware that the “ending” of the script is sort of transparent from the word go, and I’m okay with that). It colors the tone of the entire piece in my head, and thus makes the lines read a very specific way to me. When Melissa sat down with me for the first read-through, we discussed the character and the lines at length.
(Melissa knows Neely, but she’s not playing Celia as Neely, which I feel is a good choice. In fact, I mentioned that she might play Celia as reacting to Kevin as me — if that makes any sense.)
But when we got to the mid-section, and she was asking me how I saw certain lines being played, her approach made me realize that there were many more options for the final outcome than reality, than the eventuality that is stuck in my head. And it opened everything up on so many different levels, and honestly made me more excited about the script than I’ve been since it was written.
And about the strange dynamics: Melissa is my ex-wife, playing Celia, who is based on Neely, one of my closest friends, who is dating Scott Ross, playing Kevin, the character based on me. And the first time I ever met Scott, he was in a play that involved him kissing Melissa.
It’s a strange small world, this Birmingham. But filled with a scary amount of talent.
Muckfuppet is showing at the Alabama Theater at 1:30 PM, Saturday, September 23. It’s part of the Alabama Shorts #2 Block of movies; admission is $7. More details can be found at www.sidewalkfest.com.