When I sat down to write my first feature film, "One Fall," which opened Friday in theaters, I knew two things: first, that I would be making a feature film outside of the studio system on a shoestring budget (gross understatement); and second, that this film had no comparable genre in the marketplace.
Yes, it is about a reluctant "superhero." However, nothing explodes, there is no gratuitous sex and the little violence there is in it does not have nearly enough splattering blood to satisfy modern horror fans.
So why make the film? Because I had something to say about what being a modern superhero really means.
What does it mean to be a superhero in Hollywood? Well, it used to be a lot easier.
The bad guys wore black, the good guys wore white and in the end the good guys always won and usually received a pretty little damsel in distress as part of the bargain.
So what happened? In this day and age, bad guys wear Armani suits, drive nice cars, run companies, are surrounded by beautiful woman as morally corrupt as they are, and their motives are politically or financially subjective or ambiguous.
After all, Batman can’t walk around Gotham beating up bankers just on principal. So how do our heroes fit into this world of moralistic grey? Easy, they don’t.
Maybe that is why the new slew of Hollywood superhero films have left us feeling, well, not so super. It’s as if we have become desensitized to the violence and gore washing over us, so maybe the only avenue left to explore is toward the within.
At the heart of almost all myth we find the origins of our heroes – men and women who are more than the average rabble either by gift or sheer will, but not so much as the deities that govern them.
So, what’s the point? Yes, the Man of Steel can fly, stop bullets and shoot lasers out of his eyes. He is neigh invincible, except for that itchy kryptonite thing.
But, what about the stuff he can’t defend himself physically against? What about the fact that his parents are dead, his planet exploded and he is the only one of his kind in the universe?
Does Superman cry? Is he burdened by the fact that every time he saves Lois Lane, he is sacrificing someone else somewhere who needs him too? Does he even think about it? We will never know. Why? Because Hollywood won’t show us.
Independent film has long been a bastion for emotional content. So, why not make an emotional independent film about the burden, shame and guilt of being a superhero (sans explosions and special effects) Well … That’s what we tried to do!
The frightening part of shooting outside the studio system is quite simply, if you run into trouble there is no one there to help you.
Superman will not be making an appearance (probably off saving Lois Lane again), but the joy of making a movie is that at its best, film can change us.
It allows us to shine a light of introspection on ourselves, So, why shouldn’t Hollywood with all its A-list actors, big budgets and fancy screenwriters take advantage of all the impressionable minds around us at any given afternoon matinee? Why shy away from true emotions and feelings with their heroes?
"One Fall" is a modern fable about a man who is both blessed and cursed with a strange super power.
The film tells the story of James, a local janitor who miraculously survived a terrible fall from a 200-foot-high precipice.
After recovering, he abruptly abandoned friends and family and disappeared without explanation.
The secret James couldn't share with them was that, while recovering, he had suddenly developed the power to heal others.
Tired of running away, James returns home after a long absence and decides to use his gift — but not altruistically.
If people pay him, he will cure them. Though he appears to be doing the right thing, he is doing it for all the wrong reasons, and he risks driving away anyone who ever loved or trusted him.
Aided by his neighbor and only friend Tab, a 16-year-old kid who is convinced James is a superhero, James must accept responsibility for the gift he has been given, figure out why he survived his fall, and what he is really meant to do with his life.
Is this a perfect film? No. Does Hollywood fall short on introspection? Probably. Will independent films save the superhero genre? Doubtful. Can we effect change and learn what being a hero really means through a film?
I sure hope so.
A quote from the film: “The only difference between a hero and a coward is this: both are scared, neither wants to do what needs to be done, but in the end, the hero does it anyway.”