Most people who spend their lives following an artistic dream – be they actors, comics, writers, singers, etc. have one moment in time that they can point to and say – “THERE– right there. That’s when it all started.” A writer may remember reading a classic book as a child that first fired her imagination. An actor may recall the first live play he ever saw that made him realize what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. Seeing Back to the Future when I was 10 years old is my story.
I had absolutely zero interest in seeing the film. I had recently gotten to an age where I was allowed to walk to the movie theater myself and there were only 2, 3 at the most, movies featured there. Much to my irritation, the film was a huge hit. There it sat – week after week – on the marquee. Wouldn’t it ever go away? I didn’t want to see a stupid science fiction film and I was waiting impatiently for a new movie to take its place. One day, out of sheer boredom, I agreed to go see the movie with my sister.
I walked into that movie theater and, roughly two hours later, came out a different person.
It actually took me 8 or 9 years after that to fully realize what it was that I wanted to do with my life, but it definitely began right there in that movie theater. Or rather, the passion that had been in me all along was ignited that day. I am reminded of the Doc’s quote “It’s taken me almost 30 years and my entire family fortune to realize the vision of that day.” After seeing that movie, I had a very strong, indescribable need to do…something. I toyed with it for years. What was it that I wanted to do? I was pretty sure I didn’t want to be an actress. I knew I didn’t want to be a director. It wasn’t until I was in high school when my English teacher started reading my humorous essays aloud (Thanks Ms. Gina Rapisarda, now Gina Fritz!!!), that I realized I had some writing talent and that creative writing was that aching, driving need that was almost physically painful. I realized my all-consuming desire to write then and haven’t stopped since.
Sure, I had been to the movies before that “red-letter” day in the mid-80s. Mostly animated films. Older Disney flicks like Snow White, and I recall seeing The Aristocats and the Santa Clause movie (not the Tim Allen one, the older, fairly terrible Dudley Moore one). But I had never, ever seen anything like Back to the Future. It was one of those incredible, magical, films where all the elements come together to achieve near perfection. It was a popcorn movie in the very best sense of the phrase. I have never been a fan of heavy-handed, preachy, “important” films. I don’t like “feeulms”. I like movies.
Back to the Future is a very tightly written film. No boring parts and everything gets set up and paid off later. From Biff the bully who ends up working for George McFly at the end to little details like Twin Pines Mall becoming Lone Pine Mall after Marty mows down the poor sap with the Delorean; not a moment is wasted. Each role was so perfectly cast that it’s impossible to imagine anyone else playing the parts (with apologies to Eric Stolz). No one could ever equal Michael J. Fox’s comedic timing and who else but Christopher Lloyd could ever be the Doc. I confess, however, that it wasn’t until I got older that I caught on to the whole “Jennifer” switch in the sequels…
Until I saw Back to the Future, I never realized that movies could be like this. The rush of adrenaline, the magic, the wonder. You can get lost in the movies. Even for a movie lover like me, it doesn’t happen often. Few movies have that intangible element, that mystical concoction that combines a compelling plot, humor, adventure, and heart that makes you feel like anything is possible.
Over the years, I’ve seen the film many times. I try not to watch it too many times, for fear of it losing its power. I love to listen to the music from the soundtrack, especially while I am out walking. I’m always working on a script, especially when I am walking and listening to music. I feel like I am walking in step with my characters. From the time I wake up in the morning until when I go to bed, I’m lost in the characters and the story that I am creating. The music from Back to the Future can still give me chills. I’m 10 years old again when I hear it. When I got married, we had a movie-themed reception. My first dance with my husband was “Storybook Love” from The Princess Bride. Our second dance was “Earth Angel”. We invited the bridal party to join us on the floor. It was just like being at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance!
On Saturday, I will get to do something that I’ve waited 25 years to do. I will get to see Back to the Future – the movie I never wanted to see in the first place – on the big screen again. This time, I will see it as a screenwriter. Even though I haven’t had my big break yet, I’ve been writing for 16 years now (having had two scripts optioned, one currently under contract with a production company in L.A.). Unlike my advertising writing business, I don’t know that I ever really thought I would make it as a screenwriter. [I thought I had a shot at making a living writing brochures, etc. If you read this blog, you know my business tanked.] Truth be told, I never really thought I would get this far with my screenwriting. It’s very, very rare for anyone to truly be able to make a living as a working screenwriter. It’s no exaggeration to say that my chances of winning the lottery might be a lot better. You never know, though. As we learned in 1985, lightning can strike twice…Regardless of success, I don’t just talk about writing scripts and novels. I WRITE them. That’s what makes me a real writer.
When I see Back to the Future again, I will see it as a person who continues to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a screenwriter. It’s been 16 years and I haven’t given up. I think 10-year-old me would be proud.