In light of my upcoming fortieth birthday, I’ve decided to sit down for a few moments and reflect on what it actually means to be forty – or if it actually means anything at all.
On Turning Forty – by Matt Croyle
To everyone who is under forty, I am now going to be “old.” Isn’t that the case, or at least how you’ve always felt when looking at someone who is forty? They’re old. Well, if that means I’m now going to be “old,” I should probably learn to embrace that fact.
It’s not easy to welcome, I can tell you that, but it’s inevitable to anyone who has actually survived their teens, twenties, and thirties. There were honestly times when I didn’t believe I would. When you’re a teenager or twenty-something, you’re indestructible. You did all of these crazy, out-there things because half of us at that time hadn’t really learned what real loss was yet. We heard about people dying from doing a bunch of stupid shit, but half of us never had anyone close actually go out and die from some dumb activity that resulted in tragedy. We may have heard about a friend’s friend who got killed by a drunk driver, or that one kid at school who blew his brains out, or that girl who overdosed, but for half of us it didn’t touch us – and so we did stupid shit that only the innocent, fearless ones did. How we survived, I’ll never know.
In our twenties we loved too easily, and we’d take things for granted way too much. We were worried about what society thought of us, what our family’s view of our own choices was, where we would be in ten or twenty years according to some grand plan we had for ourselves, and we never really learned that those things could hurt us. So much of our lives are spent on worrying about how we’re viewed by others, and for others, that we never really learn who we truly are.
Somewhere in here, some of us have children and some of us don’t. Some of us get married, and some of us never will, and some of us failed miserably at it.
Our thirties is a time of reflection, a time to look back on our twenties and wonder why that marriage didn’t work out, or why we turned down that job in Boston, or why we didn’t take a chance on that person who really wanted us – and as Vonnegut would say, “And so on.” For most of us our thirties hold those ever-important times where we’re truly disappointed in some of the choices we’ve made, or have failed to make at all.
It’s all different – life – for each of us, of course, as we come from a variety of backgrounds, geographies, cultures, and socioeconomic upbringings, but there’s something about living in America, from the latter part of the last millennium into the early part of this one, that binds us with similarities in our lives. I think it’s up to us to reach out to one another when we see those commonalities, because if we don’t then we miss an opportunity to connect to someone, anyone, anywhere, at all.
So, now I’m turning forty, and now I look back at this from the middle – and I say “middle” because I once wrote that we get eighty years on this planet if we’re lucky, and that’s totally true. In 2017, this year, the projected life-span of a white American male like myself is only seventy-six years. By those calculations I have more behind me than ahead of me. So, what does that mean? For me it means the following:
While it’s not difficult for me to connect with someone a decade or more younger than me, I do find that I have a slightly different perspective than they do – one I just stated: There is more of my life behind me than in front of me. To someone in their mid-twenties or younger, the possibilities ahead of them are endless. Anything is possible. Anything can be achieved. Why? Because they have time to be patient, time to figure it out, time to do it all. They have time to get done what they “plan” on getting done. Me? I’m just going to go do what I plan on doing. I don’t have time to waste. I wanted to make a movie, so I made a movie. I wanted to launch a film festival, so I launched a film festival. I wanted to express how I felt, so I shouted it to the world to hear.
These decisions are a product of perspective that one can only have by embracing their mortality, knowing that life could stop at any moment. At forty I don’t have the luxury of making long-term plans anymore, because I’ve ultimately learned that plans never go exactly the way you want them to and they’re never set in stone. You cannot predict the outcome of anything in your life, and that’s what makes it so scary, and exciting, and worth every extra second you can get.
I’m very sad to say that neither of my parents are alive to see me reach forty, as I think that they would have gotten a kick out of how hard I’ll surely take it.
I had a conversation with my father about a year before he passed away, and we discussed at length about self-perception as it relates to age. He explained to me that when he looked in the mirror he didn’t recognize the person staring back at him. He felt like himself, he knew he was himself, but he just didn’t look like himself anymore. He saw this old man looking back at him, someone he didn’t recognize. And in some ways I feel the same. In some ways I still feel like that fifteen-year-old playing baseball, or that twenty-four year old on his wedding day, or that twenty-eight year old watching his son being born into the world, or that thirty-seven year old releasing his first feature film, or that thirty-nine year old rediscovering that he’s actually able to love again after years of bottling up his emotions.
I will continue to be those people, that person, but I think it takes accepting I am ALL of those things that makes forty not seem so bad after all. This birthday, for me, will be a celebration of the many times I’ve started over in my life when plans never went as expected, a celebration of the many roles I’ve played in this life so far: Son, brother, husband, father, friend.
I want forty to be a rebirth, a new me, a new chapter, a new story. One that doesn’t waste passages or words, one that moves people, and one that finds a way to move toward an ending that eventually resolves. And I think if we all see it that way, then forty doesn’t have to be scary. It just has to be us.
Copyright © 2017 Matt Croyle. All Rights Reserved.
Snooty. Snooty? Snotty. Snotty? Snob. Straight up, indie filmmakers get enough flack from the rest of the world for their career choice. They shouldn’t have to get it from fellow indie filmmakers. Bottom line. Hands down.
When someone decides that they’re going to take on the venture of making an independent film it’s pretty much like deciding to build an ark. There’s no “easy” way to go about it. The process has many pitfalls and problems that the team will have to face with the production process. However, the one problem that indie filmmakers shouldn’t have to put up with is fellow indie filmmakers not supporting them along the way.
Having made my first feature, which took two-and-a-half years to complete, it has become apparent to me that an already “established” (in their own minds, at the very least) group of American indie filmmakers seem to only want to pay attention to the stuff that they and their friends work on, or what some people call “faux-indie” — projects with way bigger budgets, that are outside of major studios. These are the folks who have worked on or made a few films, and have somehow been able to corner the American Internet niche on indie film-making. They’re the ones who run all of the most popular indie film websites, who seem to have all this expert, formulaic advice on how to make an indie flick. These folks are the people who cover all of the “indie film” news and reviews (except yours, because you’re not friends).
There is a problem here. The problem a lot of truly independent filmmakers face is getting their stuff out to the public. And the problem is that if they don’t have a huge marketing budget, if they’ve (let’s say) made a flick for ten grand and have nothing leftover to actually show people there’s a film someone may want to watch, then the only way they can do that is to use these “indie film” sites. Sure there’s the festival circuit, and word-of-mouth, but those two things don’t guarantee you getting your film out there en masse. But, there’s a catch. These sites will only watch your film if you PAY THEM to, and even then you’re not guaranteed they’ll even mention it anywhere. Are these people actually filmmakers, or are they just out to bamboozle you out of your money so they can keep up their profiles as “supposed” experts in the field?
Here’s a question: Why can’t these people be both filmmakers and Internet entrepreneurs? Kevin Smith does it. Granted he’s not really in charge of writing reviews for others’ films, but you get the point.
The solution comes to me as this:
It is imperative, as artists, to be supportive of other artists — especially when working in the same medium. Someone may be well versed, and book-smart, in film theory, but they may have never made a fucking film in their lives. They have no practical experience. Those people? They need to shut their fucking mouths.
Those of you who run large “independent” film sites? Loosen the fuck up. We understand you’re probably making your living from selling advertisements and charging people just to watch their film, but if you are really “indie” filmmakers then you’d make time for the guy that just shot a black and white feature in a week for two grand. People have to start somewhere. And, please remember that YOU DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING. I don’t. Nobody does.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I CAN SAY TO INDIE FILMMAKERS IS THIS: Don’t be a snob. We’re in this thing together. Introduce yourselves. Help promote each other’s work. Work for free because you love it (if it isn’t what you’re trying to make a career of). Hold a light or a boom. Talk to each other online and over coffee.
Too often we think of ourselves as “better” than someone who is trying to accomplish the same things we are — to make a film that is meaningful to people. If you’re not in it for that reason, you’re not in it for the right ones.
With 99.95% of my first feature shot, I thought I would give some personal tips on how to actually get believable performances from your actors. And while this may sound like a pretty simple task — “Just say the lines.” or “Give me a bit more sadness behind it.” — it definitely is not a simple thing at all. I will explain why it isn’t so simple, and then I will give you some tricks I, myself, was able to use on my feature, ‘Potential Inertia’.
SUBJECTIVITY & PERCEPTION
As a director, you have to ask yourself: “What is believable and what isn’t?” The answer is: It’s subjective. I think one has to truly grasp what kind of film they are actually making. Is it a comedy? Is it a drama? All types of films require all types of acting — “styles” if you will. However, regardless of genre, even if it’s an “over-the-top” comedy, all performances must be believable to an audience if the audience is going to be willing to come along with you for a ride.
What is “real” actually starts with the writer. It is how the writer writes the characters themselves. What is real in the world of the character may not necessarily be real to the audience.
For example: In ‘Dumb and Dumber’, Harry and Lloyd are not very realistic characters to an audience. They’re portrayed as cartoonish embellishments of what low intelligence would be — brilliant comedic acting by Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, but they seem not very plausible in real-life. However, every other character in the film is just like you and me. These are not only choices by the writer, for writing such fantastic lines, but also the direction that has been given to every actor on set. The normality of the supporting characters embellishes, even more, the absurdity in the direction that was given to Carrey and Daniels — and we’re willing to “believe” them as being “real” because the reality is subjective to the characters themselves.
The actor must make choices — or have those choices made for them — that would best interpret how that character would physically react or vocalize given a specific situation(s). The director’s job is to make sure their vision of said situation(s) translates to an audience in the most realistic way possible. If the audience can’t connect, or buy into the reality of what they are seeing, then it’s ultimately the director’s fault.
THE EXPERIENCE FACTOR
So, how exactly does one go about getting their actors to pull off this remarkable feat of morphing themselves into what you want and need from them? How do you get your actors to be “real”? How do you get your actors to be “believable”?
Every actor is a different monster, and I say ‘Monster’ in a very loving way. I’m also an actor, so I know what it feels like to be molded, scorned, twisted, praised, rewarded, and the plethora of feelings that come with the job. But, as a director I must realize that each person I’m directing is different. Each has different experience. Each has a different process they use to get into character.
In my first feature film, ‘Potential Inertia’, the experience of my actors runs the gamut. I have had to direct people who have been leads in previous independent features, people who have been background and supporting roles in major Hollywood movies, and people who have had no acting experience in their entire lives.
My actors with experience on stage, screen, or both, all have their own processes. For those folks, it was imperative that I made clear what kind of film this was to be — the tone, the level of intensity or urgency for each scene, and the fact that I didn’t want their lines to sound inelastic. And with those experienced folks I was able to allow a level of trust that veteran actors deserve, because they are the ones that can understand the structure of a scene. They are the one’s who you really need to mentor those lacking the time spent in front of an audience. Regardless, each of those actors have individual processes, and as a director it is my responsibility, again, to understand each process by itself, be able to explain what I want to coincide with each process, and be able to find a cohesive way to mesh each actor together with another.
It can be extremely fun or totally frustrating to direct an actor who has never been in front of a camera before. They are extremely aware of the camera itself. They are not sure of themselves, or what to expect from a more experienced actor they have to do a scene with. It is a real test to put someone on screen who hasn’t the slightest clue of what they are doing.
I have knack at “seeing” people. I mean, really seeing who they are. Not all extroverts make good actors. Not all introverts can’t be actors. However, all “passionate” people can. I believe putting someone who is a passionate person in front of the camera for their first role will be a better idea than putting someone there who isn’t one.
The following notes are a bit of advice I have for those directors trying to get believable performances from their actors. These notes are a direct result of trying to make my first feature film as conversationally believable as possible using both veteran and rookie actors. I hope you all find them useful.
- Always remember that every actor has a different process, especially those veterans you have in your cast.
- Let the words in the script work for you, and not against you. If you need to give an actor a line reading, especially the rookies, do not be afraid to do so in the most polite manner possible. Let your actors play, but if they’re not giving you the delivery you want, make sure you show them what you need.
- Make sure your actors understand what each scene is about, and what is happening both on the surface and underneath it. Scene study with your actors can be a valuable tool when your actors are making decisions while the camera is rolling. If they don’t know why they’re saying something, if they don’t know their motivation, then there will be no focus or purpose in the delivery of their dialogue.
- Remind your actors to BREATHE. Breathing is imperative to coming across as believable. People breathe when they speak.
- Remind your actors to NOT RUSH their lines (unless rushing their lines is a character trait, or the scene calls for it).
- Let your actors veer slightly off script, perhaps to say their lines in their own way. Unless a specific line MUST be included in the story fully intact, sometimes letting your actors take a more personal approach to delivering them results in a more conversational result.
- Prepare them for the intensity or lack thereof in each scene.
I think it is important as a director to remember that each set is different, along with each script, and one must always take those two factors into consideration when looking at what is ‘real’ and ‘believable’. Please remember that your actors are an extension of you, and your vision, for what the film will ultimately be. Work WITH them, have fun WITH them, and communicate WITH them.
COPYRIGHT (C) 2014 MATT CROYLE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
This is an essay. This is an essay about being ordinary. This is an essay about being ordinary in a world where you are supposed to be ordinary — a world that teaches you to follow the status quo, to follow expectations derived from centuries of people telling other people what to do — and when and how to do it. This is your life.
Social norms are not written down. You tend to follow them, but they’re not written down. How has this happened? To quote Emerson:
“Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”
Take a moment and clear your head. Clear your head of everything that surrounds your daily life: your family, your job, your bills, your mortgage — everything outside of your own body that externally defines you. Push it out of your mind. Is it gone? Now, look at yourself without those things. Who are you? Who are you without those external forces in your life? Do you know? Do you recognize yourself at all? A better question: Do you even want to recognize yourself without those things?
You are a person. You are an individual. You came into this world with very little information, with no character, without knowledge, without hope. The mind of an infant cannot process what hope is. It’s only after you’ve been nurtured that you gain a sense of it. And while you’ve been nurtured into a full-fledged human being by your surroundings, you still grew with a sense of wonderment and self. Do you remember seven, eight years old? Perhaps specific instances, a few flashes, but do you remember how you thought, how you felt about the world, how you felt about yourself? Have you forgotten who you are?
First things first. I am NOT you. Do NOT judge me for not being you. I CHOOSE to not be you. I’m not saying there is no merit in being you. You are awesome. I’m just different.
I’m searching for something. I’m searching for something more than just the everyday motions we go through: Get up. Take shower. Go to work. Do “job”. Come home. Hang with kids. Eat dinner. Watch TV. Go to bed.
Life needs to be more than that to me. For some it’s fine, even admirable, but my mind is not content with that. I am not “better” than anyone else, but ordinary lives are forgotten. I don’t want to be forgotten.
When was the last time you truly challenged yourself with some extraordinary task? When was the last time you expressed yourself in a way that truly shows the world who you are and why you deserve to be remembered? I think the everyday motions we put ourselves through has numbed us to the point of complacency in thought and expression, and I think it is up to us to find a way to bring a passionate expression of who we truly are into the world.
I’ve recently started living “on my own” for the first real time in my life. Earlier in my “adulthood” living “on my own” would consist of a significant other. This is the first time I’ve been truly on my own. So, I’ve enlisted a couple of roommates — not your normal household setup for someone in their late thirties — to help on the start of this venture, and we’ll see what happens. I have started my life four times: Birth, my divorce, the split of my son’s mother, and my last fiance. With the recent death of my father, and with my mother not having long to go, it’s fitting that this journey may, again, take a new beginning. This new beginning won’t be a normal one. I will do it with the reckless passion I’ve always had for life and its pleasures, its heartaches, and its overrated expectations.
For those of you who question who you are, what you want and need — I urge you to close your eyes, strip everything away from your life as you know it, and look at yourself. Who are you? Who were you? Who do you want to be? Do you know?
Copyright (C) 2014. Matt Croyle. All Rights Reserved.
An Opinion Editorial By Matt Croyle
So, there’s this saying about knowing the sour before you can appreciate the sweet. I’m not good at paraphrasing, but I’m sure you get the point. After looking at my friends’ Facebook posts on a daily basis, and seeing how miserable most of my younger friends are, I’ve decided to take a bit of my knowledge of the female sex and break things down for them. This editorial could very easily switch genders, and if you feel the need to want to share any bit of it I encourage you to take as much liberty in that department as possible. I’m a straight guy, so this is about girls for me.
I could call this a breakdown, but it’s more designed to be a set of examples of who girls are before they mature enough to actually become women — which in my experience is somewhere around the age of twenty-five. The following examples are not the complex, amazing women that most girls develop into. These examples are the girls you will likely run across while searching for those truly wonderful women out there. And they are out there, but I’m confident you won’t find them nearly as easily as you’ll find these girls. Read on.
These are examples of the girls that I’ve come across in my life, who are considered “red flags” — not because they won’t eventually mature, but because they’re probably not someone who you’ll find meaningful coexistence with before they do.
THE SLUTTY PARTY GIRL
We all know the girl that likes to get her drink on a little too much. She’s the one at the party who is always a little too wild, a little too flirty, and a little too ready to take off her pants. Bottom line on this girl is that drugs and alcohol, more often than not, seem to just go hand-in-hand with sex. Sure she’s a blast to drink with, but she’s always looking for the most fun time she can have — and that’s usually the guy with the biggest sausage or the most money (because she’ll need more alcohol or drugs later) — so, you best be packing a fire hose down there, and have a wallet full of mommy and daddy’s credit cards, or she’s going home with someone else. This girl knows no emotional attachment because she’s constantly hammered. Feelings are drowned by liquid horniness.
THE DADDY’S GIRL
There are always those girls you come across that will constantly compare their current boyfriends with their past boyfriends. Guys having to live up to other guys’ experiences are doomed from the start. Well, The Daddy’s Girl is kind of like that except you have to live up to unattainable expectations that have been planted into her head by her father. Creepy. If a girl is constantly, subconsciously comparing your success — or lack thereof — to her father’s, turn around and run away. Run fast, because this will be something she will do for the rest of the time you are together. It’s not fair to you, and it’s definitely not fair for her to do that to herself.
THE NO SENSE OF SELF GIRL
This is the girl who defines who she is, as an existing human being, by whether or not she’s in a relationship. The “single” status defines her being every waking moment. She obsesses about it, she complains about it, and she longs so much to be in a relationship that she doesn’t even know who she is without one. She needs someone ELSE to define HER. I’m sorry, but if you don’t know who you are, or can’t be happy with yourself being alone, there’s something going wrong up in that noggin. Find a hobby.
THE OVERLY-ATTACHED GIRLFRIEND
Okay. I’m sure you’ve seen her on YouTube, but people like this exist in real-life. She’s super-clingy, and shares the whole “defining who she is” thing with the No Sense of Self Girl. Here’s one that won’t let you out of her sight. Not because she’s psycho, but because she’s REALLY psycho. If you’re lucky enough to find time to be by yourself (to read, work on returning emails, check out some awesome porn sites) it won’t be for very long. This girl has built-in sonar when it comes to finding you, and wonders why she isn’t included in your every waking moment of existence. If you have any sense of individual freedom, this is not who you want to be with. If you’re looking for someone to be up your ass twenty-four seven, she’s your soul-mate .
THE OVERLY-EMOTIONAL TRAIN WRECK
This girl is pretty self-explanatory. She’s the girl constantly in question of whether you actually want to be with her, getting either really sad or really pissed-off if she doesn’t know. You will constantly have to tend to her emotions and reassure her that you want her, or that you’re happy, or that you remember where you were the first time you kissed her. Remember that women are emotional beings, but this girl can’t keep her emotions in check at all — at all. If you make her too upset, she may burn your clothes or break windows in your house. Probably best to steer clear of this one altogether.
THE MANIPULATIVE HOT GIRL
The femme fatale of all girls. She knows how hot she is, and will use it to every advantage she possibly can. Sex is a powerful thing, and if you’re willing to put up with someone taking your pants in the relationship (literally) for a little bit of action (when she feels like it) then she’s your girl. However, you must remember that she will only put up with you as long as she’s getting what she wants. She can get it anywhere else, and she will — along with more pants. Nobody needs a mind-screw like that.
What to do?
The thing about all of these women is that they all exist (in one form or another) in combinations. Some will have aspects of a few of these women, and some may have aspects of all of them. The point is to find one that has the least amount of these qualities. These qualities will kill a man’s soul — not to mention any sense of self-respect.
The point of “pointing out” these traits is not to rag on women, or degrade them, it’s to be aware that there are things that you should and shouldn’t accept when dealing with the opposite sex — especially in dating/marriage. Relationships are a difficult thing, and finding one can be even harder. The point is: don’t give up, shoot for someone you think is out of your league, and don’t let your past relationships dictate your current ones. Happy hunting.
Copyright (C) 2014 Matt Croyle. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction of this article, in any form, without permission by the author.