Dan: I started out with a quote from Rebel Without A Cause...
have to be all confused and ashamed
of everything – or I felt I belonged
some place ..."
Before I remind you of when and where we met, I wanted to tell you a short story about the first time I ever heard that line. About 6 years ago, my oldest friend from high school showed back up in my life. He had been playing rock star down in Hollywood, and told me all about his time spent hanging out with such-n-such and also so-n-so celebrity types, one of which was Lisa Marie Presley.
We started collaborating on a musical project almost right away, sometimes including Lisa Marie's fiancé. (You know what? Forget I ever mentioned her. Or him. They have basically nothing to do with the story. They were just MSG for the broth.)
Anyhow, my friend comes over one day with this really haunting piece of music – really beautiful, atmospheric, cinematic-type stuff. To cap off the overall effect, he throws in this dialogue from a movie, the speaker of which sounded really familiar, but I couldn't quite place it... "Boy – If I had one day..." (And by the way, I've never actually seen Rebel Without a Cause, but with even a quick glance through it whilst searching for that line, I could tell you have some unusually sensitive stuff baking in your noodle... I may just rent it tonight.)
I had written a couple shitty screenplays at that point, and this one sliver of potent verse/music pushed me into really striving to learn the art... So I tracked down Warren (at the suggestion of one of my weirdo window-cleaning clients who, as it turns out, played a weirdo in David Lynch's Twin Peaks), and began the painfully satisfying process of learning how truly untalented I was. (Though I know I could eventually become passable, if my intentions still lay in that arena. Perhaps for the better, though, it appears those intentions have been consumed by the lions. C'est la vie?)
I tend to think that I have great and poignant ideas that would lend themselves to the screen in universally appealing ways. It's just that my translator is missing a few transistors... And so I have shifted gears and hopped into the vehicle next to me, which is more of a Volkswagen bus than a luxury sedan. But I'll explain that in a bit.
I have spent a large part of my life in emotional turmoil, trying my best to deal with a mind that looks microscopically at the suffering of the world, and at the same time is much too idealistic to be forced to admit all the ugliness. As of this writing, I have been admitted to the psych ward at [Seattle's] Harborview three times in the last ten years: once for severe depression, once for drug-induced psychosis, and once for a two month long manic episode (which was actually the most enjoyably far-out thing that ever happened to me, 'til they threw me in jail twice, and into three other mental hospitals). Really, a firm diagnosis of bipolar disorder was a great relief to myself and my family. It was during this period that I met you, and it was directly as a result of this period that I write to you now.
Where did we meet? If you remember a guy at the first Filmschool orientation at the Museum of History and Industry who interrupted the proceedings every five minutes; a guy who read you a little poem about how your ass was nicer than Tom Skerritt's in front of all those assembled; and a guy who you later asked, "Did my sister send you here to comment on my ass?" because she had just sent you a picture of yourself as a baby, naked, on a bearskin rug, with a comment on the back, saying "Nice ass!" Well... that was me.
Even though I made a jerk out of myself that night (that was about a week into me not eating or sleeping; I think I even told Warren that I was going to be a better screenwriter than you), I never forgot how touching your speech was, and even though I don't remember a single word of it I do remember the tone, the warmth, and the sincere concern for humanity that you radiated from your... radiator. I still tell people about you all the time (probably because I live at a Buddhist temple, and that caring stuff really flies around here).
I have been volunteering at the prison in Monroe, and also at Western State Mental Hospital in Tacoma, and through this, I believe I have come across a way (that I am getting lots of support for) to reconcile my creative urges with my need to be of benefit to people without becoming a raging egomaniac who ends up dead in the gutter outside the Chateau Marmont. This would be:
A documentary: helping to remove the stigma of being mentally ill; showcasing the efforts of certain outstanding people in the mental health field at large; following a few select people around in their day to day lives to see how they deal; reaching out to those who silently suffer, and who have been shamed into thinking they are less than human if they admit their illness; and showing examples of people who have come through the fire.
Of course there is progress being made all the time, but there is still so much fear and misunderstanding between the "ares" and "are nots". I am proposing (and have done more than a little groundwork on) a project to help close the gap. We're all somewhat sick in the head, right? Maybe world peace is a little much to hope for right away, but I feel this project could accomplish even more of my dreams for the world than any of my previous script ideas.
Not that I'm calling you a crazy old fart, but, from what I've read, you are not exactly a stranger to the mental health field, and so I'm wondering:
Would you be willing to give me an afternoon of your time to wax poetic, on film, about mental illness, both your personal experiences, and any insights you've collected about mental health in the world at large? I think people would really (as the kids say) "dig it," even if they didn't know you were like, a somewhat famous dude. I've heard you speak. I know.
Wishing you well,