Some years after I'd lost my father, my mom told me about an encounter she had one afternoon.
Walking across Wilshire Blvd in Los Angeles, she came upon a man who looked like a carbon copy of my father. A perfect double.
It stopped her cold.
She had her glasses in her hand and started to put them on, and then.... she didn't. She just stood there and watched him approach.
She told me, "I didn't want a better look... I knew it wasn't your father. It just felt so nice, in that moment, to just imagine that it was really him. He had a big smile on his face. It felt so good to see him again. It felt like it used to."
The man brushed right past her. The light changed. Cars honked. She hurried to the other side of the road, and continued on.
I couldn't get the scene out of my head.
It haunted me. I thought about it. I dreamt about it. I replayed it over and over in my head. Who was he? Where did he come from? What if they'd met? What if she didn't tell him he was a double?
And so I started to sketch out a story.
Matt Mcduffie is a phenomenal writer. I had admired his work for many years. I'd read several scripts of his, met him a couple of times, and been trying to come up with something for us to collaborate on. (When you commit to making movies for a living, you read a thousand lousy scripts. The good ones are easy to remember. Matt's were good.) Among many talents, Matt has a way of crafting a surprising line of dialogue that's so honest and so true and direct that it knocks the wind out of you when you read it.
I wanted those moments in The Face of Love. I called Matt and pitched him the story. He dug it right away and we agreed to co-write the script.
One small wrinkle:
I live in Los Angeles. Matt lives in New Mexico. How were we going to write together?
Despite the fact that he was geographically undesirable, Matt and I shared a gut sense of how the story ought to to be told and we didn't want to let geography get in our way. This being the twenty-first century and all, we decided to try writing the script long distance.
I've been in a long distance relationship: it's not good.
Was this going to turn out any better?
Usually, when you're writing, you're in the same room together.... or at least in the same city. You can jump in your car and go grab a coffee and discuss the day's challenges. You can take a walk around the block. You can share a drink and curse the scene that kicked you in the ass today.
None of this for us.
There was the phone. And there was email. But mostly there was just email. There was no time to waste on intellectualizing, or procrastinating. We just started emailing ideas back and forth. Soon the script pages started to fly between us. The challenge of distance turned out to be a very lucky hurdle for us.
It was a happy experience.
The script came out coherent, in a singular voice, and full of emotion. And there were even a few of those moments I'd hoped for, moments that knocked the wind out of me when I first read them. Moments that still knock me out when I read them now.
We finished the script, but the writing continued. Rewrites, tweaks, polishes. They go by many names. Somebody once said that the last cut of a movie is just the final rewrite. That's totally true.