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Honey Manifesto

Honey Manifesto

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Published by wdball
The mission statement written by writer/director David Ball before he made his film "Honey" (http://duckrabbitpictures.blogspot.com). He gave the manifesto to all prospective cast and crew along with the script so that they knew what kind of film he was trying to make.
The mission statement written by writer/director David Ball before he made his film "Honey" (http://duckrabbitpictures.blogspot.com). He gave the manifesto to all prospective cast and crew along with the script so that they knew what kind of film he was trying to make.

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Published by: wdball on Jun 07, 2007
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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01/01/2013

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Honey ManifestoYou’re probably asking yourself what the hell this is, wondering why someone felt theneed to write an introduction to a script instead of just handing you the script and lettingyou make up your own mind. I can’t really answer that, except to explain what I’m nottrying to do by writing this. I’m not trying to give you an interpretation of it ahead of time. I’m not trying to compensate for the script’s weaknesses by pointing them out ordescribing them as strengths. What I am trying to do is explain a little bit about myintentions behind writing it so that you can orient yourself to what is, in fact, a sometimesconfusing and stylistically odd script. In other words, sometimes when you readsomething, particularly something by someone whose work you haven’t read before, itcan take a while before you get what the author was going for. You try to fit a square peginto a round hole instead of realizing that the peg belongs in a different hole. So let metell you, at the outset, what this film is not. This is not an attitude film. This is not a filmthat tries to be edgy. This is not an “independent” film, with all the rules that apply there.I’m not trying to be anything except honest.I guess the starting point for the Honey script was when I watched Contempt at the FilmForum and saw the incredibly real fight sequence that dominates the middle part of thatfilm. It was something I hadn’t seen before, and it was incredible. The dynamicsbetween the man and the woman were complex and true to life. She would sulk, hewould ignore her, she would ask him some passive aggressive question to get hisattention, he would pay attention to her, she would ignore him, he would apologize, shewould use that as an opportunity to get in one more free shot, this would make him angry,he would storm off, she would run after him and apologize herself, he would take his freeshot, and so on. It blew my mind. This was the first time I’d seen something this realabout such a basic, fundamental experience. The second thing that amazed me about itwas that Godard basically stopped the film and gave the fight thirty minutes (I wasn’ttiming it) to fully explore its ins and outs. Having been brainwashed by Syd Field andlikeminded books, I was reminded that you didn’t have to chop everything up into smallpieces, that putting the plot mechanisms in action did not have to be the overridingprinciple shaping a movie. He wasn’t doing this to be cool—he was doing it because thisis the way life was. And now it seemed so obvious, so simple—except that telling theunadorned, messy truth is so much harder than being coy or intellectual or overlystylized.Around this time I was reading a book of Bergman screenplays and was also stunned byScenes from a Marriage, by the way he picked up on the nuances of where relationshipsdissolve into mistrust. Both of these works paid extraordinary attention to detail.Everything was not spelled out for you. “The plot” was nothing more than the sum of theactivities of the people on screen—that is, it was simply about their lives. It didn’talways make sense, until you reflected on it. In that way, it felt real to me. One of myfavorite quotes is this one from Kierkegaard: “Life can only be understood backwards butit must be lived forwards.As you read Honey, I’m sure both of these influences will bereadily apparent.
 
2Another influence that led to the writing of the screenplay was what was going on in mylife. I had just finished writing a screenplay that was meant to be a commercial script. Itwasn’t, by virtue of the fact that no one paid (or has paid) me for it. I had writtensomething that my heart wasn’t into and found out I’d sold my soul for nothing. It was adecent script, but it’s very formulaic (in the “instigating incident on page 10” sense). Atthe same time, my girlfriend was working around the clock, and we had just decided toget married. So in a feverish 6 day period, I wrote the first draft of Honey. It was theantidote to all that was going on in my life. It exorcised the anger I felt, the fear of commitment, the fear of being alienated and abandoned by the person I love and trust themost, stuff I wasn’t even in touch with. I would write something down and say, “GoodLord. What the hell was that, and where did it come from?” It was scary butexhilarating, because I wasn’t trying to make it any particular thing, neither David Lynchnor Steven Spielberg. It was liberating because I willfully ignored all the “rules” thatmake most screenplays totally artificial and completely predictable. It had unfamiliarrhythms to it. It was work reading it. Not everything was spelled out in it. And I really,really liked it—so much so that, for the first time in a long time, I didn’t give a shit whatother people thought of it. I still don’t.So, what’s it about, you ask? Honey is an almost unpitchable film, because the wholereason I wrote it was in reaction to pitchable films. There’s no high concept to it (or, asin the typical indie film, a high concept that can be brought in with a cheap budget).There’s no clear-cut story with a smooth, regular arc to it. But it ain’t Hiroshima MonAmour, either. What it’s about, really, is how crazy things can be. How you can reachthis point with another person where they’ve hurt you and you’ve hurt them and you’reboth thinking, “My God, I didn’t know I was capable of doing that to someone, and Ididn’t know I was capable of withstanding that from someone”, and yet you don’t justrun away because sometimes you have nowhere else to go. It’s about finding out for thefirst time that love is damned hard, that it takes a lot of work and a lot of courage in theface of signs that tell you to turn around and run away. It’s about that moment whenyou’re waiting for the other person to turn the other cheek and they get mad becausethey’re thinking, “I’ll be damned if I’m going to do it after all you’ve done to me—youturn the other cheek”—and then you get angry because you feel that way and can’t he/shesee that they’re really the ones in the wrong. It’s that moment when something breaksand you’re both waiting for the other to clean it up because each of you is sure that youcleaned it up last time and isn’t it just like him/her to always expect you to makeeverything better. It takes you through the moment where most films leave off, askingthe question, “Is the realization enough?” In the average Nora Ephron film, the movie isabout the characters’struggle to realize something, but once the realization comes it’scrystal clear that they need to act and that they need to do particular things to achievehappiness. Honey is about the way it feels in (my) life, the questions you have after theepiphany—is the realization right, or is it another delusion masquerading as truth? Do Ihave the courage to go through with it if it is the truth? And what if I go through with it,and that’s not enough?Stylistically, I wanted to focus on small moments—by that I mean, the large momentsthat appear small. I wanted the film to key you to noticing the little but telling details in
 
3someone’s behaviour and/or language that tells you what’s going on. There are few cluesin the script; there will be few clues in the film. That’s not to obscure things wilfully, butinstead to present the facts and let people make their own judgements, and make peoplethink about the judgements they’re making. There is no “Good Guy” or “Bad Guy” or“This is a Sad Moment” music and lighting in real life, so I don’t want any in my film.And if you think someone is the good guy and then they’re bad, or vice-versa, that’s partof the experience as well.I also wanted the structure of the movie to be conducive to having really great actorsestablish that reality. Long scenes will give actors room to establish their rhythms, to getus immersed in scenes without the usual pressure of going to a scene, getting the simplepicture (like an insert, or a reaction shot, or whatever) and then going somewhere else. Iguess I kind of want the movie to feel like you’re watching a documentary that startedsomewhere in the middle, where the characters act like they’ve known each other for awhile and are not doing or saying things for the audience’s benefit (“Well, Janie, in thepast six years we’ve been going out, from when we started at Harvard University inCambridge until now when we both are living with your parents in upstate New York,I’ve really had to struggle in my job as a screenwriter while you’ve worked as a waitressto support us.”) Like people in real relationships, the people in Honey start and stop on adime and have all kinds of shorthand for what is going on. In some ways, that will makeaudience members (and you, reading the script) feel like outsiders—but every characterin the script will also feel that same way at one point or another. So I’m not standingaround like Oz holding the viewer at arm’s length. What I want it to feel like is life—where just as you think you know enough to make a conclusion, new information pops upwhere you weren’t expecting it and makes you see what you thought you knew in awhole new light.Take the first scene in the script. A man and a woman, the woman dressed provocatively,the man drunk and in a suit. Hooker and john, right? The scene plays and at the end,they laugh. Weird. Then you see her pull out a wedding ring. Is it an affair? You seeher come home at the end of the day. The same guy is there. You wonder for a second,surely this can’t be the same situation, because we would have had clues that said “Don’ttake this first scene seriously, it’s just a put on”. But that would be a different movie.What has (hopefully) happened is this. You “knew” what the situation was. It was clear.But then you learned that the first scene was actually something very different from whatyou thought it was. You see John and Ruth (the man and woman) in a whole new light—and yet you’re never really going to forget that you thought she was a whore and youthought he was a john. But that’s because there’s a reason they’re role playing—eventhough it’s not readily apparent what that reason is.I want the whole movie to have these moments of discovery, and I guess that’s the realreason I’m writing this introduction—to counsel patience in reading the script. To letyou know that you’re in capable hands, that I’m not going to leave you stranded, thatthere is some purpose to the under-writing. It’s like the old riddle about the man whorides on an elevator who gets off at the 16
th
floor when others are on the elevator but whogets off on the ninth floor and walks up when he’s alone. (It’s because he’s a dwarf.)

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