Basically, a week after returning from a 3-month jaunt to Southeast Asia, David Austin asked me to write a screenplay that we could shoot in his house. He was preparing to sell an old mansion that he had been living in that was once the home of Samuel Goldwyn. All week I had been attempting to see a revival screening of Luis Bunuel’s Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie at the Fine Arts Theater on Wilshire. It was Thursday evening and the final night of the run and I realized this at 9:40PM, 20 minutes before the final screening. On the drive, I called David and told him that I had nothing to offer, that I couldn’t think of anything to make a movie about, and that I was basically a useless human.
Knowing that this may be my final chance to see the Bunuel film projected, I sat down anxiously ready to go. An hour into the film, I realized that I had missed nearly the entire film as my mind had been running images of what later became IMOMF. I saw up to the moment where this couples enter a restaurant in the beginning of the film to find that there is a recently filled casket in the side room where some of the employees pass by in mourning intermittently, while coming back and forth from serving. As the couples realize what is going on, an extensive deliberation about whether or not to stay for dinner ensues. This image added to the fact that I had been spending a large amount of time at Robert Evan’s house, (which subtly reminded me of the house that David had offered), started taking shape and the core of the film was formulated. The energy of the subtle chaos at Evan’s house and all of the information that I had acquired about who he was, what he did, and all of the stories that we’ve read in his books, heard at parties, seen in documentaries, etc., etc., etc., stimulated an idea of what his hypothetical wake (and family) might resemble upon his death.
I immediately left the theater in the middle of the film and sat in the gutter next to my car on Wilshire jotting down everything I could before my brain collapsed, as it usually does when it gets overwhelmed with information. It was filled with the three previous years of my own personal chaos where I had allowed myself to be infiltrated and surrounded by the self absorption that tends to come along with young Hollywood. Though, while we were living within this state, we actually were trying to be as good of humans as we could be, sometimes obsessively and aggressively actually, but the awareness of the core of who we were and what we had become, wasn’t quite as developed as it was after returning from Asia with a bit of clarity and distance. We weren’t bad people, we were just intensely and desperately trying to hang onto a fleeting idea of what we were supposed to be within this illusory arena that composes the core of young Hollywood, and in many circumstances, Hollywood in general. I tried to think of all of the most unattractive, yet entertaining chaos that I had witnessed or participated in over the past years and began attempting to breakdown what was at the core of it all.
Five days later the script was complete.
The film was constructed in a manner that embraced the strengths and weaknesses of the actors and the locations that were available to me. The script was specifically written for a group of actors that I had been close to for significant periods of time and each of their storylines were sculpted and set within an arena that would potentially allow them the comforts and freedoms that I had always wished for as an actor. The pre-developed trust that we had within one another allowed for a symbiotic development of the characters and the rhythm of the action, and immediately, a safe environment was attained.
Over a four week period of rehearsals, the script was continuously rewritten to suit the nuances of the actors. Their participation during this period was extensive as each of them brought forth so many intricate levels of vulnerability, even to the point of allowing me the use of their own names. They were incredibly proactive with the work and many of them spent the majority of the four weeks with me, basically living at the actual location that we were about to shoot. This enhanced the comfort of the environment, resulting in a space almost representative of a heightened night of chaos with your friends and family. The dynamics of the film, or more accurately, the dynamics of the communication habits between the characters, are fueled by this frenetic, sort of, escapist energy which plays along a fine line of harsh honesty and honest absurdity (the absurdity that always tends to surface in emotionally frenetic family settings when people want to be heard and are taking themselves quite seriously). My main concern was keeping things bouncing along in a manner that kept the characters from getting too far inside of themselves prematurely, to set a tone that would push and pull without getting too sentimental or too angry, allowing the absurdity of the circumstance to keep things moving forward. I think the core theme that I was shooting for was basically a reminder that behind it all we are simply a bunch of little kids, living in an isolated space, acting out the roles and the clichés of “being an adult,” wanting nothing more… than to be loved. We really need to be trained from a stage early on, about how to deal with the ego and the self-imposed illusions that we allow to dictate our daily existence, consciously or unconsciously. And,on that note… I think I’ll stop now before I make someone vomit.
Chris Jaymes grew up working as an actor, mostly crappy television shows, TV movies and a handful of independent films where he transitioned to writing and directing. In his early twenties, he took two years off to play piano and study orchestration at Berklee College of Music and then traveled the world until he was completely out of money. Returning to Los Angeles, he began acting and writing again which quickly led him to his debut feature, In Memory of My Father, receiving 20 awards and nominations internationally. During this time, he also completed his first book, Boxing Day, about his experiences in the 2004 tsunami where he worked for six weeks during the disaster relief efforts.
Posted in In Memory Of My Father