My blog has moved!

You will be automatically redirected to the new address. If that does not occur, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Rear Window

You've heard of Found Objects, right, Wavers? Stuff that you find that has intrinsic artistic or sentimental value? Or that guy - who was that guy - anyway, it was on NPR or something, who gathered notes and lists he found everywhere he went and compiled the notes and lists into a book. Well anyway, so it's summer in Los Angeles, and the Wave-inatrix lives in a neighborhood with beautiful old-growth trees, palm and otherwise, and lined with very grand, old, 1920's apartment buildings.

When it's hot, which it often is, everybody hangs around outside on their front stoops and leaves their windows wide open at night, owing to the heat-keeping nature of stucco circa 1925. The buildings are insulated in a way in which locks in temperature - heat or cold. So there's a little something you give up for the built-ins, hardwood, high ceilings and arched doorways. Oh, Charm, you beguiling temptress of real estate choices!

Upshot: particularly at night - everybody can hear everybody. Music, tv, arguments, laughter. The neighborhood is alive with human interaction. And this is what the Wave-inatrix heard just the other evening:

Susan: But I WANNA read in bed!
Charlie: (incomprehensible)
Susan: So GET a book you like!
Charlie: (incomprehensible)
Susan: But I LIKE reading in bed!
Charlie: (incomprehensible)
Susan: But it’s not FAIR!
Charlie: (sharp retort)
Susan: (exclamation)
Charlie: Well, what makes ANYONE happy?
Susan: (whining, fading away)

Writers are thieves - you've heard that expression before, no doubt. The Wave-inatrix lived in San Francisco proper for many, many years. And walking through my neighborhood at night was one of my favorite things to do. All those Victorians, cheek by jowl, in the early evening, before the curtains are pulled to - and all those people inside, laughing, kissing, arguing, stooping to put something away - a silent pantomime of life. What were they talking about? What was going on?

There is one evening in San Francisco that I will never forget. I lived in Noe Valley and it was foggy as usual. Maybe 2am or so. When suddenly, out of the moist, foggy blanket of silence, I was awoken to hear a woman begging, in a low moan, for someone to please, stop! She begged and she begged. With silences in-between. Was it some kind of consensual sexual activity? Or was she really being hurt? Her cries rose in intensity and she began to scream and cry. No - whatever it was - it wasn't consensual. Alarmed, I called 911. Where was it coming from, they asked? I stared out the back window at the maze of adjoining gardens, covered with wet vines and nasturtium. The houses were dark. Not one light. I - I don't know, I stammered. The woman screamed again - Please! Please, stop!

Look, Miss, the 911 operator said, we can't help if we don't know where to look. My heart raced. Someone definitely needed help. But where? How could I help her? With an annoyed sigh, the 911 operator said she'd send a squad car to circle the block but if they couldn't find anything, they couldn't very well help, could they? I went back to bed and clutched the blankets to my chest and stared out the window, the lace curtain moving softly in the foggy breeze. The cries continued. Then grew softer. And faded back into the fog. I never knew what happened or who that woman was. But I'll never forget that voice, that begging.

Use the life going on all around you, Wavers, as you seek inspiration for story ideas, bits of dialogue or chemistry and dynamics in relationships. Life is a stage and we are all actors upon it. What is really going on behind closed doors?

If you enjoyed this post, follow me on Twitter or subscribe via RSS.


Anonymous said...


If I only had a time machine. fav. year.

If a writer placed Britney Spears in a time machine and send her to year 1925. Would she be be a hit?

1920-1930, interesting times.

Julie, you read any good screenplays which take place during that time?

Post some loglines/taglines or contact etc. You never know, who's reading?


Julie Gray said...

I have a FANtastic script set in the 1920s right this very minute. It is a beautiful, beautiful piece of writing by a truly gifted writer. I'm shopping it around right now and of course am happy to share the logine with interested but serious players only. Contact me if that describes you. :)