A film made from a story by my five-year-old son Sam. Along with his four-year-old brother, Levi, we shot it in our front yard in Topanga Canyon Calif. over two days. Sam and I cut and finished the film as a homeschooling project. The story is totally, 100% his, and that’s his voice telling it as well. The “climate change” theme was not conscious until later, and since making the film he has gained much more awareness into what might actually lead an Iceman to melt.
I love the storytelling worlds kids create with such spontaneity and immediacy. Any landscape can (and must!) be transformed into a space where drama can unfold. Physical aspects - scale, verisimilitude, even vague resemblance - are completely relative. A rock can be a spaceship, if a spaceship is necessary. Or, a rock can be a boulder, if a boulder is necessary. Or, a rock can be a rock - and an extremely convincing rock - if a rock is necessary. Reality is fluid. What is important is what is always important in storytelling: the motion, the tension and, ultimately, the transformation. Things happen. My sons will frequently begin a game by one referring to the other as “Other - ” something. “Hey, other worker!”; “Other pilot …”; “Other driver …”. That’s the seed of a story. They are casting each other as fictional characters, but also, by dint of the fact that there are now two of them, instantly creating an alternate universe in which they can both exist. Two workers with some tools in a world of giant cliffs (steps). Now what happens?
I always feel honored to witness, let alone participate in, a kid’s story as it unfolds. And turning one into a movie certainly has its challenges. For example, even though it is pretty quick to shoot with a consumer video camera on auto-everything, it still isn’t fast enough. Near the end of our shoot, Sam decided that actually the iceman should be a “kind of a monster”. If we hadn’t been trying to make a movie, if this had really been “play”, the iceman would have become a monster, for sure. “But what about our script?” I pleaded. What a boring old grown-up I am!
I look forward to working on more projects based on child-generated narratives. In fact, I am working on a TV show proposal based on the idea. Kids coming up with stories and then making them with the help of grown-up filmmakers. Because kids are natural filmmakers already, and everyone can learn something in the process!