Pushing Limits

Earlier this week an independent film titled, “Grace is Gone” was on the receiving end of some good news at the Sundance Film Festival. Starring John Cusack, the movie tells the story of the father of two young daughters who’s forced to deal with the fact that his wife was killed in the Iraq war.

The Weinstein Company purchased the worldwide distribution rights for a reported $4 million. A pretty penny in anyone’s book.

I’m particularly pleased this movie will be well advertised and widely distributed. For one thing, I’m the father of two daughters myself. Considering that, I suspect I’ll be able to relate to this movie on several levels. I’m also a John Cusack fan. Long ago, when I was a young musician struggling to make a name for myself and my band in New York City, John and I used to frequent the same bar. At least we did for a short time. It was called the Scrap Bar, located below street level on MacDougal Street. Cusack was a local, being enrolled at NYU at the time. I lived in the neighborhood too, my apartment being just around the corner on Bleecker St.

My third reason for being excited about the upcoming wide release of “Grace is Gone” is personal. There is a slight chance that my daughters and I will flash on the screen for a moment or two during a scene shot near the turnstiles of the Enchanted Gardens. I’d love to think my girls will have a permanent reminder of their youth, thanks to director James C. Strouse and the long arms of the Weinstein Company.

Proud dads. There’s no explaining us.

The film shot for a single day at an amusement park located near my home in Central Florida. The draw to allow my Hollywood crazy girls to watch and perhaps even participate in the filming of a motion picture was too strong to pass up. So I packed the two of them into the car and ushered them to the park. Half a dozen roller coaster rides later my girls found themselves pretending to be visitors to the park, walking toward the turnstiles while a film crew trained a camera on them.

In the end my girls learned a great truth – movies are exciting to watch but not quite so exciting to shoot.

I reinforced a good lesson on myself too. Writers have to stretch themselves. We have to occassionally put ourselves into situations that are unusual. At the very least we have to challenge our routine. While writing may be solitary work, the research necessary to do the job well is not. We have to go forth and interact with the world around us in a wide variety of situations and circumstances. All of which may be inconvenient from time to time, but it’s the job – and the job can be a whole lot of fun.

You never can tell. You might even find yourself participating in an Oscar worthy motion picture. Even if the experience only lasts for a few minutes, it sticks with us, lodged securely in our memory banks. We’re left with a good story to tell. And considering what we do for a living, that’s a pretty good thing. So find a challenge, an odd opportunity, a unique person that you can interact with – and participate somehow. You never can tell where the experience, or the story it leaves you with, might take you.

Jamie Beckett

Author – Burritos and Gasoline


1 Comment

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One response to “Pushing Limits

  1. Jamie
    Well done you! For making the effort and getting out there. I find doing ‘research’ in the real world really satisfying because you feel like you’re doing something purposeful. When writing, it often feels like your in a solitary world and the words you’re putting on the paper have no real impact. When you’re on a research trip, it feels like your writing is important and everything you see, touch and smell is going to help it have relevance and worth.

    I’m all for research!


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