An Evening with Rain Man Writer
Message a Day Archives
Wynn: Hello everybody, everybody on our line, everybody on our calls, everyone on the Internet. This is Wynn Free and this is our Monday Night call. Letís see if Terryís there. Terry, are you there?
Terry: Yes. Here I am! Hi, everybody. Hi, Barry.
Barry: Hi, Terry. How are you?
Terry: Iím great.
Barry: Hey, I like the pictures that Wynn sent me of the two of us.
Terry: Yes, they turned out really, really well.
Barry: I know; I usually spoil pictures, but your radiance transformed me.
Wynn: I wish she would do that for me; geez.
Terry: You looked good.
Barry: So what is this forum?
Wynn: What is it?
Wynn: Every Monday we have a conference call, and itís broadcast on the Internet. There are a number of people who have been paying attention to my work. Weíve been doing this Monday Night session for quite some time. Itís basically: if youíre on this planet right now, people have anxiety. People donít know whatís happening next.
So thereís a group of people that have paid attention to my talk with the Elohim. This is a supportive situation; we have the Internet and we have replay lines. We have on every call, maybe 300 to 400 people listening. In fact, Iíll un-mute them. Can you guys hear me?
Callersí Voices: Yes
Barry: Absolutely. I can hear you but you havenít said anything yet!
Caller: Yay, Barry!
Wynn: What Iíve learned is, thereís nothing to say.
Barry: Alright, Iíll be patient.
Wynn: This is not a normal kind of interview show; this isnít like, ďHi, everybody, welcome to Monday Night with Wynn Free. We have a special guest tonight that weíre going to be talking to. His name is Barry Morrow; he is the academy award-winning screenwriter of the movie The Rain Man.Ē
Barry: Now that is so cheesy!
Wynn: That passion is rightÖ
Barry: Öecho effect, but I love it. Go on!
Wynn: Barry happens to have a passion for writing things about crazy people. He wouldnít call them crazy; he would call themówhatís the politically correct word?
Barry: I call them mutants.
Barry: I aspire to be one myself, because without the mutant, everything stays the same and nothing ever changes. So theyíre all mutants in some way: theyíre too smart; theyíre too heavy; theyíre too skinny; theyíre too self-destructive; theyíre too whatever-they-are; theyíre just too much to be called normal. How can you not find that kind of person interesting? Thatís why I write about them.
Wynn: Of course, when Barry met me he thought heíd hit a home-run!
Barry: Well, youíre on the grid and probably the spectrum, tooÖ
Barry: Öwhich is why I like you! You have no other redeeming qualities, Wynn, except for your weirdness.
Wynn: Thank you!
Barry: Youíre welcome!
Wynn: Now, Barry here is something somebody emailed me today: they said they thought they saw it on LinkedIn. They said Ė wait a second! Maybe you didnít write it. I thought you wrote it:
ĎĎI read this on Linked In. I copied it down I wanted to send it off after our last conversation. I thought it was timely considering the call this evening. It reflects us all: ĎWeird is Good.í Enjoy, JoelĒ.
I guess you didnít write this. I thought he said you wrote it. He mentioned your name earlier.
Barry: No, I would vote for it; weird is good, yes.
Wynn: Iíll read this to you:
ďI like when they call me weird. Weird is good. I tell them, normal is Ďblahí. You donít want to be blah; blah is boring. Boring people are forgettable. I like weirdoes. They are interesting. They have crazy ideas. They have passion. Weirdoes separate from the pack; weirdoes change the world. Weirdoes read; weirdoes make us think; weirdoes donít see anything as impossible. Anything is possible; just give us enough time.
Weirdoes are contrarians; they think differently and act even more differently. Normals try to fit in; weirdoes stick out without really trying. Weirdoes arenít driven by money; money is a destination. Weirdoes are all about the journey. Weirdoes donít care about what others think; they only care that they think and want to change how they think.
Weirdoes come in all shapes and sizes, colors and countries. Theyíre not new to the tech industry or industry in general. Weirdoes thought it made sense to get on the Mayflower from England to settle in a new land. Weirdoes thought we should get rid of slavery; weirdoes insisted that women should also have a vote.
The world would suck if it wasnít for weirdoes. Instead of trying to get our kids to fit in, we should help them celebrate why they are different. Letís start to teach kids to embrace weird. Weird is good; and, letís not stop until weird is normal.Ē
What do you think, Barry? You didnít write that, huh?
Barry: It started off clumsily, but by the time you finished I have to say I agree with all of it. I wish I had written it and if I had written it then thatís a problem I have that I have to get fixed, because I donít recall it. It sounds like something I might have said, but it was too eloquent and too long, so I doubt that too. I just donít know.
Wynn: You would have said it better if you wrote it, right?
Barry: At the beginning, I would have, yes.
Like I say, it started out sort of like a clumsy bird and then once it got airborne it just kind of soared.
Whatís the feeling of your group regarding what was said? because if I didnít write it, I certainly endorse it.
Wynn: Letís see.
Terry: One of the things it makes me feel more at home. I never feel quite at home, so it really makes me feel at home. The other thing of it is my relatives came over on the Mayflower.
Barry: There you go, genetically youíve gotÖ
Wynn: Youíre genetically weird.
Barry: Now, thatís not to say thereís anything wrong with average, normal, whatever the word would be, persons. If there are any theyíve got to be like four people. Thatís weird, too, when you think of it.
Wynn: Barry, I want to show you something that we figured out on this conference line. I hope this works because weíve done it before. What I want is I want everybodyóIím going to un-mute the linesóI want everyone to give a round of applause for our special guest tonight, Barry Morrow. Just a momentÖ
We are un-muted; letís go guys!
Caller: Itís hard to clap and hold the phone at the same time
Barry: What ever that was. Thatís not canned, you can tell; that was too real.
Wynn: Thatís the sound of one hand clapping.
Barry: I see. It sounded like everybody had disappeared, but you had simply muted them.
Wynn: I muted them, yes.
Barry: How do they feel about that?
Wynn: About being muted? About me being in such a control position here?
Barry: However you want to frame it; itís probably thereíd be too much static-y noise, people, a dog barking and all those wonderful sounds, but itís probably be tooÖ
Wynn: One of the things about having an audience on a conference call is that everything can happen in the background: you hear toilets flushing, you hear sinks running; you hear cars honking their horns; you hear wives yelling at their husbands.
Barry: My toilet canít possibly flush if Iím on my phone. So if it does, itís the end of the world; everybody duck and cover.
Wynn: You are one of those people! I donít know if Barry is going to be available; we were thinking of doing a special call on Saturday with Barry as a fund-raiser, but weíll have to check and see if heís available to show up. Iíll tell a little bit about Barry and his escapades with weird people.
It started out, of course, with Rain Man. Thereís an incredible real story behind the writing of Rain Man, which Iíll touch on. Then he wrote a movie, whichóyou know, itís interesting. I remember seeing his movies when I was young; it was a TV movie about Karen Carpenter. I donít know if you guys remember the Carpenters? They were a great singing group. What was their biggest song, Barry?
Barry: Oh, theyíve had so many: Weíve Only Just Begun and Close to Me.
Wynn: Weíve Only Just Begun, right. And Karen Carpenter was one of those people that starved herself. Whatís the name for that?
Barry: First of all, letís put it in the order of importance. She had, by almost everybodyís assessment, including divas like Barbra Streisand, one of the purest pop vocals voices of its era or any era. She was oddly a drummer and her brother was a partner and composer. He was a pianist; he basically played a piano and played drums and she sang. They got discovered by Herb Alpert and others and became for a good twelve yearsómaybe not twelve, maybe it wasnít that long, because she died, but at the height of their career, they were everywhere.
I wasnít a fan of their music, frankly, until I was really far into the screenplay. I agreed to write it because she died of a very little known disease then, which is now universally known as anorexia. Itís not to say girls and boys, some, werenít starving themselves to death prior to that, but like Rain Man and autism, these things werenít known or discussed.
Again, I was attracted to the anomaly of a young good-looking girl with an angelic voice basically dying from self-starvation. The reason I wasnít a huge fan of their music is everything wasómost of it that I heard on the radio, at leastówas up-tempo stuff. This was during the age of the post-Viet Nam and not quite before disco. Lyrics had messages and Ďfolkí was really the basis of it all.
The Carpenters for me were what other people listened to. I agreed to do the story for other reasons, mainly my interest in what had happened to her and to sort of solve the mystery of it. As a result, of course, I had to get all the albums and listen to them, which I did night and day throughout the research period and then writing script, at the end of which I realized I was as big a fan as anyone out there of her voice. No matter how happy the song might be, if you listen hard enough youíll hear the pain in her life and this grasping for a way out in her voice itself. Then I was hypnotized by her.
Thatís the Karen Carpenter story.
Wynn: Thank you.
The movie with Mickey Rooney that was on TV, what was that called?
Barry: Itís a real hard title; itís called Bill.
Wynn: Bill. That was about the same fellow that was in Rain Man, right?
Barry: No; that was the guy that I met just out of college who was the opposite of Rain Main. Rain Man is pretty much universally known as the person who had more knowledge in his brain than any other human ever. Whereas, Bill couldnít read or write or count; he didnít even know his last name when I first met him. But he had a social genius that was off the charts. He took me into his world just with his smile and his sweet manner.
Bill, I found out, had been institutionalized for 44 years, from age 7 until well past his mid-life, just for being mentally retarded at an age, when if your family was poor and your parents didnít speak English and they were Russian and you were a little slow, rather than adapt you to the neighborhood or the neighborhood to you, they sent boys like Bill on trains to institutions where he spent nearly half a century.
The miracle of Bill was that he didnít resent one minute of it; he embraced whatever life he had, whatever was around him. He just never had a bad day in his life, no matter what horrible things happened to him. And, horrible things did.
Wynn: Barry, was Bill the guy that was looking out the window when you were walking to school?
Barry: No, he wasnít; well, he was looking out the window, but I was an adult; I was just out of college. He was a pot-scrubber in a kitchen in a very exclusive, old-moneyed country club where my wife was a waitress. At night I would go to pick her up in a parking lot behind the building. I could see up there to the second story window the kitchen area. It was there that I first saw Bill, who, once he saw meóhe didnít know who I was but I was just down there every nightóhe would wave and smile and pantomime something that was going on in the kitchen, usually having to do with pots or pans or spoons.
We saw each other this way, became friends this way, over several hundred feet of distance and through various seasons and well into winter, before I actually met him in person. It was a Christmas party at this country club and the staff got to take over the institution, if you will, for the night and all the members stayed home. I was invited in.
It was a banquet, a sort of Christmas party for the staff and there he was at the other end of this fairly elaborate, chandeliered banquet hall, sitting alone with a drink of water and a Beatle wig on his head. So he had dressed up for the occasion. He recognized me and stood up immediately and thrust his hand out and he said, ďHey, buddy, my nameís Bill!Ē
That began a friendship thatóI mean it wasnít planned on my part. The next day he told me he was out of supplies; he needed toothpaste and had no way to get toothpaste in his life. I figured I could do that; so the next day I got him toothpaste. The day after that I got a Ďre-orderantí, he called it. Then I got him wig spray for his Beatle wig. After that I lost count, by that time I was just so happy to be with this guy, even though he could have been my grandfather, because of his personality and the sunny-side disposition he had.
I could go on for hours about Bill and I actually have in different forums. Iíve done like a stand-up story-telling performance that was recorded in the Ď90ís. It was out on CD and stuff. Of course, in 19ówhat was it?óĎ81, the movie Bill came out starring Mickey Rooney as Bill and Dennis Quaid played a very young Barry Morrow. Thatís what got me into the business, was just writing the story of our friendship. It was written just as a story for my friends.
Wynn: That came out before Rain Man, yes?
Barry: Yeah, well before; that was í81 and then there was a sequel in í83 and then I was onto things like the Carpenter story and others. I was in television; then Rain Man was my first foray into feature films.
Wynn: I guess I didnít know that; I thought Rain Man was first and television came later.
Barry: Rain Main was í89 and Bill was í81, soÖ
Wynn: I see.
Barry: It was a good decade for me; I got a lot of work and turned a lot of things down. I made a few bad choices. But overall it was fun; it was like being a young baseball pitcher just in his prime and throwing strikes all the time. Not that Iím unhappy now; in fact, Iím relieved that the pressure and the eyes and the expectations arenít on me the way they were when I was younger.
It was mainly good to be alive and at a time when writers in television and motion pictures could write about people like Bill and Rain Man, or My Left Foot or Shine. Or any number of movies that would never be made today because the studios are not developing anything even remotely like them. They wouldnít do Rain Man today; they wouldnít do Forrest Gump today.
So if youíre in the movie business and youíre trying to get stories told of the kind that Iím attracted to, that resonate with me and I know a lot of people, then youíve got to do independent film-making. That means you donít just write the scriptófind the story and write the script; you find the people who will pay for it; you find the agents who will show it to their clients.
You have a thousand emails, a thousand phone calls, hundreds of meetings, lunches, driving from L.A. to Santa Barbara and back; on and on and on and on and hope that you can pull it all together and still tell a story the way it was so easy for me to do earlier. I do it every day, because I love to tell the story.
Wynn: Have you noticed that the music business has done the same thing as the movie business? It seems, as much as I pay attention to it, that music Ö
Barry: Yeah; I mean Iím not that familiar with music business like I am film. Certainly, itís been set on its head. After Napster forward there is very little money to be made recording music. That was what music always was from the first records, until then. Now itís hard for young people to break in, because nobodyís signing you to recording contracts unless you want to go the American Idol route. But you know; Bob Dylan was never going to make it past first cut on American Idol; in fact, he would have been one of the ones they showed on how bad you can beóor Neil Young or Tom Petty or Carole King or anybody with an imperfect voice has a hard time of it today.
Live performing is pretty much the only real big revenue sources for music. Will that stop people from making music? No, even if you donít make a dime from music if you have to make music, you will make it. Eventually, there will be ways in which society will be able to value that again and allow people to do that for a living rather than do it as a hobby.
Technology is in great flux and it would take a lot of breakthroughs. But that also creates holes in the fabric of what weíve taken for granted. Those holes have to be patched. Iím hopeful that they will.
Wynn: What do you think of people like Lady GaGa and Britney Spears? Did you see that new Korean guy who has the most hits on UTube of any video? I believe a billion and a half? Have you seen him? Psi?
Barry: Yes, I know of all those people you just mentioned. Lady GaGa is my granddaughterís favorite person, so I canít say anything bad about her. She doesnít even know who she is; she just likes the name, Lady GaGa.
Wynn: I see.
Barry: Yes, this crazy Korean dude; he got himself in trouble. It turns out a few years ago he said a few bad things about the United States and the places that have made him famous. He sort of apologized for that and itís fine. Heís like a lot of Asians today; Koreans, Chinese, Taiwanese; not so much the Japanese, theyíve been hit pretty hard by the economy and of course that terrible tsunami. I think theyíre just kind of licking their wounds right now. But, the rest of Asia is going crazy with everything, and culture is one of them. I think that video is hilarious; I liked it. I wouldnít want to see it more than twice.
Wynn: The Psy video, right?
Barry: The Psy video? I donít know.
Wynn: Itís the Korean fellow; his name was Psy. Isnít it Psy?
Barry: Whatever his name is, I donít know. Heís riding an imaginary horse, if weíre talking about the same guy.
Wynn: Right, right, right, I was just going to tell people if they want to go on YouTube just do a search on ĎPsyí and whatís the name of that dance, Terry, Gangnam style? What he did is he made a video that has a dance step in it that looks like heís riding a horse and a song called Gangnam-style, which is all in Korean. No one understands it. And, itís suddenly got a billion and a half hits; the most hits of anything in video; itís became a phenomenon. Terry watched it.
Barry: Itís very high energy and itís mesmerizing in its own way.
Wynn: I actually like the guy better than some of the other pop stars that seem to get, how would you say it? decadent; like thereís a decadence thatís come into some of the American pop stars in their major videos. I didnít see him as being so decadent; even though of course, he talks about women, he was a little bit innocent in himself; thatís the way it seems.
Barry: Well, he hasnít been around long enough to become decadent.
Wynn: Right; give him a chance, right?
Barry: Right, give him a chance; heís in the entertainment business. He will become decadent; itís almost inescapable. Thereís a reason and itís why you should never envy famous people. Their lives really do get insufferable; they canít go anywhere. You canít do anything; itís like prison. Wherever you go, youíre stopped. Youíre hounded; youíre adored, youíre followed; youíre photographed; youíre lied about.
Itís like, ďWow, I worked so hard to get to the point where I donít have a momentís peace.Ē So you retreat into this fake world that you create whether itís Michael Jacksonís Neverland or Marlon Brandoís island in Tahiti or just a big estate with armed guards or whatever it is; thatís your world. Tom Cruise has to live in that other world, which is a much smaller world than the one we enjoy.
I think he would probably pay almost anything if he could like park his car, go into a Rite-Aide Drugstore, go down the aisle and see whatís out there now, because he hasnít done anything like that in probably twenty years.
Wynn: For the people that donít know about him, let me just mention this: Tom Cruise was in Rain Man with Dustin Hoffman. It was probably one of Tom Cruiseís early movies that helped put him on the map. Could we say that, Barry?
Barry: Well, yeah, Risky Business was his first I believe or among his first and that put him on the map. But Rain Man put him on the map called ĎActorsí. He became an actor, really, with Rain Man. Then he quit being an actor; he became an action hero.
Wynn: You were on the set when they were making Rain Man, were you not?
Barry: Well, one would think. But there was a thing called a writerís strike in í88 when the picture was made. I could not go on the set; no writers were going on sets anywhere. It was one of our longer strikes.
The last day of filming, which was downtown L.A., I did go; I did go on the set, because I knew I couldnít get into trouble with my Writerís Guild or fellow writers. The whole point of it is, youíre not crossing lines to provide services; which in this case would be writing services. So I never did that.
But I was on the set for the last day. I only did that in case anybody ever asked me, ďWell, were you on the set?Ē I have to tell you, in 22-23 years, no one has ever asked me that question, Wynn, until you just did. Instead of saying, ďYes, I was on the set; of course I was on the setĒ; instead, I told you the real answer which is I was on the set for a couple hours. So there you go.
Wynn: Were you disappointed with the way the movie came out? I mean, I think the fact that you werenít on the set and it became such a classic and it really was; it seemed so Ďput-togetherí. How come that movie didnít get screwed up if you werenít even on the set to control it?
Barry: Well you donít know anything about the movie business; I can tell you that.
Wynn: Thatís true.
Barry: Yeah, and thatís fine. There are writers who are influential, mainly because of their relationship with the director. The director has been, since the Ď70s when the French coined a term Ďauteurí; Ďauteur film-makingí. And basically auteur, which is the author, was the director. Prior to that, the director was the director and the writer was the writer and the costumer was the costumer and make-up did make-up.
But in the Ď70s the director became the author of the film; they started putting on the top of the film ďA Film ByĒ rather than ďDirected ByĒ and it really screwed things up and itís still not back to where it should be. Directing is not like the only thing; itís just one of the things. It takes all of the things to make one thing good or bad. There are auteurs; I mean, Woody Allen was an auteur, because he wrote, directed, produced and acted; sometimes he even did some of the music. When you do it all, then you are the author of it, no question.
But if you are a director who replaced another director because he just fell ill or got fired and you come onto the set and the first week of shooting you pick up where the other person, male or female, left off and you finish the picture and it comes up and says, ďA Film ByĒ, thatís pretty ridiculous.
Iím really opposed to this possessory credit as itís referred to: ďA Film ByĒ. I mean itís directed by someone; itís written by somebody and here are the actors. Thatís the way it should be.
My being on the set or not wouldnít have made a whit of difference; Barry Levinson really didnít need me. Do I regret it? Yeah, four Oscars later and the defining moment of my career, not that I donít think Iíve done as good or better work, but that is it.
Wynn, why would I regret it? I would just have to be the biggest sour-puss in the world to look at something that turned out so good for everybody. Do I have criticisms of it? of course, as I do of myself. Would I have made it better? I would have tried, but probably not. Anyway, that was all those years ago; Iím not focused on any of that in my life; Iím focused on today.
Wynn: I want to give people a chance; we have about twelve, thirteen minutes left; there are two things I want to do. I want to give people a chance to ask questions. Thereís also a fellow in our group who goes by the name of Mack Bugaloo. He emailed me and said he wants to start a Face Book group for all the artists and poets and everything in our group. I want him to share his vision for those of you out there that fit that category might want to join his Face Book Group.
Before we do that, letís just see; Iíll bet people are intimated, Barry; Iíll see if anyone actually comes forth and asks a question. I do know of at least one person, at least one and probably more, who would say he wants to be an actor and win an Academy Award; heís out there. Heís actually a good actor; he lives in San Diego. I wonít say who he is unless he does. If anyone wants to come on and say anything to Barry, or ask a question, press *6.
Uh oh, see I knew this would happen. Is that Donald? Hi, Donald.
Donald: Hi, Wynn. Hi, Barry. Iíve got a question. Can anybody nowadays write a screenplay and get an agent and sell a screenplay, or are those days over?
Barry: No, you can because the people making movies, aside from the studios, are independent producers and mini-majors. The movie business is bigger than ever, but itís just different in terms of now they try to appeal to a world market and theyíre trying to hit a home-run. So a hundred million dollar movie is like pretty much where the studios start; whereas a movie like Crash that won the Academy award a few years back I think cost $5 million; yet it had big stars, because they were willing to work at the same low, basically scale, rate. They just believed in the product.
Getting an agent has never been easy. Itís weird; I was told that itís a Ďcatch-22í and itís up to you solve it; which is: you canít get an agent until you get something made and you canít get something made until you have an agent. I did one of those two things. I got something made without an agent.
Even when I had a movie coming out, this first thing Bill, I couldnít get an agent until it actually did come out. And I won an Emmy; then all of a sudden, I could get an agent.
Donald: It probably helps if you get an Emmy.
Barry: Yeah, but nobody was interested the day before I got an Emmy.
Of course, these things are hard. There are so many screenwriters. Since anyone now can, with computers being so easy and screenwriting programs, you donít have to do anything. You can sit down right now and write the words Ďfade iní and start a screenplay. A quarter million people every year do that and then studios make 30 movies or something. But there are still hundreds and hundreds movies made every year and nobody ever saidÖ
Donald: Can I ask you one more technical question? Syd Fieldís book Screen Play, I was wondering; why does a writer need to write in all the camera shots? I mean, it seems like that would be something the director would do. I never quite got where they needed a format?
Barry: I never write in camera shots. I might say itís a point-of-view shot, you know, of somebody is looking at something.
Donald: If itís necessary to get the point across, of the scene or somethingÖ
Barry: The more that you try to direct the picture from the script, the further you get away from story-telling and the more you get into the architecture of a movie. So I wouldnít do it; it doesnít help the read. It makes people conscious that itís a movie instead of a story.
Donald: The book implies though, that you kind of have to write in that style to get an agent to look at or get them to look at it. Youíre saying thatís really true, necessarily?
Barry: I donít think itís true, no. I mean all you have to do, really, is use the slug-line which is the exterior-interior; whether itís an office or a house, day or night. You have to establish your scenes in the traditional way, butÖ
Donald: So if I write another screenplay and I can quote you when I send a letter to my agent; just quote you and say you said it was okay that I do that.
Barry: You can certainly quote me.
Donald: Iíll remind him you won an Emmy.
Barry: Well, and an Oscar.
Wynn: Don, are you a screenwriter?
Donald: I wrote a screenplay years ago; it didnít do anything. But Iím thinking about trying again.
Barry: Look, millions of people have written them. Thatís a very select club; thatís an elite club. If you actually wrote a screenplay, as opposed to, ďI am writing a screenplayĒ, which is what most people are really doing, they are writing screenplays. They donít finish them, because they get to the second act, the end of the second act around page 65 and they collapse, because they havenít structured it carefully. They canít keep moving forward into the third act because thereís nowhere to go. They just sit there forever. They never write the words Ďfade outí because they never finish it.
But, if youíve actually finished some screenplays, then congratulations; youíre already in a relatively small circle.
Willow: Barry, speaking of that structure, do you then have an outline prior to engaging in writing a story, or do you just start with a thought and then let it carry you forward?
Barry: You can do it either way or probably a hundred different other ways. For me, I like to structure it. I learned structure kind of by accident; there werenít really any books when I started. There was one I found thatís no longer in print. Mostly I was just able to get a hold of some screenplays; none of which had been made, none of which were any good, but at least I could see what the rules were.
Then I finally figured out sort of by accident after I had gotten some things made and had success, that I was sort of intuitively following dramatic rules that had been in place since Aristotle; he really wrote them down, in whatís called The Poetics. Itís the rules of drama. They havenít changed much; the experimental films may try to change them, but the way we understand movie-making today and story-telling today goes back thousands of years.
Once you know those principles, wherever you get them, whether from a modern-day writer like Syd Field, or going back to Aristotle; as long as you know what those are, then you can play with it a bit, but donít ever forget them.
For me, I like to outline, because that allows me to always see the structure of the story. And then, within that, I let it find its own way.
Willow: And the point that you just made about people getting to the third act and then just kind of dying out, that is more or less because there is not an outline to follow?
Barry: Well, yeah, thatís part of it. Itís possible to write a bad outline and then end up in the same place.
Itís real simple: a movie starts with somebody who is in a relatively stable part of their life. Nothing is happening. Then something happens, something huge, that changes them and changes their circumstances. They either then as a result react, by wanting to get rid of this thing or they want to go get this thing. And then the movie is all about preventing them from achieving that goal of either getting the thing they want or getting away from the thing they donít want.
Once they either reach their goal or they donít reach it and they die in the process, because those are the only two satisfactory endings to a drama, then the story is over. Oftentimes the writers do not create a goal that is sustainable over a period of time. Or they create a goal that audiences really donít value as a goal thatís universal. So you run out of ways in which to prop that up.
There are all kinds of reasons why a screenplay can fail. An outline is just to do your homework ahead of time, give it some certain landing areas; know where the story has to be emotionally and in terms of tension and other things. Then as I say, within each scene youíre not bound by it, but itís just there as a foundation.
Willow: Thank you very much.
Joel: I have a quick question; this is Joel.
Joel: I was curious; this is trivial compared to what they were just talking about, but it became so iconic that half the people I know have used it I think over a lifetime. But, where did the line ĎK-Mart Sucksí come from? Was that imagination or was that something that was actually real? Iíve heard it a hundred times since the movie.
Barry: You heard it because itís true; itís a truism as well as a line from a movie. I believe it was a phrase that Joe Sullivan liked to utter. Joe Sullivan was one of several real life Rain Men that Dustin Hoffman met and studied, learned from. Joe was full of a lot of the little quip things that Dustin Hoffman said in the movie.
The origin for the movie was another man; the inspiration for the movie was a man named Kim Peek. You can Google him and see some extraordinary documentary footage that has been done on him and by a number of different countries. He just died a couple of years ago. But he was the greatest savant known to ever have existed; just a remarkable person with a mind that just never had an equal.
Anyway, back to ĎKmart Sucksí; after the movie there was some noise of a threatening a lawsuit with K-Mart and the movie makers, which would include me and nothing ever came of it, obviously, or Iíd know about that. I guess they came to their senses, but I thought they really missed an opportunity to laugh along with it and then maybe come out with a line of underwear called ĎRain Wearí and capitalize on it; youíre in the Ďcapitalizing businessí. They didnít, but they got over it.
Itís funny; my first job ever was at maybe the first Target that ever opened in Minneapolis, which is where Targetís home was and still is. Target was like the K-Mart then. It was just awful. Target rebranded itself about fifteen years ago, maybe twenty. K-Mart never really pulled that off; itís funny how images are created and what little things can do to erode a good image and what other things can happen like to that Korean Gangnam-style guy, where a little bit of an image thing can just create a whole new life for a person.
Hey Wynn, itís 7:00 here. Remember you said this would be about ten minutes, or fifteen minutes? Not that I havenít enjoyed every bit of it, but this is a warm-up for our thing; what, next Monday, is it?
Wynn: Saturday, Saturday morning. Iím not sure we cleared it; we were going to do a couple hours of Barry Morrow as a fundraiser on Saturday. Barry had this idea of something we wanted to test where he thought it would be really great for people to say something and get applause. He was just telling that to Terry and me I guess three weeks ago, when we went and had lunch with him. Is that right?
Barry: Yeah, I would frame it a little differently if I may: weíre not on a clock here; people donít hang up at 7:00, do they?
Wynn: Actually I checked with BBS and they said that we could go over today; so itís okay. They donít have another show coming on.
Barry: All I was saying is that in real life, the real Rain Man, the fact that a movie was made about himóheís one in a trillion people, if there ever has been a trillion. No, there hasnít, but however many billions of people have lived, he is unique among them. Where I was going with this? Sorry, I just got distracted by this huge dog that is walking outside my window here. Where did he come from? I hope itís not going to be my next dog.
Wynn: Barry, the guys on this line are very used to us talking and then saying ďHmmm, where was I?Ē Terry does it all the time and I do it all the time; youíre in good company.
Barry: Good; well also Iím probably not quite all here or there. Iím getting to be quite an old man now, you know, Wynn.
Barry: ĎUh-uhí, thatís all you have to say, uh-uh? Youíre supposed to say, ďNo, youíre not old.Ē
Wynn: I donít think you look old or act old.
Barry: See thatís why I have to make excuses for lapses of memory, like coming up with imaginary dogs going by my window. No, there actually is.
Wynn: Actually, lapses of memory, if youíre like in the most avant-garde groups on the planet, people would say lapses of memory are just ascension symptoms.
Barry: I have a lot of those.
Wynn: They actually say that!
Barry: Literally, where was I? Remind me.
Wynn: We wereóTerry? Where are we?
Gijs: Wynn was elaborating on the call Saturday, right? Then you were going toÖ
Wynn: We were talking about the idea that you were suggestingÖ
Barry: Oh yes, okay. I got it, about creating a workÖ Let me finish while I have it.
Anyway, the movie Rain Man changed Kimís life so radically and in a good way. He was this shut-in who couldnít look at people; he had all these autistic behaviors and stuff. Then this movie comes out and he completelyónot all at once; it was over timeóbut a whole part of him that was latent, like some seed buried two feet down in the desert, water finally got to it and it started to grow and it was a personality. And he blossomed as person. I mean, he never became a normal person; he couldnít and we wouldnít want him to be. But he changed.
So having seen that in Kim and certainly having witnessed it with Bill and others, many, many others, it just occurred to me that youíd have to do one of two things; youíve got to either make a movie about everybody so that they can have that thing where theyíre bigger than life and everybodyís looking at them and validating their existence and all of us need that. You usually get it from your parents, your mother, but some people donít every get it from any source. So these people especially; there it is: Your life is on a movie screen and you can say thatís not possible.
What I was saying is: I just wish there was a way to give everybody their moment in the sun, in the spotlight, whatever you want to call it. They donít have to do anything; weíll just bring them out on stage and have an auditorium just filled with people and have them just clap and cheer and maybe cry with happiness. And just bask in it and get it for like five-minute dose of that. Then go back into your life and I just bet it would be a healing medicine that could change lives.
Anyway, that was my idea. But, I have a lot of stupid ideas.
Wynn: Of course weíre not on a stage, but letís try that again. Would you guys give Barry Morrow a really enthusiasticóďItís The Great Barry MorrowĒ here with us today, sharing his knowledge of the movie industry and how he turned people who would normally be totally unknown and unrecognized into screen heroes; letís give Barry a round applause. Letís go; weíre un-muted.
Barry, we donít have ten thousand people out there.
Barry: Even the idea of it made me smile, so thank you. Thank you all.
Wynn: On Saturday we might experiment with that.
Barry: Saturday isówhat time were we talking about?
Wynn: We usually do like 10:00 a.m. Thatís California time.
Wynn: Weíll talk aboutóBarry has some great stories. Weíre just going to have fun; weíre going to talk about how this fellow got a job in university and became this very successful coffee shop. Weíre also going to share with you thereís a very unique thing about Barry and me which is still unformed.
On the very day that I met Daphne at that hotel, I was leaving, driving down the California Coast. Someone had given me Barryís phone number and said I should call him and so I did call him. I told him I had this book I was writing The Reincarnation of Edgar Cayce? and we had lunch together.
A few months later, I called him and I said, ďI have to tell you whatís happening with myóI canít say Ďgirlfriendí Barry; Iíd get clobberedómy new personal relationship.Ē I told him and he said, ďItís a much better movie than The Reincarnation of Edgar Cayce?. So we had a number of lunches; we did for a few years; Barry met Daphne; he met Terry; he talked to my sister and he probably still thinks weíre all nut cases. Nonetheless, that project is out there.
This will be kind of a free-wheeling fun Saturday, spending time with a person who did a movie that changed the hearts of the world; that made a dent on our entire planet. Everyone remembers that movie. So watch your emails for Saturday.
Iíll un-mute you all; does anyone have anything to say?
Caller: Thank you, Barry.
Barry: Yeah, well I really enjoyed this. I miss seeing faces, but Iím feeling you out there. Thank you for thinking that this is a way to spend some time. Itís fun to share some of my thoughts. Iíve been at this business for so long. I do teach and stuff too, whenever the occasion arises. Thatís kind of how I consider this, as an opportunity to just, I donít know, reflect on what Iíve learned; share it for what itís worth.
Wynn: We may be doing a session.
Gijs: Can you just say in two words how your feelings are as a screenwriter about seeing The Wynn Free Story on the big screen?
Barry: Well, Wynn is a fascinating person. I literally think anybodyís life story is a movie. But, youíve got to be disciplined in the way you find the heart of that. Wynnís would be easy for me to do; it wouldnít be hard, because itís very cinematic, but Iíd have to figure out, before I could do it, who he is. And I havenít done that yet.
Gijs: Thank you so much.
Barry: Youíre welcome.
Caller: Barry, did you have any interest in metaphysics or spiritual stuff or Edgar Cayce, or that kind of thing?
Barry: Yeah, Iím a searcher you know. I only close my mind off the things I know donít work or I know arenít real. But if anything is possible, then Iím open-minded. I have a lot of time to just sit and contemplate outside of the world Iím already doing that in, which is story, story, and story.
I havenít gone very deep into any of the things you mentioned, Edgar Cayce, for instance. I remember his first books; when they came out my sisters were reading them. I was interested to overhear their conversations, but obviously not interested enough to dig into it myself.
For me, itís a matter of so many hours in a day, but my interests are pretty wide.
Caller: Alright, thanks.
Wynn: Is Mac Bugaloo there? Are you there Mac Bugaloo?
Barry: Wait, his name is Mac Bugaloo?
Gijs: His authorís name; he used to live in Hollywood.
Barry: Well, Bugaloo is pretty good. I mean, you got to admit it, Mac Bugaloo.
Wynn: Mac put up a Facebook site for our group. You know, Barry we have like over ten thousand people getting our emails. Art, Love, and Light is a cause to promote artists who dedicate their creative works in service-to-others for the greatest benefit of all humanity, Mother Earth and our galactic family. Itís also a tribute page to me and my efforts to spread the spiritual Law of One messages from the group souls. His page Iím going to have to send to people.
Barry: Hey, Wynn, listen: Iím not interested in that. I gotta go and Iím hungry.
Wynn: You can go; thank you for being here.
Barry: I mean when you figure out Mac Bugaloo Iíd be okay to talk about it on Saturday. No actually I have dinner here, so I am going to go. Thank you all for spending time with us. Wynn, give me a call in the next day or two if you want to. Otherwise, Iíll just be here Saturday at 10:00.
Wynn: Great. Okay and thank you so much for being here and sharing with us.
Barry: It was my pleasure. Good night everyone.
Wynn: Thank your wife for letting you be late for dinner.
Barry: All right.
Gijs: Thank you Barry.
Barry: Thanks; bye-bye guys.
Terry: Thank you Ė bye-bye.
Wynn: On that note, we will close our Monday Wild Card call. See you all next time.
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