MCN Blogs
Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

Lights, Camera …

We’re just under a month away from shooting my first film, a little short called Bunker, so it seemed an appropriate time to make some sort of official-sounding announcement about that here on Film Essent and MCN. This is something I’ve been working toward for the better part of 15 years, when I first started learning the craft of writing screenplays, working on them every night from about 1AM until 3AM because my now-going-on-15-year-old daughter, when she was a baby, got it in her wee little baby brain that 1AM was a fine and dandy time to wake up to play. By day I worked as a project manager for Kodak, but Neve didn’t care much that I had to be up to go to work the next day. No matter what time we got her to sleep, she was a reliable little alarm clock: 1AM would hit, I’d be lying there next to her, she’d coo and drool and kick me awake and I’d look over at those round brown eyes, wide awake and staring, and know there was no way in hell she was going back to sleep anytime soon. So I got in the routine of going to bed earlier myself so that when she woke me up, I could take her downstairs to our office, make myself a cup of tea, and then get in a solid couple hours writing while she played with her toys.

Several years later, I shifted back into journalism, writing about film. I always knew that the end game, somewhere down the road when kids were older and I’d have time to pursue it, was to transition into filmmaking, so I’ve approached criticism from the standpoint of wanting to learn as much as possible about what makes films work (or not work) so that I could eventually apply that knowledge to making films myself. But thinking about making films eventually is one thing, whereas actually taking that leap and doing it is another. It’s taken almost nine years of writing and studying, and then a bout of illness that made me really reflect on what I was waiting for, for me to finally reach the point of stepping off that metaphorical cliff to see what kind of filmmaker I can be.

It’s little terrifying, and a lot exhilarating. And right about the time I decided to start going down this path my husband Mike, who’d gotten laid off from his tech job earlier this year, decided to also rethink his own career. After 24 years slaving away in the tech industry to support his kids, and at a crossroads of deciding if that was really how he wanted to spend the next 30 or 40 years of his work life, he decided that, you know what? It really wasn’t. He’s always been interested in film and creative things, but hadn’t had the opportunity to take a leap himself to explore a career doing something like that. So instead of chaining himself to another cubicle, he’s going to film school to transition down a new path as well, and we’ve seeded a teensy little production company that we named Catawampus! Productions.

“Catawampus,” apart from evoking the wonderfully unpredictable craziness of filmmaking, was also the name of my way-back-when mommy blog that allowed me to shift my work focus away from project management and back into writing, and though it’s been years since I shut it down, I have a soft spot for what the word “catawampus” evokes. And since these films will be my new babies, it seemed appropriate to carry that name and that image forward into this new venture.

Our first project is Bunker, a short film that I wrote off a bantering conversation the Mike and I had late one night. We’re buried in pre-production right now: we auditioned and cast our actors back in September and I’m rehearsing them now. The script has been tuned and fine-tuned, read and consulted on by various expert-type people, and then fine-tuned some more. Partly because I am a very visual, creative-type person and I’ve worked in various aspects of theater for many years now, and partly because I am a control freak, and I guess partly because I’m maybe insane, I made the call to focus our financial resources into the areas where my knowledge is more limited: cinematography, editing, sound, score, color correction. And I’m taking a more hands-on approach with the artistic design, along with directing and producing (hey, I knew all that project managing experience would pay off some day, and it sure has!). Thankfully, I have lots of smart, talented people helping with those things as well, and Mike, wearing multiple hats, is also designing and building me a custom piece of furniture that I need for the set. Good thing he’s very talented himself, and also very patient with my control-freak tendencies and manic energy level.

All in all, the whole thing is crazy and exciting and nerve-wracking, and I have no doubt I’m making many mistakes (but hopefully learning from them). And just to make it all a little more challenging, I’m heading to NYC the weekend before we shoot to take Christine Vachon and Ted Hope’s Masterclass workshop. At the end of it all, sometime before Christmas, we’ll have a finished film that we’ll be getting submitted to festivals. Time will tell how well we do translating the vision from the script on the page to the vision in my head to the final product – and, more to the point, what happens after that with the four scripts I’m juggling in development – but I do have a certain amount of faith in my ability to pull this off, mostly because I’ve surrounded myself with lots of people who know what they’re doing, and I’m listening to what they tell me.

I’ll still be writing for MCN, reviewing films throughout the award season, covering fests, and writing the occasional rants and personal essays, but I’ll also be chronicling this foray into filmmaking along the way. Maybe some of it will be useful to someone else, or maybe just terribly amusing to all of you who actually know what you’re doing making movies, as I fumble and stumble along, and screw things up, and stress out, and hopefully don’t lose my sense of humor and perspective. I still love writing for MCN, and I have to thank David profusely for being so incredibly supportive as I embark on this adventure. There aren’t many bosses who would be as tolerant, and as good a friend, as he has to me over my years at MCN, and I’m very grateful, always, to have MCN as my writing home. I intend to keep a foot in both worlds, both making films and writing about them, and enjoying the incredible fact that I get to work in this amazing, creative industry with so many talented and generous people. Wish me luck.

Be Sociable, Share!

2 Responses to “Lights, Camera …”

  1. oslowe says:

    Kim, that is great news! Congrats and luck!

  2. Beth says:

    Good luck, Kim! I can’t wait to see it!

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon