If I was to make a movie about my life, the trailer would contain all of the real good stuff. It would probably be a coming of age story about a child who didn’t fit in, who overcame challenges and had grand adventures. I would put in all the good parts. Even the bad parts of my life would be used, but only to build tension, to set up the payoff. Like the time I had an awesome, high paying job that positively robbed me of joy and how that drove me to change. All the bad stuff would be put on display, so, that it can set up the big spectacle pieces. It would have parts of my experience in the Desert Storm and my trips the Kenya and Japan. It would show my struggle to feel alive and possibly even my struggles with my faith. It would probably end with you wanting to know more and wanting to know how it turns out. In 30 seconds, it would hopefully make you concerned for my well-being and concerned for my future.
But if you know anything about movies, you probably know that trailers are a poor indicator of the quality, vibe or even the content of the actual movie. One thing that I am pretty sure of, is that while my awesome trailer might get your butts in the seat on opening weekend, my Rotten Tomatoes score would be positively rotten. You see, just like most studio films, I would give you all the good stuff from the movie.; all the stuff that is interesting and compelling. However, the actual movie wouldn’t contain the real action, adventure, or even the compelling coming-of-age story you were sold. What you would get, would be a boring indie drama full of heady dialog, filled with plot holes, which moved as such a glacial pace that even the movie Solaris would seem like an action/adventure film. It might be so poorly acted that you aren’t sure if it is truly a bad film or some brilliant awkward comedy. Whatever it is, it won’t be what you expected.
Recently, I started thinking about how I edit the trailer of my life, how I shape the presentation of my story to make it interesting to others. I don’t think this is unusual, I’m pretty sure that we all do this to some extent. However, what I started to realize is how often I get to know someone through their own trailer. My relationships are managed at such a level, rarely committing the time and energy to watch the multipart epics that comprise real lives. Often our jealousy of others is based on the incomplete picture we get from their trailer. Often we imagine how much better our own personal story would be if we had the same sources to cut from. How much better would my movie be if I had that attractive lead actor in it that played opposite me? If you watched the whole movie, you might find that actor couldn’t act and actually makes the movie worse. In the trailer, however, they flash the winning smile and display the charm that is easy to manipulate in short snippets.
I once read that the most critical element to any successful movie is action, heck, that is why they are called “move-ees” in the first place. That is why a director usually begins the capturing of a scene with the command, “action.” I was once told that the best movies can be watched with the sound off and still be interesting, because the bulk of what makes what something work on screen is the movement involved. The problem with my life as a movie, is that is involves a lot of sitting around talking– or even worse, sitting around thinking. Such action never makes for something worth watching.
But my life isn’t all sitting around, I have had those “moments” in my life where I actually did things. The most interesting and exciting things are those that make my trailer. The biggest problem lately is that those moments are getting really dated, and are getting old. I’ve been realizing lately that my life needs better material to work with. My script needs much improving. I need to alter those scenes where I talk about life and turn them into scenes that actually demonstrate living it. I don’t know how much time I have to tell a better story, but there is no better time than today to create some new and compiling material.
This next chapter in my life I want to be more like adapting a book to film, where the people who know the whole story complain that the 3 part epic misses too many interesting details and that the 60 second trailer doesn’t do the movie justice. Such a story can’t be told sitting on my couch in front of my computer, so it only makes sense that I stop right now and get back to living.
How about you, is the movie trailer of your life better than the actual movie? There is still time to change it. Ready? Action.