Saturday, October 3, 2015

A Grizzly Bear on Columbia Street

At nine in the evening on the twelfth of October, the junkies, dealers, pimps, and prostitutes were only just beginning to congregate in full force in front of the Carnegie Center on Main and Hastings, catty-corner to the Vancouver Police Museum.

Many locals—the ones with addictions more manageable, hidden, and socially acceptable (like, say, shoes)—believed this ironic juxtaposition of law and disorder was a sure sign that the rag-tag denizens of this corner were thumbing their chafed and dripping noses at all that was good and decent in This Great City. It proved, at the very least, that this human blight was at some basic level the direct consequence of the deliberate, asocial choices of the streetwalkers. These were not animals, after all. They were there across from a symbol of law, order, and civic responsibility by choice.

To demonstrate they were aware and disapproved of this fact, the upstanding citizens of the city of Vancouver made it a point to drive their vehicles straight through this intersection (doors locked, of course), even when it would have been significantly less repulsive to go around. They were realists, after all, and this was part of the reality of living in a city ranked by The Economist magazine as the "World's Most Livable City of 2011." You cannot expect to have such superb living conditions—lovely natural surroundings, exceptional infrastructure, beautiful people, and a relatively low population density—without a bit of fraying at the edges. 

Nicole remembered this as she reached up with her left hand to pull her black, crushed-wool pea coat a little more tightly to her neck. She drove slowly across the intersection; pausing briefly to avoid coming too close to a heavily bearded man who was zig-zagging in the general direction of the opposite curb. Nicole was a beautiful, talented, well-educated young woman. This was her night (well, one of them, anyways) and she wasn’t about to let anything get in the way of a fabulous time with her likewise fabulous friends.

Friday, October 2, 2015

from Dream to Dystopia

The story of Ray Kroc is a quintessentially American story—the story of the American dream gone wrong. 

Before I tell you what I mean by that, I should admit that some of what I know about Mr. Kroc comes from reading Robert D. Siegel's screenplay "The Founder," which is in post-production and stars the brilliantly-cast Michael Keaton as the eponymous "founder." My opinions are therefore skewed by the narrative liberties Siegel no doubt took with the story. I doubt this invalidates them. 

So... who was Ray Kroc?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

missing life

I've been taking less and less photographs these past few years.

It's gotten to where this past summer—when I was supposed to be the one taking pictures on the set of the feature film I wrote and produced—I had to force myself to actually pick my camera up and push that button. This would amuse some of my former photography students (who never wanted to push that button), but I'm pretty sure it's not just laziness, diminishing returns, or whatever. It's a desire, as I've moved on through life and (occasionally) into something approximating wisdom, to stop living so much in fear of the "missed moment," or in the vague anxiety that life won't be meaningful unless it's validated by my peers.

I've always been less interested in photography-as-documentation than in photography-as-art. But now that everybody's* carrying a camera-equipped phone around with them and the Art-aspect of it has consequently been diminished, it's become impossible to ignore the loss of actual life experience. Now, life can't be lived without being mediated by a lens, a digital sensor, and the dream of exterior validation. If you can't instagram it, the feeling goes, it isn't real... you weren't really there.

And so you trade your life for the pipe dream of LIFE, enhanced.

Me, I want real life—in all its drab, glorious detail.

from @waynedahlberg, on the twits

- - -

*May I just take this moment to express my annoyance at the way people talk about how "everybody" is doing this or that thing, when what they mean is that "everybody who is like me" is doing it? Articles abound talking about how in the future, everybody will be this-and-that, when all they really mean is, "in the future, the ever-shrinking wealthiest percentage will do this, and nobody else really matters." Well, I don't have a camera phone. Nor do a good many of the world's most interesting people. So... shut up.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Give Me Sex Jesus

A superlong time ago I gave money to the kickstarter for a documentary about the experience of sexuality within the evangelical Christian culture. It was made by (legit) filmmaker Matt Barber, and if (like me) you grew up in that culture, then you should find it interesting.

Also, you'll get to see my name in the credits, so... check it out:

Give Me Sex Jesus from Matt Barber on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

in which Josh does a podcast

Having trouble sleeping?

Click THIS LINK to tune into the somnambulistic sound of my voice, as I spend over an hour talking about screenwriting on the Filmback podcast. Don't let insomnia wreck your week... allow my soporific tones to usher you off into nighttime sleepy-land.

And the best part?


Sunday, September 20, 2015

TEN STEPS TO MANHOOD (a letter to my son, written in January, 2008—a month after his birth)*

Dear M,

Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem called "If" in which he listed a bunch of things for his son to do, concluding that if he did them all, he'd be a man. 

I love lists. I make lists of things to do, pros-and-cons lists for future decisions, and lists to define this, that, and occasionally the other. 

But as I reflected on that poem—on all the authentically manly things described therein—I wondered if, perhaps, to make such a conditional list is to set the bar too high; to doom one's son to an inevitable sense of failure. Who could, after all, measure up to such a list? If a boy must do all these things to be a real man, does failing in one make him less real... less a man?

I don't think so. To be a man is also to fail, and although it is cliche to write this, it is what you do with these failures that matters. 

So I made my own list, son, not as a standard you'll have to attain to measure up, but rather as a letter of love outlining my hopes, prayers, and dreams for you as I watch over you in the middle of this night, a month from the day of your birth. These are my desires, not my achievements, and more often than not are included not because I feel that I have attained them, but rather because I hope you'll be spared some of the heartache I bear over the ways in which I have not. 

I love you, M.

Not in some Hollywood-bollocksy, string-quartet kind of way, but in the guts and gristle of the everyday. And if time or fate or God or those weasels in the White House should take from me the chance to help you grow to manhood, perhaps this brevified list will guide whomever has that privilege, and inspire you to the greatness into which you are already born. 

So without further ado...

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Josh Barkey: 2015 Page Screenwriting Contest Finalist!

Yesterday I heard that my script COITUS is now a finalist in the Page Screenwriting Contest, and today I typed "Fade Out" on the first draft of my tenth feature-length film. Neither of those things are victories, exactly, but they still made me feel a little better about the Parade of Rejection that's been my wont (per the norm) as a writer of fiction. 

Now if I can just ignore that little voice in my head droning, "second place is first loser," I'll be all right.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Why Bother?

It's been five years now since I started reading, studying, and practicing screenwriting. In that time, I've written twenty-five-ish short films and am closing in on my tenth feature-length screenplay. I've had four short films and one feature film produced, and I've done writing on several other short films that have been produced, or are in varying stages of production.

Nothing all that life-changing has come of it.

I'm still sitting here in this ivy-wrapped shed in the woods, tapping away at my keyboard. I'm still entering screenplay contests and not winning them. My shorts have played a number of festivals, but none of the huge festivals, and none of this has led to paid screenwriting work of any kind.

This is to be expected.

It is very, very difficult to become a good enough screenwriter that someone will want to pay you for your words. There is so much competition and only now, after all this struggle, do I feel as though I'm beginning to understand what it takes to make a good storylet alone a great one.

So why keep trying?

Why sacrifice so much on the altar of something that sometimes feels less like a passion and more like an overloaded rucksack?

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