Recently I was surfing the Internet and came across an item that made me pause. Sasha Baron Cohen, the comedy genius behind Borat and many other great films and television shows, is currently working on his latest film about a Middle Eastern dictator who is secretly replaced by a goat-herder lookalike and flees to New York City to start a new life.
That's the same concept of a student film of mine I shot in 2003. Only it was Chicago, not New York, and a goat herder didn’t replace him, it was about Saddam Hussein fleeing Iraq to escape the 2003 American invasion and ending up in America.
Both of our films also apparently take the dictator's point of view to help add to the comedy. Cohen's film "tells the heroic story of a dictator who risked his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed." My film is a loving documentary about the "little dictator that could" living the American dream and building his life up from nothing.
I don't believe Mr. Cohen stole my idea, I think we just had the same idea separately, as I don't recall seeing him in my Film Technologies II class at Columbia College in Chicago in 2003. Although, he has been known to wear disguises. I also don't plan on suing him. He has enough lawsuits aimed at him already and I greatly admire his work. But this being Veteran's Day, and my film being about military issues (sort of), I thought I would share it just once with the Internet world.
I mostly focused on writing when I was in college. I took a few hands-on film courses my freshman year and quickly discovered how difficult films were to pull off. First of all, we shot our films on film, not digitally, which is significantly more difficult, cumbersome and treacherous. But that wasn't the real problem. The real problem was that you had to get an actual crew together to shoot a film, and I quickly discovered how difficult it was to get 11 of my burnout friends to all show up at the same place and the same time and stay focused and reliable. It was like herding cats. For my first film I ever shot, which was a two-minute silent black and white film, my lead actress didn't show up and I essentially had to shoot an entirely different film on the spot.
Hence, my student films were mostly forgetable, derivative and lacking technical proficiency. However, I found that in my writing classes I enjoyed the process so much more and also seemed to be better at it. I got better grades and higher praise from my professors for my writing, and I also came to like the solitary process of it all. With writing, either I did it, or I didn't. Either I wrote something good, or not. Its success wasn't dependent on my roommate's girlfriend showing up on time and a cinematography student knowing how to set the proper lighting ratio and film exposure.
The last semester of college rolled around, and a required course that I had been avoiding for a long time — Film Technologies II — had to be taken. It required that I write, produce and direct a 16mm film with post-production sound.
So I made Love is All Around. It is not by any means a technically impressive film, but I tried to play to my strengths and make the writing carry the story and humor, which would hopefully produce something memorable, funny and shocking. I got an A in the class and it was voted the second-best film of the semester. I always thought the film, which is about seven minutes long, could be expanded into a great feature-length film, and apparently I am not the only one that believes in the concept.
Hopefully it will give you a few laughs on this Veterans Day. Cohen's film is slated to be released in May of 2012.