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'Memorial Day' screening to feature Q&A with screenwriter

Posted: July 18, 2012 - 11:01pm

You wrote a movie script. I wrote a movie script. Sometimes it seems we’re all working on one, have one tucked away in the sock drawer, or have one in mind. Juneauites are a creative bunch. The pitter-patter of a November deluge provides ample ambience for imagining characters and plots. The need to do something other than fall into the all-consuming grayness while inhaling Thanksgiving leftovers provides ample impetus to get it all down on paper.

So you have a script; the best ever. Now what?

Juneau is fortunate that filmmakers, screenwriters and animators have come to town and talked about their craft. Wednesday, July 25, is another opportunity to pick the brain of someone who has seen their script become a movie. Marc Conklin, who wrote the movie “Memorial Day,” will be in town for a screening of the film at The Gold Town Nickelodeon July 25. The movie will also be shown Sunday, Aug. 5.

“Memorial Day” is a story about the power of storytelling. The film explores the connections between a grandfather’s World War II experiences, and his grandson’s experiences during the Iraq War. The film binds the stories with an incident between the old man and his 12-year-old grandson in the early 1990s. The grandson discovers a number of keepsakes in his grandfather’s WWII footlocker. This breach of his grandfather’s privacy initiates a revealing discussion of war, and provides lessons the grandson carries with him to his own battles.

As Conklin says, “Nearly everybody knows a vet who won’t talk about the war.” What happens when old memories of war are finally revealed? The film considers the idea we all have metaphorical footlockers where we keep our secret stories.

“I think that’s a narrative vein that’s never really been tapped in a film,” he said.

Viewer reviews online suggest this film is very popular with veterans and their families. Even so, Conklin believes “Memorial Day” is not so much a movie about war, but a movie about the importance of telling stories.

“It was always about the immortality of the oral tradition, the importance of handing down your personal history to younger generations so that they can benefit from your experiences,” he said.

The film also explores the importance of airing our elders’ stories and wisdom before they are lost. Dementia swallows memories. This fact was impressed upon Conklin through his experiences with his grandmother, who had low-grade dementia.

“(I) listened to her stories about the Depression, ice skating in St. Paul’s Cherokee Park neighborhood, raising five children, even working as an Avon Lady in the ‘70s … I thought about how many wonderful stories I was hearing, but I couldn’t help also thinking about how many had been lost forever,” he said.

The grandfather in “Memorial Day” is portrayed by James Cromwell. (Cromwell uttered the most beautifully understated line in cinematic history, “That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.” Cromwell also shot Kevin Spacey in the chest - though not in the same movie.) Conklin thinks Cromwell’s performance alone is a reason to see “Memorial Day”.

“(T)o my mind, this is his most prominent role, and he really knocks it out of the park.”

A question-and-answer session with Conklin will occur after the July 25 screening. This could be a good time to ask Conklin about the mechanics and logistics of screenwriting. For example, the script for “Memorial Day” was not a story he agonized over for a decade before finally getting discovered. Conklin was approached by those who had a concept of a film and needed someone to write it. Like many writers in Juneau, Conklin is a self-taught. He has six scripts other than “Memorial Day” and has won scriptwriting contests. He also happens to believe that television, not movies, is currently the place to be for writing original and creative stories.

Look, we’ve got cold, long, dark, and wet winters. (And sometimes cold, long, dark, and wet summers). You can deal in a healthy, or not so healthy, way. I bet you’ve got a story to tell. I’ve got a story to tell. We all do. Here’s a chance to figure out how to get your story out there. Will Conklin’s visit be the final nudge that moves your ideas from musings to a movie? We’ve got to do something in November, and writing a script certainly seems more healthy than eating all the leftover scraps of Thanksgiving ham. (Sorry pig).

•••

Tickets for the July 25 screening of “Memorial Day” — with the Q&A with Conklin afterwards — are available online at www.goldtownnick.com. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students, and $5 for kids and military folks (either active or retired). Tickets for the Aug. 5 show will be regular prices, but military still gets in for $5.

• Clint J. Farr can be contacted at cjfarr@hotmail.com.

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