Itís now been almost exactly fifteen years since Tom Burman and I sold and made Life on the Edge, and since the journal this introduces was written; it gives me a melancholy pleasure to finally present this book to the wide world. As youíll see from the daily ups-and-downs described in the following pages, the making of Life on the Edge Ė like any film Ė was jampacked with both the good and the bad, but overall I look back on the experience fondly. It was what came after that was considerably more melancholic and less pleasurable, beginning with the title change (yes, itís true Ė I detest the title Meet the Hollowheads). The film was recut and re-scored (this is when the opening rap song was added over the main titles); the reviews were severely mixed; the film has never appeared on television (either broadcast or cable); and its DVD release (which may or may not be official - I don't even know) managed to replace my name on the box with that of Stanley Mieses, a comedy writer who was hired by the Executive Producer to add a baby fistful of jokes to the film. The original production company behind the film never made another feature (they had actually optioned the rights to, of all things, J. G. Ballardís brutal science fiction novel High Rise; itís difficult to imagine that the same company that balked at some of our blacker ideas could possibly have thought they could bring Ballardís ultraviolent tale of urban highrise dwellers gone feral to the screen); my writing partner and Edge director Tom Burman has yet to direct a second film (weíre still working on that, by the way); it remains the sole credit of our other producer, John Chavez; and only one of our marvelous actors went on to major stardom (Juliette Lewis). I never submitted this journal to a single publisher.
And yet the film has somehow Ė despite what I have sometimes suspected to be deliberate attempts to sabotage its success on the parts of the producers Ė found an audience. I receive e-mails from fans all over the globe; I even had one gentleman in Germany tell me about the DVD release. The Internet, that Great Equalizer, has refused to let Life on the Edge/Meet the Hollowheads die. And so, without further adieu, I present the journal of the making of Life on the Edge, just as I wrote it in 1988; although some of the enthusiastic praising of the film now seems ridiculous and sometimes more than a little embarrassing, I've opted to leave it in since much of it is probably typical of any first-time filmmaker (I've added a few contemporary comments in the form of footnotes). This journal is offered with gratitude to the film buffs and friends who finally convinced me to pull this dusty old box of journal pages and photos out of the closet. Thank you.
Since Tom Burman and I first sold the script for Life on the Edge in early 1988, not a single day has gone by Ė maybe not a single hour Ė when Life on the Edge hasnít been uppermost in my thoughts. It has completely consumed over a year of my life; Iíve often caught myself thinking of it as if it were a living, breathing entity, not merely ninety minutes of celluloid. I suppose this is always the case with any art which is a labor of love on the part of its creator(s).
Thatís really what this book is about Ė the creation of a labor of love. In other words, this is the part of filmmaking they donít teach you about in film school, the part you rarely hear about in interviews or read about in books. I know when I began work on Life on the Edge as a first-time screenwriter and associate producer, I had an image in my head, instilled by my college film courses and my lifelong interest in movies, of what feature film production would be like. That image, needless to say, was dashed in a matter of days. Aside from the technical aspect Ė which I found I was not as well educated on as Iíd believed Ė I was utterly unprepared for the emotional and mental pressures and the day-to-day ups and downs. Many was the time I wished I'd had a book like this to read before Iíd started this craziness.
This book can be read, then, as either an introduction to feature film production for any aspiring filmmakers, or as the story of the making of an admittedly unusual movie, a story which is probably as entertaining as the movie itself. Iíve begun with the assumption that youíve seen Life on the Edge, or at least are familiar with the basic story elements; likewise, Iím assuming at least a passing knowledge of film terms, and have left detailed explanations and glossaries for other books. In some cases, Iíve thrown new words and phrases at the reader as they were thrown at me, and explained them (or not) as they were defined for me.
I hope this book will accurately convey the sensations of being intimately involved with the creation of something as unique as Life on the Edge. I apologize up front to any who expect lengthy interviews or a description of the production from the points-of-view of all the chief participants. But my intent, as Iíve said, was to capture the interior experience, and as such this story is of necessity told from the viewpoint of just one person Ė myself.
Which is certainly not to say I did it alone. In fact, I could spend half this book alone thanking everyone, but Iíll limit it now to my friends and family who supported me and my writing through the years; to the fabulous cast and crew of Life on the Edge; to our wonder producer and my friend John; and to Bari, whoís always there for us. My biggest thanks, though, are reserved for, of course, The Crazy Man himself, Tom, the best collaborator and director anyoneís ever had.
Now, whattaya say Ė letís flow.