Let’s start at the very beginning.
I was still at Humboldt State University at the time. It was my last semester. I had easy classes and nothing to do. So I was wandering through the library, looking at back issues of Sight & Sound, a film magazine from the UK. I like it because their reviews include how long the movie is in feet and inches. What can I say, I was a projectionist, too.
I came across an interview with director Paul Thomas Anderson about Magnolia in a late ’99/early ’00 issue. He made some offhand remark about how we never see people who are late for a funeral because they can’t find their keys.
For some reason, that idea held onto me a lot stronger than anything else I was working on at the time.
So I wrote it down. It is now the beginning of the film.
But, so, then…. Now what? I realized that this idea stuck with me because there were so many questions about it and so many directions that I could take it in.
I’ve got a present for you. It’s the first draft of this script.
There were way too many questions left unanswered. And I knew this.
But I let the script sit dormant for several months. I finished it in April.
I went to NYU in late June.I had never been to New York and I knew zero people out there. So I had a lot of time to think since my class was only 3 hours a day, four days a week. Thinking and drinking. Thinking and drinking.
And all those questions about “running late” came up. What happens with Susan and Nolan? I began to plan their night–and that’s when I knew something bigger was getting written.
The assignment for my class at NYU fit perfectly with what was going on at the time. Write a 20-page script. About anything. There were six students in total in class so each of our scripts got close attention and thoughtful consideration.
This script got nurtured in ways that I never expected. After those three weeks, the script was done. It only took a few tweaks to get it locked down for production.
I then spent the next three weeks writing a feature. Maybe you’ll see that someday too.
This still doesn’t answer a major question: why the fuck is it called graceland?
Let me tell you, sister.
As all of this was unfolding, I was going through a pretty tough breakup. And if writing was my release and my letting go, then this song was my catharsis. It was on repeat for six weeks. Graceland as covered by the Tallest Man on Earth. I would sit at Highline park, smoke cigarettes, listen to this song and his album The Wild Hunt, and stare at the Hudson. Then ideate.
I really like his music–and the fact that he’s about my height yet uses that moniker. He’s Swedish. He learned colloquial English from reruns of Fresh Prince of Bel Air. He has a punk rock air of emotion over tone in his voice.
And I wanted to pay tribute to those feelings with the title of my short. And the more I think about it, the more I realize how apt the title is…