How do you solve a problem like Tim Burton? Part One. #dsxp #darkshadows
I’m no Harlan Ellison, but I do enjoy a good rant. And I enjoy writing them.
No, I take that back. I don’t enjoy writing them. I hate writing them. Because it means that I have a need to write them. But it has to be done.
I am going to share with you a portion of a letter I wrote some time ago. It’s a good start.
I’ll sum up (again) the Burton movie with this; It’s not good. It’s not good Dark Shadows. It’s not a good comedy. It’s not a good demonstration of Burton’s strengths. It fails on every level. Even Collinwood loses its warmth.
Now, from a letter penned by yrs. tly. It was in response to the question of whether or not I ever regretted the project.
Never. I knew that it was an extreme experience. I knew that it was going to be very immersive. But it allowed me to have enforced rest after years of constant activity while proving that I had the stuff of the MacRae family motto, “Fortitudine.” This was a way to prove to others and myself what I could do. So, that’s a bit of the project-behind-the-project. “Yes, thank you, I can do this.”
I also knew that I was doing something that had never (to my knowledge) been done. Which is a cool thing to wake up to. And that I had made it VERY public was a profound motivator. I really couldn’t afford to get mopey. Beyond that, I just loved the show. Having survived the Great Whedonizing of the 2000s, I was incredibly used to hipsters putting down DARK SHADOWS. One thing that really perked me up was finding that great vein of hip, funny, insightful DARK SHADOWS fandom lurking out there. At last — no longer alone!
On top of it all, I couldn’t help but feel flipped off by Tim Burton. That was the movie I thought would knock TWILIGHT off the map and maybe make Joss admit that, yeah, it kinda had an influence on him. When I saw the trailer, there was blood in the water, and I knew that it was time for me to simply stand up and say, “Tim. You have more-or-less stated total mistrust in this beautiful property. In the name of pique and futility, I will protest by giving it far more attention that you did. I am a bright man who could do anything he wanted with his summer. And for my vacation, I am going to give all of that attention and love to DARK SHADOWS.”
I’m sure Mr. Burton knows nothing of this, or would think me mad if he did, but I can go to bed at night knowing that I gave this incredibly formative and wonderful story all of my time and my love. As a thank-you. The thank-you I would have given had I been in that director’s chair. That was not my opportunity. This was.
Here’s the worst part. He’s an artist. MoMA-certified. He should understand this. As a stop-motion animator, how does he feel about the CGI CLASH OF THE TITANS? I hope he has enough soul to shake his head and wish that they had used all of that technology to make the bestest stop-motion film possible. THAT’S the point of CLASH OF THE TITANS. It’s the point of KING KONG. It’s the magic of the stop-motion medium.
(And I kinda even liked CLASH OF THE TITANS. But I wish they’d called it something else.)
You want the magic of DARK SHADOWS? Go to Big Finish. They get it.
So, very deep feelings about a lot of things intertwined with my love of the show, and that kept me motivated. And think about the schedules the actors on the TV show had. Yes, they were well-paid and got famous, but that kind of work is very grueling. Coming from the theatre, where all art is inconvenient, I understand the duality of feeling that can grow for an audience who (through understandable ignorance) treats an afternoon at a show like a trifling diversion. And, of course, how could they possible “pay” in time and emotions in a way equal to the people putting on the show? When I had a van Gogh magnet on my refrigerator, I finally had to take it down because it felt disrespectfully minimizing of the suffering and pain he went through to bring us such beauty and insight and unique vision. He didn’t do it so I could hold up a Domino’s coupon.
In short, those actors, writers, directors, producers, designers, and technicians all busted their keisters to give us those dreams. That art was not convenient for them to make. At times, it felt like a sign of respect that it was not convenient for me to consume. It was a tough job for them. With the long hours and early wake-ups, I felt a bit of solidarity.
I remember seeing Mr. Shatner’s documentary, THE CAPTAINS, and each Captain (save Mr. Pine) related how the experience of creating that iconic myth genuinely harmed their relationships with their families. What did the DARK SHADOWS actors sacrifice? That’s a reason I have such a sense of empathy for Don Briscoe. Did the pressure of the show lead Mr. Briscoe to pursue releases that would destroy him? How does a fan — no, not a fan… a fan-who-is-a-mensch — factor that in when they watch the show? That performance is just fantastic. No, I would not have wanted him to do it if that had factored into his demons. But it happened. It just makes me want to give these people a hug — in sprit — for all they did. (And I am not a hugger.) When I meet actors and writers I admire, I always say and mean the same thing, “Thank you for working so hard.”
In retrospect, I could see how an actor might not get that as a compliment. But this is assuming that I’m all ready in line to get a book signed or something, so my adoration should be evident.