April 01, 2008
Welcome to my Nightmare
If I were to ask people at random to describe their worst nightmare, I don’t think I’d get reports of anything like what just woke me up. It had my heart pounding like I’d been running, and I had to take several long, slow breaths and assure myself it hadn’t actually happened. It left me feeling I’d been given a second chance, like Ebenezer Scrooge awakening on Christmas morning just after wailing over his gravestone.
No murderers at the front door, no quicksand, no alien invasion, no burnt-out buildings or abandoned pets or friends turning into enemies; not even that old horror-dream classic: teeth falling out. What just woke me up was one of the most deadly clever and on-point dreams I’ve ever had in terms of echoing my deepest concerns.
If I had to place it into a dream-genre, I‘d place it in the School Anxiety category in that psychologically speaking, it most closely resembles those dreams of not having one’s textbooks, arriving to class on final exam day without having studied or even attended class all semester. But compared with a normal school-anxiety dream, my nightmare was far, far worse.
In this my worst nightmare, I wasn’t dressed formally enough for dinner.
No, I’m not kidding; that’s the crux of it. So now, driven by the need to purge myself of this dark tale, I’ll describe the dream in narrative order, then I’ll break the code. And then, apparently, I’ve got work to do.
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NOT PREPARED: A Formal Dinner at the Scorsese Home
There is some kind of a film shoot going on in a large building, and I’m there with a crew. The dream doesn’t really start here, but what came before is harder to recall; it was something about a house with various rooms I was working on fixing up, a pleasant scenario.
Anyway, everything is just sort of happening in what feels like an ordinary way: crew people going about their business, equipment stacked around, no actual shooting going on at the moment but just the sense that things are fine. This is at some kind of indistinct interior location with a lot of rooms. [In corporate film and video production, this is the equivalent of a normal work day for me]. It is emotionally neutral.
At one point I find to my pleasant surprise I am having a small-talk conversation with famous film director Martin Scorsese, although I’m dimly aware that he doesn’t look like the real guy; he just looks like some generic man, but very pleasant. My husband is somewhere around here too, for some reason, but we are each doing our own thing.
Then I seem to be talking to a woman who I understand to be Scorsese’s wife, and she is making preparations for a dinner party. I hadn’t known anything about this, and look around and see there is one large room where the large crew seems to be, milling around and just starting to take their seats at a long table for an ordinary film shoot meal break.
But I see there is another room off to one side, through a large arched doorway. In there I can see a much nicer room, beautifully decorated, with another large dinner table. This table is set for a formal dinner, and I can see a sedately-uniformed wait staff preparing the table settings and chairs.
Mrs. Scorsese is talking to me and I suddenly realize I am expected to be part of this formal dinner. I was shocked at this news because nobody had said anything to me about this, and I had no idea. Now it appeared this amazing event was about to unfold… and I was standing there in my utilitarian work clothes! She seems disappointed that I hadn’t been told of this, and said she was definitely hoping for a formal dinner for “us”, presumably her and her husband and a select group of guests including me.
Panicking, I find the production manager and ask her about when the dinner was supposed to start. Crouched over a notebook on her haunches and working on something, she looked at her watch and laughed, saying it was already later than they’d originally planned, but they were hoping for nine o’clock. My mind raced as I tried to solve this problem. Horrible, just horrible! What a nightmare! This was actually about to happen and I wasn’t dressed and ready for it, even though I have formal wear hanging in my closet at home! What about my hair and makeup?
This is a nightmare of epic psychological proportions, and even while it’s happening, I’m aware there’s an irony to a hair/makeup/costume person (me) struggling to get those very things ready for herself.
As I’m trying to solve this problem I see a producer I know [in real life], a woman N. I notice N. is wearing some bright green and yellow two-layered designer shoes, very expensive-looking and arty and quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen her wearing because she always wears black.
Somehow it is arranged I will be getting a ride home and back, hopefully fast. The dream jump-cuts somewhat; my sister is around here, too, and we are talking about the situation. I tell her she should go home and change clothes, too, and then when the dinner party was over she at least could come around and be part of anything that could possibly happen afterwards. At this point I’m not sure if I’ve actually gotten the problem solved or not, as there is no part of the dream where I actually go home and change clothes. My sister and I are talking to each other very near to where the film set is, and I see we’re in a shopping mall. At this point I realize I could alternatively have run into one of the stores and just bought a gown on the spot instead of going home.
The transitions are vague, but soon I am talking to my husband. He has apparently, in the meantime, been chatting away with Mr. Scorsese. He seems hurt and annoyed I did not take him home with me to prepare for the dinner, so I make some kind of excuse to him, saying I had to act fast on my chance to dash home, and that he could now take a taxi home and back if he wanted to get himself ready. What I’m saying to him is essentially true, but privately as I spoke with him I realize I’d merely forgotten he was around. But it all seems the situation is supposed to be for me anyway because I’m the one who’s supposed to be at the dinner.
* * *
Unless you know me well, this dream might seem a bit puzzling. Background to all of this is that I work in corporate film and video production as a freelancer, a 20-plus-year career that came about via a low-budget feature film being directed by a (then) friend of mine.
Working on even a small real movie was a considerably heady experience for a small-town girl who had, up until then, only worked in local theater doing costumes and makeup. This experience was pivotal in that I quit my salon job of over a decade and gave myself over to the unique opportunity of being in the world of film.
To make matters better (or worse, depending on one’s angle of reflection) the film was being funded by Francis Coppola. (I apologize for the name-dropping, but it's critical to understanding my angst over all this). We department heads met with him several times, and he always said he would read any screenplay any of us happened to write. He was really great to us, very warm and accessible. We even shot several of our scenes on his property in Rutherford.
This opportunity, layered with the overall exciting feel of that time period, has always had a kind of haunting effect on me, even as its viability as a promise has no doubt faded a bit over the years. Francis Coppola has come to represent a very powerful idea to me, the idea that life has some amazing opportunities that require us to step up and be ready. I was somehow able to rise to the occasion, succeed in my efforts, and turn that opportunity into a great career. I’ve proven to myself I can step up when I hear the knock at the door. Would more opportunities come my way? Would I be ready? I still have strong dreams of writing for the screen, and possibly directing. (The latter is the first time I've said that aloud, by the way). And I have written a screenplay, but haven't done anything with it yet. Tick, tick, tick, tick.
The doubt is never that I have the ability, oddly enough, but the nightmare is that I won’t have properly prepared myself in a timely fashion for the next opportunity, the next Clownhouse. Or that the best opportunity I've ever had, I've somehow squandered. My screenplay is a good one, but I should have more than one. And I should do something with the one I've finished.
So why is this particular dream about Mr. Scorcese? I believe it is because I had been reading in Julia Cameron’s creativity self-help books as motivational material for my would-be screenplay writing career. Ms. Cameron had been married to Mr. Scorcese, and is herself a sometime playright and screenwriter. And as I read between the lines, it seemed to me that she still carried some melancholy about having lost something wonderful around having been with him, in that world, even many years later.
Having a place at the special, exclusive table is a great metaphor, no?
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