An L.A. Minute Director on Cinema’s Love/Hate Relationship with the City of Angels
August 7, 2018
As one of the most storied and dynamic cities in America, Los Angeles is often the backdrop for cinematic fodder. From the comical L.A. Story to the (ahem, almost) 2017 Oscar® best picture winner La La Land, cinema has long drawn upon the multidimensional city.
Daniel Adams’ An L.A. Minute is another film that uses Los Angeles as its protagonist. The story follows Ted Gould (Gabriel Byrne), a wealthy and famous Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and movie producer. Ted’s perception starts to shift when he meets Velocity (Kiersey Clemons), a young performance artist with views on fame different from his own.
Unsurprisingly, the man who crafted such a film has a complicated relationship with the city himself.
“L.A. is America on steroids,” said Adams, who wrote and directed the movie.
An “exaggeration of the American dream,” according to Adams, Los Angeles has become what he calls an “absurd mix of ambitious, fortune-seeking artists.”
“That sets up a dichotomy of moral principles: Should my work benefit society or myself? Is there a middle ground where I can achieve both? That constant push/pull relationship is wonderful … for satire,” he said.
That’s not to say Adams’ view of the city is entirely negative — far from it.
“L.A. is the greatest city in the world, and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else,” he said.
And as anyone who has moved to the city can attest, part of its grand appeal is that in Los Angeles, anything seems possible; it’s a city made up of the hopes and dreams of thousands of creatives.
Yet after living there on and off for more than 20 years, Adams knows the cost of chasing fame. It’s one of the themes he explores in his film.
“Celebrity is a drug. It’s a form of self-medication,” he said.
According to Adams, many people who want to be famous experienced childhood trauma, leaving them to believe they are inadequate. The adulation of others provides “temporary relief.”
“But the key word here is ‘temporary,’” Adams said.
“Just like drugs and alcohol, one is always left empty and seeking more. It’s a vicious cycle. The only cure for celebrity is to reject the notion that it is the answer to one’s pain, and instead serve others; to serve something greater than oneself.”
Instead of chasing fame, celebrity or the false comfort that comes with either, the director suggests embracing the simple reality that life is always changing.
“As the Dalai Lama says, ‘the only thing permanent in this world is impermanence.’ Yet rather than embrace that unchangeable nature of reality, people spend their lives hoping things never change,” he said.
“As part of that psychosis, we judge others unmercifully: ‘He’s mean,’ ‘she’s vain.’ Or we judgeourselves: ‘I’m never going to succeed.’ Or, deluding ourselves into believing there is permanence, we grasp for a stability that doesn’t exist. It’s why people are unhappy.”
The solution, according to Adams, is explored in the film’s final moments.
“As my main character says at the end of the film, everything beautiful is tragic because it doesn’t last, and everything tragic is beautiful because it, too, doesn’t last,” he said.
“Embracing true reality gives us freedom from despair because we come to the realization that we all have the capacity to change, no matter the circumstances.
An L.A. Minute is not the first film Adams has both written and directed. In order to do both jobs successfully, he “switches hats,” when the writing portion is complete. Using the script as “a guideline, not a rule,” Adams said he forgets he wrote it once he starts directing.
“I see things on the set that I could never see as the writer, and I adapt,” he said.
“So, when I’m writing, I know I don’t need to create a shooting script in the traditional sense, detailing every nuance … As a screenwriter, I can sympathize with the vagaries of the director’s task … I know that once I’m prepping a film and seeing locations and choosing cast, I’ll eventually need to adapt the script accordingly.”
An. L.A. Minute opens in Los Angeles and New York on August 24
Written by: Anna KlassenAnna Klassen is a screenwriter and journalist living in Los Angeles. She can be found on twitter and Instagram at @annajklassen.