Blue Like Jazz (a rough cut) – Taylor Made For Controversy
So there we were, in New York City’s Soho district, at PostWorks NY /Orbit Digital – a state of the art post-production facility catering to creators of long and short-form film and multimedia projects. Trying to maintain an aura of belonging there was beginning to take its toll…(even with the aid of a New York bagel and coffee as props – very hip), but if our information was good we’d be in for a treat soon enough. The gradual emergence of a guy who looked an awful lot like Steve Taylor confirmed to me and my constant companion, Carina, that our last-minute tip was, in fact, correct – and that we wouldn’t have to be roughly escorted out of the building as frauds…..
We were about to see a rough cut of Steve Taylor’s film adaptation of Donald Miller’s best selling book, Blue Like Jazz!
The tall, lanky Taylor, looking fit and healthy, a constant air of energy and excitement about him, appeared and disappeared several times, making sure that all was well in the small screening room where no food was allowed ‘unless you could sneak it in’ (or so we were told).
“What you’re about to see is a rough cut of the film,” the scruffily-bearded director told us, “which means the stuff you don’t like isn’t finished and the stuff you love is exactly the way it’s supposed to be.” Taylor obviously hasn’t lost his sharp wit. As it turns out, the small audience of less that fifteen people did love most of it – a very good thing for a rough cut, where the soundtrack hasn’t been finalized and visual effects, color balance and various technical elements haven’t been finished.
A movie and a book are not the same thing, and creating a narrative film from a book like Blue Like Jazz, which is more of an observational retro-diary of the soul than a time-line dependent story (got that?) calls for some modifications. The essay format of the book becomes a story arc through establishing the main character (“Don,” as opposed to Donald Miller), giving him a crisis, several challenges, and, eventually, some degree of resolution. Not as easy as it sounds…
The main character, Don, is a somewhat naive church youth worker, poised to set out for college. His obviously-troubled mother is pushing him toward a Christian College while his more free-living, progressive-thinking father (apparently separated from Don’s mom) suggests that Don liberate his intellect and experience ‘real’ life by attending a secular college like Reed University. Through a series of messy situations, our hero says goodbye to the “Roman Road” and sets out for a life more akin to a party at Caligula’s place. Without going into the details (after all, that’s the movie), Don eventually comes to terms with a more realistic, balanced understanding of his own spiritual identity – flaws and all.
A more fictionalized version of Miller’s story, the film captures aspects of the Christian sub-culture in extreme, and creates situations that illuminate all of its blemishes like one of those enlarging make-up mirrors. The film adaptation of Blue Like Jazz is PG 13 material – not something that you’ll be showing to your Children’s Church or Royal Ranger group. It’s a story that involves some unsavory behavior and uses occasional ‘realistic’ language, but it’s a story that has heart. Without question, Steve has achieved something pretty special here, something that will resonate with a lot of people – and no doubt he’ll be catching some heat for it.
So what else is new…?