Nightmares and other lucid dreams have always fascinated me. I have written over 250 of them in my journal. Many of them I remember in vivid detail. I’ve always wanted to share them with others. Like in a movie. A dream that you could watch.
I’ve pitched this idea for a few years now. As creative as the movie industry might be, enthusiasts are decidedly not ready for what I’d like to bring to the theater. The conversation usually goes like this…
I want to make a movie with no plot, no setting, and no title.
There’s a pause. A bewildered look forms on whomever I’m telling this to and I continue.
I’ve never seen a good dream film. Inception was a good start with the train randomly coming through the street and the buildings folding in kaleidoscope fashion, but it wasn’t random enough! Dreams are random.
Intrigued, the person listens. I can tell they’re totally against the idea, but for some reason, the idea is irresistibly intriguing — they listen anyway.
‘Breaking the mold’ is a cliché everyone uses, but imagine a true dream film! I want this movie to have no beginning, just like how dreams are, and an abrupt end.
By this time more ears are tuning in. I’ve got their attention.
Think about your dreams. The story usually begins right in the middle of something. There are no opening titles, no credits, you’re just thrown smack into the action with no explanation. Kind of like life!
Sometimes I ask one of them what their dreams are like, everyone one of them says they don’t remember their dreams. So I tell them one of my own.
The Shadow Man
I’m in a mall. It’s night. I’m likely a security guard. I’m on the second floor. I’m running from something.
I come to an escalator. You know that silver metal panel that you step on before you get on? Well, it’s open.
It appears like the escalator is out-of-order and was opened up for repairs. The metal panel has been lifted up and left open.
Underneath the panel, there is a manhole, with a ladder. It is surrounded by work lights.
I’m being pursued by something, so I run into it. Climb down the ladder into the hole.
Once I’m all the way down — I’m in a house. It’s daylight. Sunshine is coming through the windows. It’s a really nice house. American Colonial. Every light is on in that house.
I run to the front door. I open it and step into another house. As if two houses had been combined together. Where the front door of one is the back door of the other. Like Monster’s Inc. with the closet doors.
I close the door behind me and I’m in another house. This time there are fewer lights on. It’s a different house.
I run to the front door of this house. I open it and step inside yet another house! Each house is different and there are fewer and fewer lights on. I do this many times.
The sunlight coming in through the windows of each succeeding house becomes dimmer and dimmer.
I run through many houses. Their interiors vary greatly. But in each succeeding house, it’s darker and messier. The ground seems to slant downwards as I run forward.
I look over my shoulder occasionally and there’s the shadow man! I have a distance on him, but he’s closing in.
The shadow man is a void. He walks upright like a person would walk — even in daylight. He’s unlike any shadow I’ve ever seen before. This shadow doesn’t appear on the walls or on the floor. No, he walks like a person, independent of lighting.
Looking into the shadow man there’s a void. It’s a hole that appears to be a mile deep.
I quickly gather that this shadow represents death. He’s coming for me. He’s in the shape of me. As if I were a toy being put back into a package. If the shadow man catches up with me, both of us will merge and I will disappear from existence!
I finally come to the last house. There are no lights on in this house. It is nighttime. The only light in the house comes from a vintage tube television with static on it in the den. Across from the TV, there’s an empty recliner. The house has a 70s vibe.
There’s nowhere to run!
I can see the shadow man coming down the stairs in the hall. I look to my left and I see a door. It’s to an office.
I run into it and shut the door, leaving it open just a crack like I found it. The door has a frosted window on it. Like an old-time detective movie.
It’s a small office with wood paneling. There’s only a desk, a chair, and a lamp that’s been left on. There are no windows in this office.
I hide behind the desk. I see the shadow man pass by the door.
He hasn’t seen me. I wait for a few minutes; debating whether I should bolt out the door and make a run for it. I’m cornered here!
It’s deadly silent. I can hear ringing in my ears.
I decide to make a run for it. I run back the way I came. Through all of the houses and back up the manhole.
Once out, I slam the metal panel shut.
The dream ends.
What a True Dream Film Looks Like
My audience is dazed. They are silent at first. I see that look on their face, the same feeling I get after waking up from a dream. Not sure what to think. Just processing everything.
I tell them…
That feeling you have is the feeling I want my audience to have after the movie ends. I want them to sit in silence, processing what they just saw, as if they had just woken up from a real dream.
That stunned/processing feeling isn’t something that movies generally leave you with. It’s rare. My dreams leave me feeling like this all of the time. But, I hate that I can’t share it with anyone. No one will see what I saw. But if this were a movie, the entire audience would have experienced the same dream together for the first time ever!
Essentially what I want this movie to be is an experience. Not a linear story. I want you to feel emotions you don’t feel too often. Confusion is a great emotion! It’s the sign of a new experience.
To keep this dream film authentic, I don’t want it to have a title. When you go up to the box office, I want that tile to be blank, only displaying the showtimes.
I want the movie poster to be a solid color or blend of colors like a Rothko painting. I want it to make you feel something, without saying anything.
This movie is unapologetically anti-pop. It’s not for you to like, it’s for you to experience. Just like a dream.
I remember 10 years ago telling my cousin that I wanted a movie theater with a 360-degree screen. I wanted a more immersive cinematic experience. One where you could look in all directions and be right in the center of the action. My cousin humored my idea but suggested I settle for a 180-degree screen instead. I can’t tell you how enthusiastic I was when I discovered that some computer games used three monitors blended into one — similar to my idea.
Today, there is a better option. Virtual Reality headsets would be perfect for a true dream film. For the first time, you could experience true first-person perspective. Look in all directions, just like a video game.
I want the experience to be as dream-like as possible. Settings should subtly change. Some characters don’t need faces. There is no beginning. The end jarringly leaves you wanting more. There’s so much detail in the dream-film that you’d have to watch it several times to see everything. There wouldn’t be a trailer, you’d have no idea what you were about to see. Just like a real dream.
If I could, I would give this kind of experience to the world. A true breaking of the mold, not for the sake of breaking the mold, but for the sake of being true to an original dream.
I get pretty enthusiastic about this idea. Not from a commercial sense, but from a creative one. If I wanted a return on investment (ROI) — I’d make a film that fit a mold and ticked all the checkboxes that make a movie popular.
This is not intended to be a popular film. It’s intended to be original. Not by breaking with tradition just because, but because this concept naturally has no mold. Our dreams naturally don’t make sense and we accept them. All I want to do is bring this experience to the awake world.
Unfortunately, this is a tough pill to swallow for many. There’s a strong desire to have a story. A story that is linear and makes sense. If it doesn’t make sense, some don’t believe it’s an enjoyable movie.
But I argue, people love dreams! They love sharing them if they can remember them, and they love trying to interpret them. I believe that art can be abstract. Just like a painting. It took awhile for some to accept abstract art. Not every painting has to stem from a refined realist style.
For some reason, movies haven’t gotten there yet. We accept abstract art, but not abstract movies. Why not? Why does everything have to make sense in a neat story form? Our own lives don’t make sense.
When we are born our first memories begin randomly. We stare at the floor, we study it. We do not ask why we are here until later. That’s how I want a dream film to begin. I don’t want my audience to know why they are there. I want them to be intrigued. I want them to see something new. Something authentic. I want the dreams to be real.
That’s all I can really say about that.
How I Remember My Dreams
As aforementioned, I have documented at least 250 dreams in vivid detail. Before I started writing them down, I only remembered dreams that woke me up and left a big impression on me. Usually nightmares or occasionally heavenly dreams (dreams like winning the lottery or finding the love of my life). But eventually, I figured out a trick to remember more of them.
The secret to remembering your dreams is to try to remember where you were last when you wake up. So when I wake up, I sit there and try to remember where I was last. Suddenly it comes to me. It will be a fragment of something. I’ll remember a location or an object from the dream.
I write that down. I begin working backward. Eventually, I unravel the dream in reverse order. Sometimes this hurts my head and I have to give up. Other times I push through and unlock the entire dream.
I write whatever comes to mind in reverse order and then I reconstruct the dream in chronological order. The key is to outline the dream backward and then return to fill in all of the details. Once that’s done you can rewrite the dream in story form.
That’s it. Once you’ve captured it, you’ll never lose it again. Your journal will remember the dream for you. And now that I have some, I think they might make great movies.
So I ask you…
Would you watch a dream?