by David Ajluni
March 24, 2021. My family and I were enjoying dinner after a show. I was working two jobs at the time, plus making my first feature film. After years of planning, I had shot most of it with the best cast anyone could have asked for, and magic had been made. I had brought my laptop and hard drive with me, hoping I could get some more editing done in the three-and-a-half-hour drive both to and from the show, but we were all in the moment and enjoying each other’s company, so no editing had been done thus far on the trip.After dinner, we went back out to the car and noticed that it had been broken into. My son’s phone and my laptop bag were gone. It was over. Two years worth of work to create magic, all for nothing. Trauma is the most appropriate word for what I experienced in the aftermath of losing my film. I felt like I had let down my actors and myself. I felt like I had failed my family. My sacrifice for my art was just as much theirs. They had surrendered time with me for my dream of producing films. They were excited for me as my project drew closer and closer to completion. They knew what an endeavor like this could mean in the long-term, and they had put their faith in me, not as an artist, but as an earner. As a guy who sacrificed for his family. Then, I betrayed all the trust they had in me. Why couldn’t I have just backed up my hard drive?
Despite my epic blunder, my family and actors never held me responsible or berated me, and for that I’m appreciative. But I was still broken. Something I had pinned so much hope on was gone, and I had to at least try to reproduce what I had lost. I felt like my very identity and worth as a person depended on it!
After a knock-around period involving phone calls, some recasting, and more plans made, the illusion that I could get the magic back and redo what I lost, collapsed like a sand castle at high tide. But already, another idea was forming. I may not have been able to reshoot this film, but I could still bring my characters to life!
My movie had been a horror anthology, and out of its five stories, I had developed a clear favorite. Not only did I love this story, but the actors involved gave some of the most moving and intuitive performances I have ever seen. Not only were they focused and receptive to direction, but they also knew how to have fun, and that’s what it’s all about. I guess I had grown attached to this experience and didn’t want to let it go just yet. Perhaps that’s why I started rewriting it as a book.
Now, I had always wanted to write a book but never could. It only took writing a script, filming a movie, and getting robbed to finally check it off the bucket list. But honestly, that’s okay! My original script ended up aiding in my thorough development of the story. It was like a first draft. Even better, my beloved characters were further flushed out thanks to my talented actors. By the time I started writing, I knew my characters’ mannerisms, facial expressions, and dispositions. I also knew every part of the story, which is unusual for me. But that didn’t stop me from developing new things on the fly. Before I knew it, I was rediscovering a world I already knew and loved. That was when a new kind of magic happened. My heart was finally healing.
Interestingly enough, before I concentrated on filmmaking, I recorded music. Before that, I did some acting. All the while, I was writing. Over the years, I had left a broken trail of quirky short stories, emotional poetry, screenplays, and unfinished novels. By the time I started Candelabra, I had been honing my skills for three decades. As an aside, I still needed an editor! But I like to think that I’m contributing something of value, after a long and eclectic creative journey.
Stephen King wrote in his memoirs that writers can be bad, decent, good, or great. Bad writers can’t be decent, good writers can’t become great, but decent writers can become good. I don’t know where I stand in all that and I try not to think about it. What I can tell you is that I’m a writer who is having fun. I love my characters and stories, and I hope that love is contagious.
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You should be proud of your accomplishments, David, on every level!