Dustin and I had an interesting choice to make when we were writing our short film, FREEDOM FIGHTER. We knew that our opening "interrogation" had to be more than just two guys bantering and filling time while we waited for the shooting to start. We also knew that we did not want the scene to devolve into how much we could beat up the suspect with a hands on approach. Our solution was to build the interrogation around a monologue our suspect, Michael Hahn, gives about the song "Midnight Rambler" by The Rolling Stones.
The monologue is Michael relaying how the last song his father ever heard was "Midnight Rambler" and how fitting that was since The Rolling Stones were his favorite band. What's creepy about that is the fact that the song is essentially about Death stalking its victims. So, while his father thought he was having a great day, he was really just being taunted about his impending doom. Michael ends the monologue by looking at his interrogator, Alexander, and saying, "Can you imagine what that must have been like? To think you had decades left to live, only to find out Death was just taunting you?" It was a perfect moment that foreshadowed what was really going on in the film. Sure, it can be seen as being a little bit too cute, a little bit too easy. But here's the thing... it's absolutely true.
I have written enough articles on the importance of using real life experiences in your stories that I would be remiss if I didn't do it myself. The story of that father and "Midnight Rambler" is the story of my father. He passed away, a few years ago, of a sudden burst of his aorta. The next day, as we were putting together the pieces, my little brother looked at my Father's iPod. He had plugged it into its charger when he got home, mere moments before he died. "Midnight Rambler" was still cued up and halfway through the song. Spooky.
So, when we were looking for something to bring our scene together, something that spoke to the undercurrent of what was really going on, I tapped on my own experience. I admit that I did it reluctantly, as it's not the type of memory I love revisiting, but upon seeing the final product, I am happy that I did. It was an emotion that I was able to pour into the page and watch it transfer to the film itself. In the end, it comes down to the old axiom that if you don't feel the emotion as a writer, how can you expect your audience to feel it?
As long as we're on the subject of spooky. I could have taken the experience even farther and bookended the action with a speech about how when Michael's father hit the floor, "You Can't Always Get What You Want", also by The Rolling Stones started playing over the clock radio. An obvious nod to how things didn't quite turn out the way our interrogator thought they were going to. In the end I thought that was a little too heavy handed and too many people would write it off as being unbelievable screenwriting schmaltz . Well... it's also true. My stepmother told me how when the paramedics showed up, my Dad's clock radio turned on and that song started playing through the kitchen.
Let that one sink in for a moment.