My father, Victor Warren, and his mother, Harlene Stein, have been writing screenplays together since before I was born. I grew up watching over my dad’s shoulder as he hammered out dialogue on his chunky late 90s laptop. As a kid I heard talk of options and scripts in the works. When Baba came to visit at our house on Cape Cod during the summers I’d overhear her and my dad discussing, tweaking, and collaborating at our kitchen table. I never stopped to ask my father the question that immediately trips off most people’s tongues: “How can you write with your mother?”
Once asked by an agent how they’d met, my father characteristically quipped, “In the womb.” With that kind of history it follows that the answer to the above question is not a simple one. Actually, much of the reason that my dad and his mother work so well as a writing team has to do with the stark absence of any kind of emotional relationship between them for many years. This non-relationship, as far as I can tell from speaking with my dad, resulted from the childhood wounds and emotional scarring, both inevitable and accidental, that each inflicted on the other as a result of the domineering presence of my grandfather in both of their lives. The writing partnership between my dad and my Baba, how the fruits of that professional relationship began to heal and restore their personal bond, is ultimately what inspired the script that they are currently attempting to make into a movie. That film, also based on a cross-country road trip the pair took together in 2000, is aptly titled: “The Road Less Traveled.”
As of this writing there are only about fourteen days left in the Indiegogo campaign my dad is conducting in the hope of raising money to fund this film. Part autobiographical and part fictional, the script is, as described by my dad on the website, “about relationships, family dynamics and love.” The plot of the film deals with the changing relationship between Bee Carlisle and her son Tom as they travel across the country together from California to Cape Cod. This road trip takes place immediately following the death of Bee’s husband, Tom’s demonstrative and withholding father, and during the trip family secrets are revealed that change the lives of the characters forever. It’s an extremely relatable tale about the emotional and psychological struggles that all we go through in relating to our siblings, parents, and children, and the resounding hope that we can change those relationships for the better. It’s a story about my family, as much as it is about yours.
It’s funny the way that notions, judgments, proclivities, skills, and interests cycle through families imperceptibly. Not to say that these generational similarities are particularly surprising (everyone in my family is built out of the same recycled genetic material, after all), but I take pride in the creativity that runs through my bloodline. My Baba is a writer. My father is a writer. I am a writer. Our blood holds us together in ways that we barely realize. I am often bemused and sometimes frightened by the ways in which I am strikingly similar, and almost as often dissimilar, to both of my parents. I have my mother’s pragmatism, my father’s creativity, my mother’s face, my father’s hands. And while I am the recipient of my parents’ artistic aptitudes and positive attributes, there is inevitably a darker side to the coin: Parents unavoidably place baggage from their childhoods squarely in the hands of their own children.
However, it is possible for those scars inflicted in youth that resound into adulthood to posses a beautiful and transformative power. This is demonstrated in my life by one simple fact: I know that my father loves me. I know this because he constantly tells me so. That is because “I love you” is something that his father rarely, if ever, told him. Out of my father’s childhood traumas grew a drive to demonstrate love for his own children. Although families can be, and almost always are, dysfunctional, there is hope for growth. There is always the possibility of love.
Obviously, this film and the spirit of this campaign are causes that lie very close to my heart. My entire life I’ve watched my father attempt to, and succeed at, making a living off of his creativity. It hasn’t been easy, and there have been times when those endeavors, and the sacrifices he made for them, have been difficult for me to understand. However, I grasp the root of his motivation more now then I ever have. I’ve grown up to be a creative and sensitive adult (attributes for which I blame my father), and I now find myself in a difficult position: How do I stay true to my artistic ambitions in a world that is all about compromise? My dad has truly set the best example I can now follow, that is, work hard, and treat people like the sensitive humans they are.
The tagline for “The Road Less Traveled” is: “the only thing we can give our children is love, the rest is up to them.” My dad, both of my parents, have always adhered to that adage, despite the stumbling blocks they’ve had to overcome from their own childhoods. The story of our family, the eventual restoration of the relationship between my father and his mother and the transformative power of my father’s love for his children, it’s an important, a universal, tale that should be shared.
My father’s vision for his work is noble: it is idealistic and utopian. Please help him stay true to his creative vision, and spread that important message: “all we can give our children is love.” Consider that phrase. Share it.
If you don’t remember anything else, you should remember that.
Here is the link once more to Victor Warren’s Indiegogo campaign the proceeds of which will go to fund “The Road Less Traveled.” Your support is greatly appreciated: http://www.indiegogo.com/THE-ROAD-LESS-TRAVELED