Looper hit theaters in late September of 2012. At the time I was working as an associate manager of a Regal Entertainment Group theater in Washington state. It was a great way to get free movies and not have to work too hard all the time. When I was a kid, I used movies as a coping mechanism for both physical and emotional abuse. I would put the same movie on and watch it on repeat alone in my room. It was a wonderful way to escape the horrors of real life. I’ve probably seen Home Alone and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 about 200 times a piece. I can still quote entire scenes verbatim.
As I grew up I still loved movies and what they gave me. When I walked out of The Matrix my entire world had changed. Never before had a piece of media made me question my own reality and how I fit into it. I knew it was just a movie but there was always that sliver in the back of my brain that wondered if it could be true. As a teenager and into young adulthood I worked a various movie rental stores including Blockbuster. This gave me access to any movie I could possibly ever want to see and some I wish I could forget.
Another movie that changed me forever was Clerks. Upon my first viewing I had never seen something so raw and smart. Years later I would learn every single thing I could about it but even as a teenager I never thought it was something I could do. I thought movies were made by people with money and connections not a poor kid from rural Washington. A piece of that might have been true back then but a lot of had to do with never really believing in myself enough to do something like that.
Okay, back to 2012. Looper came out about a week before my birthday. In my twenties it became a tradition for me to see a movie on or near my birthday. I’ve seen a lot of great movies over the years in the month of October and 2012 was no different. We had been getting trailers for Looper for many months and one of the perks of being a film projectionist is having to watch the same few trailers over and over and over again to make sure the focus and pull on the lens is correct before each movie. Looper was one of those for me. Seeing the words “written and directed by Rian Johnson” always made me happy. I’ve been a fan of his work ever since Brick came out in 2005. There was a lot of talk in the movie store world about a new age noir film starring Joseph Gordan Levitt and all the hype was true. It’s such a great genre film that holds up really well as time goes on and because of this I knew Looper would be good.
I loved it. I saw it a few times upon its initial release and probably only once again after the fact. I have thought about it a lot over the years. It was one of those movies that had so many cool elements that I wished were explored more deeply, but as life went it on I kind of forgot about it. That was until the pandemic hit. I just recently relocated from Washington to South Dakota and transitioned from a life as and IT person to that of a full time stay at home dad. I will say it’s the best change I’ve ever had but with this change came something I wasn’t expecting. My imagination came back in full force. My drive to create was stirring and starting to take over. I’ve always tried to write at least once a year but most of the time life got in the way of really enjoying it. Now that I had more time to think and to not be so stressed out about waking up and clocking in somewhere. I could try and focus that energy into something else.
One thing you need to know about me is that I hate finishing things. I can start a million projects and be passionate for about a week before my brain rolls onto the next thing. A few months later I will find the remnants of that project and be upset with myself for not following through. When I was working full time it was easy to just walk away but now I didn’t have a real excuse for it. I needed to challenge myself so I came up with a way to kind of keep myself accountable to something for at least a month and that’s how I came up with the Looper project.
Screenwriting has been scary to me over the years. Writing a novel is nothing to me, creating worlds and giving characters unique affectations and backstories roll out of me like clockwork but that’s because I don’t feel restricted. When I read a screenplay it’s like a novel in a box. It has a framework and a structure that needs to be adhered to, at least to a degree, and that terrified me. I hate doing things that scare me but this was something I needed to do. There were a few films that I was picking between but I ultimately landed on Looper. I felt that I liked the movie but since it had been almost a decade between viewings it was probably a movie that I wouldn’t be that sad about if it were to be ruined by multiple back to back viewings. The project for me would be to watch it every day for a month and try and dissect it. I saw this as kind of a way to learn the art of screenwriting through a film study. I planned to make a social media post every day to track my progress.
I found a copy of the screenplay online and read through it the night before I started the project. I was blown away by how much extra was in the screenplay that didn’t make it into the movie. It was also really awesome getting to imagine the movie through the lens of a screenplay rather than trying to remember how it was in the movie since it had been so long since I’d seen it. It got me excited. When I finally sat down and watched the movie again it great. Having the script to go through and knowing the layers of story that were either lost or cut out gave me a whole new appreciation for what Looper was.
As the weeks went by I listened to the commentary that Rian Johnson supplied for viewing in the theatre and the one recorded with the cast multiple times. He managed a good balance between the two of giving tons of technical information and just really interesting stories of how the actors approached their roles. It was also really rewarding to hear how the studio influence changed a big part of the script. After the first week I sat down and tried writing a screenplay. I don’t know why I was so afraid of this, it was something wholly new but so enjoyable. Translating my novel into a screenplay gave me the chance to see it in a new light and frame it in a way the makes it better.
Watching Looper this many times has given me the chance to really feel the film. I’ve thought about it every day for an entire month and I think I finally get it. To me, Looper is about love. Not just about the love of a person to another but the kind of love we all long for. The type of love that’s unexpected but ultimately craved. The main character in Looper was abandoned as a child and only has an emotional scar where his mother used to be. His life is defined by her action of giving him up and throughout the film we learn that he is not the only character that feels this way. Each new person we meet is just looking for their chance to be loved. The main theme of the film revolves around a child who eventually will become a super villain because his mother was killed right in front of him. He then grew up without the love and support he needed and that’s where the loop began. The circle is only closed when Joe sees this and takes his own life to make sure that at least one person will have the love of his mother to protect him and the future. It took me about a dozen watches to really see this thread clearly. I’m not even sure that’s what Rian was trying to say but it’s what I feel with every fiber of my being and it’s why it will stay with me for a long time to come. I think we all know what it’s like to have someone run their fingers through our hair just because they care about us or at least long to know that feeling. It’s human and its powerful.
This project has changed me and I’m so thankful for Rian Johnson and the way he has been liking my tweets throughout the this month. It really keeps me going knowing that he, at the very least, thinks what I am doing is cool. This experience has shown me that I really love cinema and it’s broadened my knowledge of how it all comes together behind the scenes and how I long to be part of it. I’m hoping at some point in the future to get a chance to go to film school or at least get some formal training in screenwriting. For now I’m going to just keep watching movies and digging in deeper than I ever would have before.