A seven year old girl takes her two year old brother on a voyage of chance and fantasy. They begin their journey by following a star chart that they had created by splashing paint on an old envelope. They search city streets, store windows and garbage for star shaped images that coincide with the dots on their map. On their adventure they meet a one eyed man who they view as a dangerous cyclops. In an attempt to connect with the children the cyclops tries to describe a nativity scene, but without all the facts. The children’s interpretation of his story sends them on a quest to find a time machine in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
In response to today’s world I felt an honest portrait of childhood was a necessary thing to pursue. I wanted to offer something positive that was close to my heart.
Carl Sagan once wrote, “somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” He was commenting on astronomy and space exploration. I feel this quote touches on the fundamental spirit of childhood and the random nature of adventure and discovery that fill a child’s day. The greatest explorers and thinkers throughout history were able to retain the qualities of childhood that enabled them to see the world as more than what meets the eye.
In my last film, Stingray Sam, I used non-actors. I created characters and situations that were suited for their abilities. When I began writing Crazy and Thief I planned to do the same. I was attempting to paint a portrait of childhood based on my own children and planned to work with them as actors. I styled scenes after who they were and what they did and quickly found myself writing a fantasy film that took place in the real world.
My lead character, Crazy, is a strong and imaginative seven year-old girl who propels the story by creating its realities. Her accomplice, Thief, is a two year-old boy who exists in the world that Crazy creates. There are no other children in their world. The few adults they come in contact with are viewed as legendary threats. All other adults are fleeting and faceless objects that create a moving landscape for the children to maneuver through.
To understand the relationship between the characters and to invite the viewer into their world I needed to remove the wall between the audience and a two year-old’s mind. I created situations and dialogue that the actor could understand and allowed him to improvise within the context of the scene. I then supported his dialogue with accurate subtitles to allow the viewer to understand what is being said between the two characters.
Concepts of time and personal memories were strong components in the story. The musical segments, locations, and some of the editing choices were inspired by elements from early 70′s episodes of Sesame Street. The first seasons of Sesame Street are now available on DVD with a warning that the program is not suitable for preschoolers. I wanted to embrace the qualities of the children’s educational programming of my youth that by today’s standards require a warning.
Modern graphics, many of which have already become dated, are also used to propel the story. The young explorers use star images found on billboards and in garbage to create an astrological chart. The chart leads our characters, as well as the viewer, from moments of childhood discovery to an impossible quest based on partial information. Throughout history great discoveries have been made by people who have followed partial or incorrect information. Childhood is a time of discovery where this technique applies.
Frank Lloyd Wright said or wrote, that if something is of it’s time it is organic. Crazy and Thief embraces the visual environment and realities of its time while using today’s most inexpensive and accessible technologies to tell the story.