A number of festivals have asked for a Director's Statement or production notes. I had no idea what a "Director's Statement" was so I did some poking around on the net. Most of the Director's Statements that I found online began something like this:

"After the six years I spent in perpetual war zone on the losing side..."


"When I first realized I was the adopted child of fundamentalist Nazis..."


“Being a cancer surviver and a political refugee I felt that...”

Suffice to say, I felt rather inadequate. Still, I wanted to say something so I thought I’d simply talk about where this film (as un-earth shattering as it may be) came from...

The Naked Ape evolved (no pun intended) out of a number of unrelated ideas that slowly came together over a number of years. It began with insecurity.

What I remembered most clearly about being in high school was the powerful influence of social perceptions. I was insecure, anxious and isolated. Then one day I left town and discovered that, without the baggage of history, the people I met didn’t have the prejudices of my high school peers. Even more enlightening was returning home and finding that I no longer saw my peers in the old light either.

This is the essence of “coming-of-age”; growing to the point where your world view shifts dramatically. Homing in on this idea, I realized how many of the decisions we make in life are influenced by our fears and anxieties about what other people think. We are often acutely aware of our own vulnerabilities, but because we fail to recognize these internal battles in other people, we are left believing we are unique and alone in our agony. In a word: insecurity.

Since the key for my personal experience was the change in environment, I decided to write the film in the context of a road trip. For a setting, I chose the dramatic landscape of the American Southwest that I found traveling between my current home in Los Angeles and my hometown of St. Louis. Although this posed budgetary and logistical problems, it was more than made up for in the inherent production value.

Then a wonderful dichotomy emerged while writing the script. Here were the characters visiting these dramatically grand vistas yet they were more absorbed in their personal issues, because what was happening to them on a personal level had so much more impact. This was the basis for the original title of the film, Big Things. The “big things” that the kids were going to remember from their trip was not the big monuments and landscapes, but the big changes to their world views.

The coming-of-age/road trip film is not a new subject and while I struggled to find something different to say, I also looked for a different way of saying it. Then I read Desmond Morris’ zoological study of homo-sapiens in his book, The Naked Ape. I was struck by the change in perspective it gave me. Emotions and experiences that I thought were very personal were reflected back as something universally shared. Just the message I was trying to convey. Instead of a story about one person’s insecurities, I wanted to force the audience to view from a different perspective - a universal perspective.

Journeys have meaning for us because at the end of them our world is a little bit larger, a little more interesting than it was when we began. So it is for Alex in the story, so it was for me in making The Naked Ape, and so I hope it will be, in some small way, for the audience that joins both of us on that road.

Daniel Mellitz

e-mail: TheNakedApe@mac.com
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