Adam Morse Goes “Lucid”
Lucid tells the story of an introverted, socially-awkward young man named Zel Richards (Laurie Calvert) who gets the opportunity to drastically change his life and attract the attention of dancer Jasmine (Felicity Gilbert) when his enigmatic neighbor Elliott (Billy Zane) introduces him to the art of Lucid Dreaming. We spoke with writer/director Adam Morse about his journey getting his passion project to the big screen.
The story has its roots in Morse’s interest in Lucid Dreaming, an interest he’s had since his adolescence. However, it gained more significance later in his life. “It was important for me to reinvent myself after I lost my eyesight at the age of nineteen,” he declared.
For those not in the know, Lucid Dreaming is a state of being simultaneously awake and dreaming, leading to full awareness and memory of the dream. Practiced Lucid Dreamers harness the awareness of their dreams to create an idyllic world through dreamscapes to improve their lives. “Not only can you be conscious during a dream, but you can take control of yourself in a dream state. You can do anything within the limits of your imagination,” declared the filmmaker.
Morse used the technique to great benefit in his waking life as he untangled the issues buried in his subconscious to re-engineer his life. In Zel’s case, it was his profound self-isolation and social anxiety. Zel’s character was heavily influenced by Adam Morse’s real life in London as he performed mind-numbing jobs wondering if there was more to his life.
Morse chose Lucid Dreaming as the best vehicle to tell Zel’s story of mental health and social anxiety since we all have the ability to dream in this way. Consequently, the story skates across various dream and real-life vignettes with minimal exposition. “I always found exposition to be really boring. I wanted to have it all on the surface for the audience to decipher and dissect,” he confessed. This allows the audience to reflect on Zel’s journey later. Zel’s journey was ultimately suggestive rather than overtly stated. His character unfolded more through his non-verbal communication and body language rather than through traditional dialogue, so it is unclear whether he’s any closer to talking to Jasmine.
The entire premise of the film began with Morse’s fascination with the mind’s ability to generate fear and affect the human psyche. Lucid Dreaming is a powerful way to alleviate these fears and allow people to lead a more fulfilling life.
Morse is excited by his oblique form of storytelling. Although Zel finally gets the girl in the end, it is a victory. A small victory in the grand scheme of things, but a major win for Zel. “I think it’s a huge achievement of Zel’s character. He goes from not being able to make eye contact with the opposite sex. After a week of Lucid Dreaming guided by Elliott, he’s in bed with Jasmine. It’s his first step toward becoming a man.”
Zel’s mother Georgina (Sadie Frost) is cold and distant toward Zel, despite her love for him. “Georgina is a very neurotic character. An overbearing matriarch. At her core she still wants to protect her children,” said Morse. “She is disconnected from herself and unable to understand her son.”
Elliott, Zel’s cryptic Lucid Dreaming guide was instrumental in Zel’s journey to manhood. Lucid is more than a coming of age story. “It’s about a character learning to gain confidence, self-love, and appreciation,” added Zane.
“Elliott was based on a number of different archetypes including Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita in The Karate Kid).” According to Morse, “Elliott’s character raises the most questions of all. His intentions, his past.” As a confirmed opponent of exposition, much of Elliott’s character was developed with Billy Zane on the days of shooting to elevate him from the page. “That’s when the magic happened.”
The screenplay for Lucid was written by Adam Morse in two years following a two year gestation period. It was rewritten and workshopped many times before a shooting schedule was finalized. Even during shooting, Morse discarded major portions of what he had written and opted for a more minimalist approach. “I see screenplays as a template for a film rather than as gospel.”
Given that many scenes of Lucid were told through dream sequences, Morse recognized the challenges in compressing them into a workable time frame “to explore Zel’s transition from having a handle on reality and losing touch with it.” There are times where the line between reality and dream state is so blurred, Zel isn’t entirely sure where he is.
Although billed as a sci-fi thriller, Lucid also contains comedic, romantic, and horror elements into the stew. It pays artistic homage to films like Mulholland Drive in terms of atmosphere and tone. “I wanted to put the audience on edge so they did not know exactly how to feel or know where the story is going.”
Adam Morse kept his Lebers Hereditary Optic Neuropathy which caused his blindness hidden as best as he could for fear of Lucid becoming a cause film. “Many cast and crew thought I had a weird style of directing because I would come up so close to them or have my face almost pressed against the monitor.” In fact, he was insulted on set for wearing dark glasses indoors and using a monitor the size of an Imax. Eventually, he came clean. Some crew members were offended that he didn’t trust them earlier.
The writer/direct scoffed at the naysayers tied to the belief that blind people can’t direct. Paradoxically, losing one sense enhances the others. It reframes the way in which stories are told.
“Blindness has its advantages such as enhancing my mental capacities including my imagination and telepathy,” said Morse. Ironically, his blindness, originally labeled a handicap, became a marketing point as an artist with a unique personal story.
“Having partial sight magnifies your inner sight. I have daily hallucinations which is a syndrome associated with the disease. I see an extraordinary amount of projections allowing me to explore the visual ideas in my mind’s eye.”
“Losing my eyesight has made me a better communicator because I’m not distracted by someone’s facial reactions. I feel their energy more acutely which makes me more emotionally open. Telepathically, I can tap into the same frequency of others much quicker than sighted people.”
Lucid is a movie is about confidence and reinventing yourself to make your dream come true.
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