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Art+Film

Jul 25, 2018 05:29PM ● Published by Alex Martinez

When you’re a creative person, keeping a happy, healthy, and centered state of mind can mean different things to different people. In truth, most creatives turn to other forms of creativity to find inspiration and in essence, it leads them to a place of inner happiness. That’s exactly what happened when actor, writer, director, and producer Matthew Modine teamed up with designer, illustrator, and visionary Adam Rackoff to bring new life to Full Metal Jacket. A film brilliantly told by Stanley Kubrick, Full Metal Jacket explores the state of mind that occurs when anyone is preparing to push themselves further mentally, physically, and emotionally—especially when preparing for war—than they’ve ever been pushed before.

While the film was released over 30 years ago, the heart, sentiment, thoughtfulness, and poetry of how the story unravels haven’t lost their appeal. Thanks to the collaboration and devotion of Modine and Rackoff, they spent hundreds of hours sifting through content, including choosing rare moments caught from behind the lens, revitalizing a moment in time that ignited the artist within Modine, and brought it to life in a telling, elegant yet raw, visual, digital, and inspiring diary. The resulting work begs us to look inside ourselves in a way that is quiet and thoughtful, but still gives us a rare look at the ubiquitous genius of Stanley Kubrick.

While this issue is about wellness and living a far more intentional life, when I met Matthew and saw how he engages and directs his passions into something the world gets to participate in, I knew I had met someone that embodies the purest forms of humanity. That said, I find my greatest sense of peace when I escape to a museum to surround myself with other artists who dare to expose their vulnerability. That is precisely what Full Metal Jacket Diary is to me. It was an honor to speak with Matthew and Adam about the birth of this project, as well as the creative journey they’ve embarked on along the way.

Full Metal Jacket Diary is a poetic look at the BTS story of the film, your role, the crew, and of course Stanley. What photo in the series gives you the most pause?

Matthew Modine (MM): I don’t have a favorite. If you asked which image is the most, say, poetic, I would say the empty director’s chair. It is a chair that will never be filled again. We 36 AUGUST 2018 Southern California all die. Kubrick’s empty chair magnifies that. It’s what we do, or don’t do, with our lives that matters.

Adam Rackoff (AR): There’s one image that I’ve always been drawn to. It’s a shot of Kubrick and his director of photography, Douglas Milsome, sitting on a camera crane in a field. Phil Hobbs (producer and caterer) is standing next to them discussing the road to Hue and “mass grave” scene. The script supervisor/continuity person, Julie Robinson, is on the left of the frame with the focus puller. It’s a very candid moment of Kubrick and his team figuring out how to shoot a scene. I actually have a large blowup of this image hanging in my living room.
With it being just over 30 years since the film’s release, what inspired this project?

MM: I wanted to share the images I’d captured during filming. The photos needed a narrative, and I had kept a diary of the filmmaking process. The photos and the diary complimented each other. Then Adam Rackoff suggested we create the totally unique FMJ Diary iPad “app-umentary”, which took the book to a whole different level. After that, Adam produced the audiobook which I think is (humble brag) terrific.

AR: When the limited-edition book was first released in 2005, I was working for Apple Computer. I was responsible for producing high-profile events with creative professionals (filmmakers, photographers, musicians, etc.). Since Matthew’s book was designed on a Mac, we invited him to do a talk and present a slideshow of his photographs at the Apple Store, SoHo in New York City. It was a big success, and Matthew and I became fast friends.
About five years later, I pitched Matthew on the idea of taking his diary and creating something new with it—an app for the iPad. Only 20,000 copies were printed—each with a metal cover and laser-etched serial number on the back. Matthew liked the idea that each copy was unique and that those who owned one had something special. The first iPad had just been introduced, so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to create a new version of his diary—this time with even more photos and artifacts from the making of the film, married to audio of Matthew reading his diary with original music and sound effects, to create an immersive audiovisual experience.
In Full Metal Jacket, two scenes continue to stick with me: The late (and truly powerful) R. Lee Ermey in the barracks and the final scenes with D’Onofrio in the bathroom cleaning his gun. What was the most intriguing part of working alongside R. Lee Ermey?

MM: His poetry. I hope, one day, his poetry is found and published. It is obscene and politically incorrect. His fans will love it.
Knowing how the story would unravel, did you ever feel the pang of loss knowing Gomer’s ultimate end?

MM: Suicide is horrible, no matter the circumstances.
Writing and photography are now part of your creative DNA. What photographer and writer inspire you now?

MM: Photographer and painter, Matt Mahurin. Author, Yuval Noah Harari.
As the political climate becomes basically a torrid storm of chaos, how do you deal with it all (especially on Twitter)?

MM: I like Twitter, but it’s basically like pissing into the wind. You log in and participate in a collective Orwellian “Two Minutes Hate”. You become an Oceania Party member reading missives and seeing images depicting enemies (replace Emmanuel Goldstein with Donald Trump and his followers). Everyone gets to express their hatred for all their perceived enemies. I go there for the humor, and inevitably get dragged into the muck.

AR: I enjoy Twitter as well, but I try not to get drawn into Twitter feuds or debates. Matthew and I produced an award-winning political documentary entitled The Brainwashing of My Dad (on iTunes and Amazon Prime). The film explores the rise of right-wing media and the addictive effect it can have on people (especially those with a lot of spare time on their hands, such as retirees). I learned very quickly that the film wasn’t going to change many minds. It reinforced some people’s beliefs, gave others hope (that they weren’t alone in their struggles), and helped educate viewers on the history of the media.
As “Papa” on Stranger Things, we discussed the challenges of playing that role as a father in real life. Do you find the love he has for Eleven, albeit totally obscure, something you can make sense of?

MM: Yes. I can. I do my best. Do you recall Jessica Rabbit in Roger Rabbit? She said, “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.” You’d have to ask the Duffer Brothers to explain why they draw the way they do.
What haven’t you done in your career that you hope to see come to fruition?

MM: Too many things to mention. I like it that way. It gets me out of bed in the morning. And I think one’s hopes and dreams should be kept to oneself. If you need to share them, it should be only with people you trust and love very truly.
You’re an advocate of the legalization of cannabis. What message would you convey to those who aren’t 100 percent on board with it just yet?

MM: Cannabis is a plant. It’s been used for hundreds of years to treat hundreds of ailments. Cannabis is not a ‘gateway’ drug. Alcohol is. If you’re looking for a drug to criminalize, booze should be your target. It destroys your organs. Contributes to diabetes and depression. So far this year, almost 17,000 have died from drunk driving.
Has cannabis/CBD helped you in any way?

MM: I don’t smoke. CBD oil is beneficial in so many ways. Helping to reduce inflammation and normal aches in muscles and joint pain.

AR
: I don’t smoke either, but not because I think it’s wrong. I agree with Matthew that alcohol is far more problematic than cannabis. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (from 2016), alcohol causes 88,000 deaths every year. All other drugs combined cause around 30,000 deaths annually. This is an inconvenient truth. Our laws are illogical. I’m not saying we should make alcohol illegal, but we need to take a long, hard look at why cannabis is still illegal in so many states.
As dads, husbands, filmmakers, and artists, what do you think is the most challenging in terms of relaying a message of thought, hope, and social responsibility?

MM: To be hopeful. To be thoughtful. To be responsible for your actions. To not be a hypocrite.

AR: The biggest challenge is trying to understand where others are coming from. To put yourself in their shoes, even if you disagree, and try to find some common ground.
What’s next for Cinco Dedos Películas?

MM: Adam and I always have several projects we’re working on. The most exciting one for me, personally, is a documentary series about the preciousness of the ocean.

AR: We’re also helping to produce an animated feature film by Signe Baumane entitled My Love Affair with Marriage. It’s at least a year (probably more) from completion. Animated films take a long time to make. I’m also a producer on an animated series created by two-time Oscar nominee Bill Plympton called Trump Bites.
Neither of you shy away from controversial topics. You speak out in ways that are constructive and actionable. If you could summarize how your political and social stance integrates with the projects you produce, what would you want people to know?

MM: Neither of us are shackled to a political ideology. We, if I can speak for Adam, want what is best for the world. If we’re doing good by the world, we’re doing good by all the creatures we share this earth with. If we’re doing good by all the creatures, we are, naturally, doing what’s best for ourselves, our families, and the ones we love. We are motivated by love.

AR: What he said. Exactly.
Creativity is a form of release and purpose for many, including myself. What Matthew and Adam are doing is creating with intention and I personally can’t wait to see what else is in store. To learn more about Full Metal Jacket Diary, visit FULLMETALJACKETDIARY.COM.
While the film was released over 30 years ago, the heart, sentiment, thoughtfulness, and poetry of how the story unravels haven’t lost their appeal.
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