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San Clemente Journal

Salvador Paskowitz: From the Stars of San Onofre To the Lights of Sunset Boulevard ...

Sep 29, 2015 08:43AM ● By Tyler Kindred
By Tyler Kindred

“Whenever you feel like you’re getting the easy way, stop, and 
go the opposite direction,” says Salvador Paskowitz, screenwriter for the recent film, The Age of Adaline. “Just focus on your work, and make sure your work is the best it can possibly be.”

Salvador’s slightly shaggy hair hints at a bohemian undercurrent, but his manner of speech is paced with Hollywood sharpness. Sitting three blocks from the ocean, just west of the third street promenade in Santa Monica, he’s eager and open to discuss his writing process, his inspiration, and what he calls his “ten-year-overnight-success story.”

Salvador, or Sal, is the son of Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz, an iconic figure of San Clemente and surf culture folklore. Depicted in the documentary Surfwise, Doc was well-known and well-loved in the surf community. As a physician, his philosophies towards health, education and knowledge were far reaching. Skepticism towards the traditional education system would lead him to raise and educate his children independently; becoming what would be named “The First Family of Surfing.” The family would travel, run surf camps and live within a succession of RV’s along the California coast.

It was there, where Sal’s early love of movies began.
“I always loved movies…when I was making Super 8 animation with a little Eumig underwater camera at San Onofre back in the camper. I tried to do stop motion animation in a camper, you could imagine, with your brothers pushing you in the back of a camper.”  

Growing up on the coast, Sal had a healthy environment to foster his creativity and varying ambitions. However, he is quick to mention that there were things in life he had to learn that didn’t come from the beach: “For me, growing up the way I did, provided me with an endless amount of acumen, energy… but…  I didn’t know, not only the rules of the world but the rules of society, which are ‘Don’t trust everyone you meet’ And boy, Hollywood will teach you that.”
But before Salvador would be properly introduced to Hollywood, his career in the arts would start with enrollment in a New York arts school, a difficult task without so much as a grade school transcript from traditional education.  From there, he would return to Southern California, developing graphic design work for companies like Hurley and Billabong, some being kept to this day.  

Sal would also channel his creativity through comic books, creating a successful comic book series entitled Surf Crazed, which would appear in the magazine Surfing. Sal is quick to cite the similarities between the filmmaking and comic books, both involving deeply envisioning all aspects of fictional stories. His comic series would include intricate detail in classic comic style, as well as witty but thoughtful messages.

As Billabong and Hurley would grow into the empires they are today, graphic design work slowly moved over seas, giving Sal the opportunity to start a company of his own: Falken Skateboards. “Everyone in my family was in surfing.  And I felt that skateboarders can appreciate… a wider dynamic for new imagery.”  

The imagery was edgy: a mixture of explosives and monkey lab experiments that poked questions at the state of humanity and technology. The company would gain recognition and endorsements from known professionals, but would eventually be ill-timed with the attacks of 9-11, and the resulting mass fleeing of venture capital in 2001. This closure would return Sal to his earlier love. Bringing us to our conversation today: The inception, production and the resulting wave of success from Salvadore’s first big Hollywood hit: The Age of Adaline.

As Sal explains, the established bias against  female perspectives in film was unsatisfactory, even “grotesque.” He cites depictions in current movies, tendencies of well-known directors, and the Bechdel scale, a measurement for the importance given to women in a film with such criteria as: 1. Are there two women in the film with names? 2. Do they talk to each other?  3. And do they talk about something other than a man?  While some of the most well-known and beloved films don’t pass the test, Sal’s script exceeds by page six.

“It’s always been the dude who lives forever. That’s always been the story in Hollywood. But I thought …a woman living forever is so much more interesting. Because for a woman, she never has to worry about face crème again, all the worries women have are gone. So that generated so much pathos, so much potential emotion, because it’s not a blessing, it’s more of a curse.”
Adaline Bowman, born in 1900, is witness to iconic American settings throughout the century. When the film opens, she is working at a public library, happy to organize aged film transcripts.  Her wit, amplified by a few extra decades of experience, causes her disinterest with the average suitor, often running circles around unsuspecting acquaintances. But this trained self-reliance is her struggle.  Her daughter, who soon out-ages, becoming a mentor of sorts, encourages her to give love, and heartbreak a chance.

And with this theme came the first of small criticisms for the story. Some felt a strong female perspective should be free from a woman finding fulfillment through companionship with the opposite sex. Sal defends: “I would argue that’s true of both sexes, and that’s why I liberated myself of that notion. That was one thing criticized about the film. Adaline needed a man – that was the theme of the film.”
Another theme seemed to be a captivation of history. “I feel sorry for young people who don’t know history,” Adaline says, beneath an indoor canopy of translucent stars decorating an indoor drive-in movie theater. “I mean, what’re they left with?  The future - which is unknowable, and the present – which is unbearable.” And thus describes the paradox of her condition: Adaline, forever prevented from experiencing the changes of time, caught transfixed with the changing of times.  
She’s been long trained to withhold from others the nature of her condition.  Her self-interdependence is threatened, when, while falling for a youthful young entrepreneur who also shares a fondness for history, she is challenged to break her rules. This relationship causes her to have a second encounter with a former friend, played by Harrison Ford.   

Ford’s role in Adaline is inescapably captivating. Appearing later in the story, his performance soon steals the film. When asked which performance came as a surprise, Sal is quick to cite Fords’: “I still can’t believe he’s in a movie that I wrote.  Especially since he’s the only reason I’m working in movies in the first place... because of Star Wars and Indiana Jones.”  
As for the future, Salvador explains the key to success in Hollywood is diversity. “In this industry, you have to have a diverse portfolio. You have your assignments that you’re doing, then you have your specs that you’re doing, your labors of love, your labors of money – then you do this other stuff. Which for me is this opportunity to direct.”  

The film Paskowitz wrote and is set to direct is entitled, The Shore. Loosely pulled from the experience of his own childhood, The Shore involves a love story between a young boy raised by the ocean, and a city-dwelling young woman who knows only urban life. As with Adaline, it is interwoven with elements of magical reality.  

And as for failures, Sal has learned not to let them deter: “Because that’s what Hollywood is, it’s how well you manage your failures. You’re going to have them, you’re going to have a baker’s dozen of them. You’re going to get your hands dirty, so don’t even worry about it”.