Sunday, June 13, 2004
Fallow Field

Working on Morgan's film this last week has underlined something that's been on my mind for a while... quite a while, actually, well over a year now.

If I am to be honest with myself, I have to admit one simple fact: I've been very unproductive since leaving school. I mean, not wholly unproductive: I've been teaching, I've been supporting, I've been gradually developing a personal philosophy of filmmaking. I think these are all good and worthy things... at least, plenty of other people seem to think so. But as much as I call myself a filmmaker, there's one major activity I really haven't been engaging in the way I think I should be: making films.

I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out why this is. It's not for lack of ideas, or a lack of basic ability; certainly I'm still young as a filmmaker and have a lot to learn, but one of the reasons I love this medium so much is that it should always provide me with lots of new things to learn.

When I'm being hard on myself, I focus on things that I perceive to be personal shortcomings: I'm too undisciplined, too passive, I lack initiative, or drive, or something. But none of these are actually true; I'm disciplined enough to teach weekly and help manage a production; I'm assertive enough to lead other people (if maybe not yet quite bold enough to take the helm); I have initiative enough to have begun half a dozen projects (it was the finishing that got me); and don't even talk to me about a lack of drive... I've got enough drive to have kept me pushing forward with this not only when things were good and I had support, but also when it seemed that everything and everyone was conspiring againt me, and when I was convinced that all was lost. These are not my problems.

When I'm being a bit kinder to myself, I can narrow the problem down to two possible areas. One is lack of direct support. The Co-op provides ample nominal support, but I haven't yet managed to find a solid partnership... something I need very, very much to help me find the confidence to move from idea to execution.

The other is that, possibly, I'm just not ready to undertake the main role on a production. I've always looked for mentors; I often feel that at this point in my life, what I really want most is to serve as a kind of apprentice, to throw my time and effort behind someone else's (deserving) work, and in return to have a chance to learn from someone more experienced and accomplished than me.

This desire seems to go against everything I'm "supposed" to want... young independent filmmakers all want to be the next Tarantino, right? We want to hit the big time by 30 (35 at the latest) and to be seen as the new enfant terrible of the film world. But I've just never felt like that was my ideal timeline; I see myself hitting my peak more around 50 or 55. I'm a reserved young woman, but I anticipate that I'll be kicking ass as an older lady. (And I'll wear a big floppy hat, carry a walking stick, and prowl around like a dignified noblewoman. You wait and see.)

There are few people in the Memphis film scene that I'm not at least passably acquainted with. There are people here with whom I can work, and there are people here whom I certainly respect. But there are only one or two who might qualify as being significantly more advanced than I am, and of those, none seems to be good mentor material, at least not for me. And that's been frustrating. I thought I'd found a good mentor in LA -- I actually had several possibilities there -- but events ended up working against me, and I don't really want to go back now.

My fear, of course, is that all of this is just rationalization. But I know from experience that I can do good work under the right circumstances, and I know that I'm capable of a great deal more than I think most people expect of me.

(Another weakness of mine: someone once said to me that I always hold my cards very close to my chest. I was surprised at the time -- I admit I don't advertise very much about myself, but I'm certainly not secretive; most often it's simply a matter of someone asking me the right question and I'll tell anyone practically anything, no matter how personal. But thinking about it later, I recognized that it was true... I do tend to hold my cards close to my chest. I always have. Through some combination of having a rather denigrating father and forever being the new kid in town, I learned to guard my creativity very closely, and to relish the moment when I whipped out the best story/sonnet/paper in class and was rewarded with the look of surprise on everyone else's faces when the quiet girl in the back of the room trumped 'em all. Parading whatever I've got around for everyone to see would ruin the surprise... not to mention eradicating all of my opportunities to watch them unguarded, something I've always loved to do.)

But it's working against me these days... people don't see what I'm capable of, so they don't take me seriously. And it's been so long now... I'm starting to wonder if I am actually capable of anything anymore.
2:38 AM ::
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