Sister Novena's PortaPulpit
freedom, liberalism, movies, and truth

Saturday, June 19, 2004
Day... Er... What Day Is It, Again?

An easy day, but full of strangeness. We only shot a single scene, a time-delay shot at a nearby high school, and a little supplementary stuff. We had an immense need for extras, and not just any extras, but high-school aged extras. Since they would hardly be perceptible as defined shapes (much less faces) in the shot, we had a bit of room to play, but we still wanted as many as we could get. And we did okay, I suppose... we had fifteen or so. We would've been better off with fifty, but we made it work.

We returned to the Co-op to hang around a while before the evening's activities, and after an hour or so we noticed an odd smell. It was faint at first, but after a while enough other people had noticed that they began coming around asking if we smelled it, too. It was a bit like something burning, but also vaguely food-like, strangely enough... once people began to notice faint traces of smoke in the air, though, we knew something was up, and the building was evacuated. Five fire trucks came -- the same five from the false alarm last week? Who knows? -- and the source turned out to be smoldering insulation. The Memphis fire department takes church fires extremely seriously, particularly after a rash of fires at African-American churches a few years ago. First Congo isn't a specifically black church, but it's a very mixed, very progressive, and particularly a very pacifict and pro-gay church, so you never know what might happen.

Anyway, the offending insulation as removed, a suggestion that the church have their wiring looked at was issued, and the fire trucks left.

The biggest thing tonight, though, was Morgan's surprise birthday party, which we held at Java Cabana. It was the usual kind of affair -- birthday cake with frothy white icing, and champagne. In a fit of nostalgia for my childhood, I demanded a piece with a big yellow-icing rose on it, knowing perfectly well that my adult body would never be able to handle it. I was right. I had to pawn the rose off on Brandon, who licked it off his fingers while making salacious faces.

Now I have a day or two off... we have a rescheduled shoot early, early on Monday morning (early enough to still be Sunday night for all useful purposes), but until then I've got time to rest up a bit, catch up on some stuff I've been needing to do, and get myself ready for the final stretch. We don't have much of this film left to shoot; I know once it's over, I'll be wishing we could do it again, but for now I'm looking forward to getting past this project. (Still glad I did it, though, absolutely.)
10:53 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Documentary Miscellany

On my way to the Co-op this morning, I tuned into NPR on my car radio and caught the last half of an interview with Barbara Kopple, the renowned documentary filmmaker known for films like Harlan County, U.S.A and Wild Man Blues.

Anyway, at one point the interviewer predictably asked what she thought of Michael Moore, and she replied that she loved him. She then went on to say something I really liked: "There's room in the world for all kinds of work."

That's exactly the sentiment I do my best to maintain; sometimes I manage it, sometimes not so much. But even so, Moore bears some criticism, (as in this excellent piece by Roger Ebert); he attracts an especially large amount of attention, so he bears an especially large amount of responsibility... not just to himself, but to the genre.

The Ebert piece above quotes Godard making a point that I especially appreciate: "The way to criticize a film is to make another film." This touches on something that every filmmaker has to grapple with sooner or later: how do you deal with the opinions of people who, more often than not, have almost zero insight into just how miraculous it is that you've made a film at all, much less one worth watching? Do they not owe you at least the courtesy of making a similar effort in response? This is applicable to any artform, obviously, but film most of all because even a modest production is a mammoth undertaking, combining the creative process with the organizational and tactical skills of a field general and the problem-solving abilities of NASA mission control. In truth, the only way to truly respond in a valid way is to make your own film containing your own viewpoint. I guess that makes this guy the only truly worthy critic of Moore's work, huh?

Ironically, Godard failed to take his own advice to heart at the last Cannes film festival, making some less-than-flattering statements about Moore's work without even having seen Fahrenheit 9/11 himself. I guess he was just riding on his reputation.
11:59 AM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Day Twelve

I took the morning off to get my tire fixed, missing the first two scenes of the day. Although Morgan had given me complete, enthusiastic permission, I still felt vaguely guilty... apart from him, I think I'm the only person to not miss a single shoot so far. Maybe it's something like being in the army: I really, really hate to think that I'm not doing my share of the work; but at the same time, they didn't really need me this morning, and the tire did need patching. I guess it's not that big a deal.

Anyway, the third shoot (my first) was at the party house... we have a fourteen-year-old boy playing an underage junkie who's eventually found dead in a bathtub; we were shooting the bathtub scene. The house's owners have a large, friendly black lab named Finnegan, who spent most of the shoot with me. This was not so much because he loved me -- although he did -- but because the actress who finds the junkie kid doesn't care much for big dogs, so Finnegan had to be managed. I ended up covered in black hair and dog slobber, but I didn't object.

From there we went over to another actor's home -- actually his parents' home -- in a prosperous, green part of midtown. The support crew were corralled into the back of the house and spent the shoot drinking root beer and watching "Dune" (the David Lynch version). Once we were done, it was back to the Co-op... some went out for sushi, I headed home.

So, another uneventful day. Apparently the resulting footage was particularly good.
12:02 AM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Friday, June 18, 2004
I'm So Glad The Grown-ups Are Back In Charge

Dick Cheney: Osama and Saddam are, like, totally buddies.

9/11 Commission: Bullshit.

George W. Bush: Bull-true!

Vladimir Putin: Dude, totally bull-true.

9/11 Commission: Oh yeah? Prove it.

Stay tuned...
10:40 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Day Eleven

I really should've written this post last night, but by the time I got home, the only two things in the world I was interested in were dinner and bed. So, a day late...

I got to the Co-op fine yesterday morning, but when Amber came down an hour or so later she said, "Do you know you've got a flat tire?"

"A flat?"


"How flat is it?"

"Well, it's on the rim."


I went up to check it out, and sure enough, that was one flat-ass tire. But, it wasn't such a big deal; I've been chaffeuring people around for two weeks, and it's time for somebody to give me a lift instead, so I didn't desperately need my car until it's time to go home (which ultimately turns out not to be until after midnight). I start leaving messages for my mother at work.

As it happens, Ginger is spending the day sleeping, and has given Morgan use of her black Mercedes for the day. Normally I avoid black cars -- it's a little superstition of mine, since both I and my mother were nearly killed in/by black cars -- but I can't imagine Ginger's car wanting to kill me, so I ride with Morgan all day. I tend to be a kind of anti-snob about cars, but I have to admit, it was a nice ride... we went to Butler Street via Peabody, a path I've never taken before. It's a strange little road: the pinnacle of Memphis affluence at one end, and the lowest dregs of humanity at the other. We ride with the windows down, Morgan playing some weird Morgan-music on the (very good) stereo... I was elated with the whole thing.

The early-afternoon shoots go well, if a bit slowly. We were kicked off the sidewalk outside the Union Ave. bus station by a humorless rent-a-cop, but merely headed down the block a bit and continued as usual. Then we went out for pizza, sat around enjoying the air conditioning for a while, and got ready for the night time shoots. In here somewhere, my mom and her husband turned up at the Co-op, and Rick kindly changed my tire for me. (Yes, I know how, but those pneumatic wrenches they use at garages fasten the nuts on so tightly that I couldn't even begin to remove them.)

We did a sunset shoot on the old train bridge across the Mississippi. I didn't go out onto the bridge myself, although I would've liked to... what with the Patriot Act and all, it's now against the law to make images of bridges (among other things), and we didn't want a reprisal of the bus station problem, so the smallest possible crew went out to avoid attracting attention. Amber and I hung back in the park flirting with a beautiful, friendly, affectionate orange cat, then headed to Butler Street to collect the remaining actors. We took a bit of a wrong turn and ended up in Frayser for a few minutes (not particularly safe after dark) but soon found our way back.

The night shoot was painfully boring, for me at least; I and another crewie hung back to guard the cars while the rest walked to Main Street to do a few scenes. For two hours we sat there in awkward silence (I have never found anything to say to this guy), I playing with my hair and fending off ravenous mosquitos, he mostly fiddling with his mobile phone. A mosquito bit my left upper eyelid. Little fucking bastard.
3:00 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Thursday, June 17, 2004
Just Accept It

I'm sure it must be a very bitter pill for the pro-Bush crowd to swallow, but I think it's time to face reality: Saddam Hussein had no meaningful ties to al Qaeda. Whether through deceit or simple incompetence, the Bush administration led us into a war on false pretenses. Knowing that conservatives pride themselves on their attachment to "personal responsibility", I look forward to seeing them take personal responsibility for the enormous fucking mess we're seemingly irretrievably mired in now.

(Sadly, it seems that the man who most needs to take responsibility will be the last to do so, as usual.)

Kevin Drum makes a good point. So does the New York Times.

Also: off-topic, but important: Rumsfeld personally ordered soldiers to disregard the Geneva Conventions. That makes him a war criminal; it's a pretty simple equation, really. Now, I'm sure that the prisoner in question was a nasty piece of work, and in this particular case I'm not shedding all that many tears over it. But we uphold the Geneva Conventions for the benefit of our soldiers, not theirs. Too many pro-war folks seem to overlook this fundamental point.
11:57 AM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Wednesday, June 16, 2004
Day Ten

Not much to report today... in reality, this was supposed to be a day off from shooting, but we had to reschedule an important scene, and this was the most convenient time to do it. We shot an exchange between a father and son at a Cafe Francisco downtown (there are a lot of restaurants in this movie), and it went very easily.

The film's executive producer, Ginger, turned up today; she's really more of Morgan's sugar-mama / benefactress than anything else, but she's cool and always fun. (God, the life I could live if I was independently wealthy, eh?)

Two distributors have expressed an interest in picking up Blue Citrus Hearts, which is incredibly good news for Morgan. Technically the film is a bit of a mess in places (even taking into account Morgan's Dogme 95-eque philosophy), but it's really soulful and heartfelt... it's nice to see people taking an interest in a film from an emotional perspective. If we had more soul in the cinema, even at the expense of technical proficiency, I think we'd be better off.
11:10 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

On This Date In Fictional History

Exactly 100 years ago today, a guy named Leopold Bloom and another guy named Stephen Dedalus took a little walk around Dublin.

On this day in really-real history, a man named James Joyce had a first meeting with a woman named Nora, and the date became not only the beginning of an incredibly productive relationship, but also the starting point of one of the most exceptional and infamous works of modern western literature.
2:52 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Day Nine

It had to happen sooner or later; in this work the messy day is as inevitable as the tides.

We started shooting at the Memphis Zoo -- the scene was of a young father and his small son -- and for the most part that went acceptably well. We were a little behind schedule, but just about scraped by. It was, however, raining again... not enough rain to chase us inside, but enough to saturate clothing pretty thoroughly within ten or fifteen minutes.

It wasn't until the next scene that we started moving into clusterfuck territory... it took place in the "party house," and until recently our location was the house where Morgan lived until a couple of weeks ago, known locally as the Meda Mansion. (A mansion it ain't, but "Meda Dungpile" doesn't roll off the tongue as well.) You'll notice that I said Morgan lived there until a couple of weeks ago... at which point he and his housemates were evicted. The landlord said, however, that they could still shoot there, so the location remained as it was. That, in retrospect, was a mistake.

When the crew arrived at the house this afternoon, it was occupied by several workmen (who were busy changing the interior appearance, something that would continue over the next week at least), and the landlord, who apparently was in something of a stroppy mood. Morgan wasn't refused entry, but decided (wisely, I think) that shooting at his old house probably wasn't the best idea.

So, already half an hour late to start shooting, Morgan was off searching for an alternative location. The scene we were shooting today was innocuous enough -- a brief exchange, nothing more -- and several homeowners were willing. At least, they were willing until they heard what would be entailed this time next week: this same location also has to be used to shoot the party scenes, which will involve an overnight kegger that will be open to practically anyone, during which we'll be shooting. To his credit, Morgan was completely up-front about this, but obviously it narrowed our options considerably.

We did eventually find a house on the rough side of Midtown, but by the time we got there (in ten cars... we're usually pretty good about carpooling, but in the confusion we just couldn't figure it out) we were badly rushed -- people had to go to work, people had to get to class. The crew was deposited outside (where the morning's rain was rapidly evolving into steam -- we got hit by the water once as it came down, and again as it went back up again), the shots were taken, and we were done for the day.

I'm still slightly wary of the situation... if this new location falls through, we'll not only have to repeat this process, but we'll also have to re-shoot what we got today. I don't have any reason to think this will happen, but it just feels risky.

After the shoot I hung around the Co-op for the workshop -- blissfully it was led by someone other than me this week. Afterwards a group of us went to the Glass Onion; all film people, but comprised largely of the "cool" kids... y'know, the people who are presumably "important" in the local film scene, but whom you don't actually see that often. The kind of people who get the few paying jobs when the well-funded features come through town.

I'm not actually very good at these gatherings. Invariably there are one or two people I'm really interested in talking to -- I mean, genuinely interested, not just networking talk -- and then a bunch of people I kinda feel like I should talk to, just in case. Once I get there, one of two things happens: 1) I get into a conversation with one of the people I really like and hang out for a couple of hours, or 2) I don't, and leave after the obligatory half hour. The schmooze is not my forte.

It was a reasonably pleasant night in any case; it struck me on the way home that, if I were inclined to remain in Memphis, tonight would probably be the night I actually began to break into the regular, working professional Memphis film industry. On a certain level, it kinda feels like a waste not to use this, as I've been dangling here for so long... but I truly, deeply want to move on, even if I have to start this whole process over again somewhere else. Anyway, by the end of the night I essentially had a formal offer to do some work on a film by a guy named Lee... this is the one I hinted at before that would begin production in July. There's no money involved (alas!), and by my normal rules it's not something I'd do -- there's not likely to be much payoff in this for me. A little good karma, maybe, and possibly some help when I do my own short in November -- both of which are valuable things, don't get me wrong -- but this is more a stay-in-practice kind of job than a career builder. (At least, that's how it looks at this point.)

But, as it happens, Lee is a really good guy... I mean, a nice guy, a decent guy. He knows his way around, his production is well-organized (a huge factor in convincing me), his goals seem reasonable, and frankly, of all the people I know who are currently talking about making a feature film, Lee strikes me as the one who most deserves the chance. So, my altruism has won out, and I guess I'm going to be working on Lee's film from the beginning of July through the rest of the summer. It should be interesting, the polar opposite of Morgan's film both in style (Morgan's really into a very naturalistic, fluid aesthetic, whereas Lee's more inclined towards a classic cinematic style) and content. And it'll keep me off the streets, even if it doesn't do a thing to help me save up for a much-needed new laptop.
1:42 AM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Bill O'Reilly Hates Michael Moore, Too

Boy, the right wing sure does hate Fahrenheit 9/11.

First, we've got people running a "grassroots" (does that word actually mean anything useful anymore?) campaign lobbying theater chains not to show the movie. They argue, technically correctly, that by doing this they are not infringing on Michael Moore's First Amendment rights. They're not forcing Moore to be silent, they'd just really, really prefer it if he was rendered completely incapable of reaching his audience. It's an entirely different thing, y'see.

Is this all technically okay as far as the U.S. Bill of Rights in concerned? Yes. Are they still complete fucking dicks for doing it? Oh yes... oh yes.

As further proof that the right can dish it out but not take it, you should also know that if you go to see this film, you're a Nazi. Not just a pop-culture "nazi" as per Seinfeld, but an honest-to-god Jew-killing, goose-stepping, brown-shirt-wearing Nazi. Says who? Bill O'Reilly, that's who... the same guy who got pissed off at Move On a few months ago for suggesting that Bush was like Hitler, which they never actually did. Not that that mattered to O'Reilly.

Anyway, here's what O'Liely had to say on the matter:
O'REILLY: So who turns out for the screening of this movie [Fahrenheit 9/11] last night? You ready? Now, here are the celebrities that turn out. Here are the people who would turn out to see Josef Goebbels convince you that Poland invaded the Third Reich. It's the same thing, by the way. Propaganda is propaganda. OK?

Billy Crystal. Martin Sheen. Leonardo DiCaprio. Ellen DeGeneres. David Duchovny. Sharon Stone. Meg Ryan. Ashton Kutcher. Demi Moore. Norman Lear. Rob Reiner. Jodie Foster. Chris Rock. Larry David. Jack Black. Matthew Perry. Diane Lane.

Look! It's O'Reilly's List.

(By the way, how do you think O'Reilly knows who showed up at the screening? Because... this is great, you'll love this... he was there, too. Apparently his profound offense at having this Goebbels nightmare jammed down his throat didn't prevent him from accepting a personal invitation and a free ticket. How he does sacrifice himself for his cause.)

And just last week he compared "the celebrity media" to something dreamed up by Leni Riefenstahl. Now first off, Michael Moore would give his left testicle to be even half as cinematically innovative as Riefenstahl. It's one of cinema's great tragedies (especially for women) that such immense genius was placed in such an unworthy vessel. But that's another rant for another time.

My real point is, from this moment on, Bill O'Reilly has exactly zero right to go around pissing and moaning about other people making Nazi references. Will that stop him? It never has before.

PS... just to confuse any FOX News watchers reading this, check out this very positive review from that same network. I'm sure the author of this review has political views as conservative as those of Bill O'Reilly, but he also possesses a modicum of class and honesty. Therein lies the difference.
11:55 AM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Monday, June 14, 2004

Y'know what kinda sucks? Clicking a link to an online newspaper article and being presented with a login page. You either have to register or skip the article... annoying. Wouldn't it be great if you didn't have to endlessly sign up for stuff just to read an article? Wouldn't it be great for bloggers if they could post links that wouldn't take the unregistered to an alienating login page?

Ask, and ye shall receive: Bug Me Not.
10:25 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Death and Music

It was literally only a few days ago that someone was telling me how secure and serene the Bonnaroo music festival in Manchester, TN is. Apparently their number was up.

(I'd still quite like to go sometime... from what I hear, everybody plays there. It has a reputation and one of the best little-known music festivals in the country.)
10:21 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Day Eight (halfway)

We shot more restaurant scenes today... a different restaurant, and different people (or at least mostly different people.) One of the advantages of working in a city with no film industry is that local businesses are more than happy to be inconvenienced by a film shoot on their premises. In many cases, we could just turn up and start shooting, and nobody would give us any trouble; certainly nobody ever asks for a fee. Try doing that in New York or Los Angeles.

Before the shoot, at the downtown cast/crew rendezvous, Morgan mentioned how good the weather's been... he's right, we've been very lucky for the most part. It's rained some this month, but only when we were shooting indoors, or on off days; our exterior shoots have been uniformly clear and sunny. He said, however, that he kinda wished it would rain... something odd, maybe even sorta freakish, to reflect the mood of the film.

He got his wish. Not an hour later, just as we were ready to start shooting a scene at Automatic Slim's downtown, a sudden, torrential rainstorm swept across the city. The streets outside, never able to deal with a heavy rainfall, instantly became rivers; the rain was sheeting down. It kept up clear through the scene (it'll be obvious in the final film), and then let up as we packed up to move on.

We hurried to Court Square (a location used at various times throughout the film) and managed to shoot the aftermath of the previous scene while the ground was still wet. Morgan seems to have good luck with natural phenomena... they sometimes seem to come to him when called. Case in point, the shooting star at the end of Blue Citrus Hearts. That was just bizarre.

Anyway, all went pretty well.

After the shoot we all went to Young Avenue Deli for some much-needed lunch/dinner. Ran into Doug, who said I should be more specific in these posts (hi Doug), and Josh Laurenzi, who was one of the two primary actors in BCH.

Since I've started working on this film, I've gotten three (count 'em: three!) offers to work on other people's films later this year. None of it's paid, though... when, oh when will somebody offer me some paying work? Anyway, as flattering as it is, for the most part I'm just not interested in this stuff... it comes in waves, and except under very specific circumstances, I've always turned it down. I might make one exception in July, but that's only because the director seems to have a very solid grip on what he's undertaking, and the script (what I've seen of it, at least) has been solid. The rest -- no offense to anyone -- just doesn't offer me much but hard work with no reward. I don't need much to work on a film, but I do need something; and vague promises of unlikely fame and success just aren't enough.

Anyway, I've still got this film to finish, a film festival to work in October, a short of my own to produce in November, and a life to be getting on with. I don't have time for any more than one additional long-format film this year at most, and that slot on my dance card is all but taken already. So thanks for the kind offers, but stop asking!
9:32 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Happy Birthday, Queen!

No work today - it's the Queen's Birthday.

Actually, the queen has several birthdays, depending on where you are. In Australia it's the second Monday in June, in New Zealand it's a week earlier, and in Canada it's celebrated on May 24. Meanwhile, the day on which the queenie actually gets her presents is, (presumably) the anniversary of her birth which is the 21st of April. I guess a public holiday makes sense in the middle of June in the Northern Hemisphere, but in this part of the world, Queen's Birthday weekend is typically wet, grey and COLD! Whatever, it's our last public holiday until November, so we've all gotta make the most of it.

I've had a huge weekend. Some friends have been down from Sydney, so a group of us went out for an excellent dinner on Friday night. We went to Mecca, on Southbank - and a mighty fine time was had by all. We've been to two dance parties - ever so self-indulgent - and today a group of us went for a long lunch at the Richmond Hill Cafe and Larder: something that I highly recommend for any visitors to Melbourne. We're very very spoilt in Melbourne, with the sheer number of excellent and affordable restaurants, although the downside (if it could be called that) of living here is that Melburnians can be real wankers when we're out of town. The standard of food and service at mid-range restaurants here is generally so good that when you're at an equivalent restaurant/cafe in another town, it's difficult to be satisfied. I have sat at a cafe in Sydney and spent an hour and a half basically bitching about how the waiter has over-filled my wine glass. Mercy!

Another audacious Aussie protest last night, about something that matters just a little bit more. This one was done by the latest evictee from the current season of Big Brother. Generally it's shite television, but last night it was completely hijacked in protest against John Howard's treatment of refugee children. Ballsy stuff!

2:58 AM ::
Mr Smithers :: permalink

Morning Reading

There's a very interesting article about the turmoil between the Pentagon and the CIA in Salon today. If you're not a subscriber you'll have to sit through a short ad, but it's well worth the 15 seconds.
1:19 AM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Sunday, June 13, 2004
Day Seven

We spent the afternoon and evening shooting some restaurant scenes at Tsunami. Doris was back as a pissed-off customer (for those who watch the film closely, it may occasionally appear that there are only fifteen or sixteen people living in Memphis); we had better luck with the extras today. We broke a couple of plates, we threw a little food, the usual sort of thing. A pretty smooth shoot all told.

There was a brief moment of excitement when a local transient denizen known as Bill suffered a grand mal seizure on the sidewalk outside; everyone rushed to help and to call the ambulance. He seemed to find his awakening to a crowd of people more alarming than the seizure itself. The paramedics, who were clearly very familiar with Bill, helped him up and took him to the hospital. This kind of thing is starting to become rather common... little "emergencies" that turn out to be not all that serious, but are distressing enough in the moment. First, there was the bug in Morgan's ear; then, last week, the fire alarms in the church went off, and five fire trucks showed up (it was a false alarm); and now another ambulance/fire truck call for old Bill. Very odd.

Everyone's supposed to be going to a local club for 80s dance night... I have to say, I'm not a big clubber. However, in order to show willing, I'm going briefly; I suppose it can't hurt anything, and it'll make Amber and Morgan happy.
9:45 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Weird Dream

I was standing in a field, when a big flaming ball dropped out of the sky and hit a cluster of houses a mile or so away. There was a fairly large explosion (more debris than fire), a sort of dusty-looking column of smoke. It wasn't a bomb or anything, though; more like a meteorite.

Any thoughts?
3:29 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

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 ::
Sister Novena :: permalink