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

Saturday, June 26, 2004
Fahrenheit 9/11, part II

(Warning: contains potential spoilers, as far as a documentary about well-known events can be spoiled.)

If you read this blog regularly, you'll remember that in this post, I linked to a piece quoting Godard saying of Michael Moore at Cannes, ""Moore doesn't distinguish between text and image... He doesn't know what he's doing."

Godard can be a crusty old guy at the best of times, of course, and American filmmakers are a favorite target of his crotchety-ness. As it happened, he hadn't even seen Fahrenheit 9/11 at the time he said that... if he had, he might have realized that Moore might just be a more sophisticated filmmaker than he'd given him credit for.

Moore's work has long been characterized by funny bits that taunt the powers-that-be, which normally feature Moore himself at the forefront of the action. For most of his career, Moore has relied on his chops as a fearlessly obnoxious questioner, as well as his genuinely prodigious sense of humor, to make his films compelling. (I still adore the old bit from "TV Nation" when he took a squad of racially-diverse cheerleaders to a Klan gathering to jump around on the borders of the rally site and cheer "we love you! we love you!" to the Klansmen. That was Michael Moore at his absolute best.)

Alas, as passionate and, in my opinion, correct as Moore's opinions are, when he has a position to get across, he ocassionally allows himself to fall back on techniques that are really not fair. And I don't mean "not fair" in that they don't represent the other side's views -- I don't expect him to do that -- but "not fair" in that no human being could reasonably be anticipated to respond favorably to some of the situations into which he's placed people like Dick Clark (the host of American Bandstand, not the former head counter-terrorism) and Charleton Heston. His beef with those people may indeed be legitimate; in fact, I expect it is. But ambushing people just doesn't do the argument justice... if the point is strong, you shouldn't need to rely on those tactics to make it stick.

So, Moore's films are invariably entertaining (or infuriating, if you're on the other side of the debate), but unless you're really completely ignorant of how these things work, you always come away with some reservations. "It would've been a great film, except..."

But for once, Michael Moore has managed to get over that last bit of himself, and has made a movie strictly from his soul. It's the best work he's ever done. Getting back to Godard's statement about not distinguishing between image and text, in Fahrenheit 9/11 Moore demonstrates that not only can he distinguish, but he can use images in highly subtle and sophisticated ways. The most exceptional example of this comes early in the film; it's a representation of the morning of September 11, 2001.

The attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon are obviously frought with difficulty when it comes to documentary. On the one hand, those images are highly charged, and even now seem almost sacred, untouchable. On the other hand, they've also been used and used and used; the same four or five tapes have been seen ad nauseam by every single American since the day they were made. By now, each of us has our own private baggage that accompanies those images; they are no longer fresh. And while they still illicit a response, it's a well-practised, familiar response, and thus unlikely to touch us on any new levels. So how does a filmmaker portray an event that everyone is painfully over-familiar with? How does he get us in that moment without risking trampling on everyone's well-guarded emotions about the event?

Moore came up with an ingenious solution: don't use the images at all.

Instead, we listen to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, while staring at a black screen. The mechanical projector goes dark, and the mental projections begin: each individual viewer sits, listening to the terrifying, thunderous booming of the impact of jet into steel and glass, spending 30 or 40 seconds watching the private images inside their heads. All those morbid fantasies you lingered over after the attacks -- what would it be like to jump? what would it be like to see the building coming down on top of you? what would it be like to be there, watching it happen? -- come back to visit you in a darkened cinema, and you're there, you're back in that moment. The black screen acts as a vessel for all your emotions, and an entirely different, and very rare, kind of projection occurs.

When the images begin to return, Moore still uses a kind of cinematic negative space to represent the destroyed towers; except for one brief glimpse of the base of one tower, we never see them in the film. Instead, we see the reactions of people watching, we see the horror on their faces, and we know exactly what they're seeing without having to be shown. We're connected to them, and we remember what we felt ourselves on that day as if we were experiencing it all for the first time. It's an incredibly harrowing and masterful bit of filmmaking. Moore definitely knows the difference between image and text.

Another welcome departure from Moore's previous work is his newfound willingness to let others speak for him. Rather than make his arguments himself -- and thus leave them vulnerable to criticism based not on their content but rather on who made them -- he uses video of other people speaking to contruct his narrative. He still speaks, but for the most part the most important words are left to others. When a grieving mother is confronted by a grossly insensitive passerby on a sidewalk, Moore does not intervene. When a badly wounded soldier has something to say, Moore steps back and lets him speak for himself. This is a Michael Moore I like, a Michael Moore I can really respect.

There are still a few of the signature Moore bits, though, and several of them are quite funny; the guy knows how to get a laugh, even if Bush provides him with a particularly easy target. Moore remains, perhaps, a bit too willing to go for the easy conclusion, and suffers from a hesitance to let things remains as complex and messy and confusing as they really are. Now and then I felt a bit of cinematic whiplash when we moved abruptly from solemnity or anger to gleeful mockery of our common foe. But I get the feeling that there will be fewer cries of "manipulator" and "liar" this time around... the material felt solid and well-backed-up, and there was very little need to set up anything. The subject and the argument are so strong that Moore didn't have to work to find a clear shot at it; the Bush administration's failures and gross corruption present a target the size of a barn door. It would have been more of a challenge for Moore to get it wrong.

I still have a few worries about how Moore's work fits into the genre as a whole, although I'm far less bothered by them in this case than I was by Bowling For Columbine. I read a comment by someone -- I wish I could remember where, so I could link to it -- saying that Fahrenheit 9/11 isn't propaganda, it's counter-propaganda. If nothing else, the "counter-propaganda" label at least acknowledges that this is a two-sided fight; it ain't just Michael Moore and his liberal audiences screaming in the desert. But this film I think really has transcended the propaganda label (I realize that others disagree); its point of view is blatantly obvious, but that alone doesn't disqualify it as a true documentary. It's also a record of a specific place and time -- it felt like a first attempt at a historical film at times, even if technically it can't be one at all -- and of the mood of a vast group of people living in that setting. As I sat watching it, I could imagine my kids one day watching it as well and asking, "was it really like that?" And I can imagine myself saying to them, "yes, it really was." This is not just a film against one man's re-election campaign, it's a picture of what life was like for roughly half of America during a critical juncture at the beginning of the 21st century. And that picture is one I want to remember. This is a worthy film.
5:05 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Wild-Eyed Hypocrites

Dude... what the fuck?

These people, y'know, when some dumbass compares Dubya to Hitler in a poorly-made advertisement as part of a contest, they go apeshit, scream bloody fucking murder for days on end.

And then what do they do?
A new Bush-Cheney re-election video features clips of Hitler -- the same ones the campaign criticized when they were used in a Web spot that appeared on the Internet site of the liberal activist group as part of a contest in January.

The 77-second Republican ad splices together video of Democrats Al Gore, Howard Dean and others, calling them John Kerry's "Coalition of the Wild-eyed." Interspersed among the clips are images of Hitler.

4:32 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Record Bustin' Daddy

There isn't a free link available yet, but apparently as of this morning, Fahrenheit 9/11 is in the #1 spot for the weekend. There are still two days to go, but after Friday, F.9/11 had pulled in $8.2 million, and White Chicks had done only $6.8 million.

"Fahrenheit" is crushing both expectations of those involved in the film as well as industry rivals.
Ortenberg said that while tracking data did not predict sales this strong, the trends had been encouraging.

"The most important thing in the tracking is the trend. Every day our numbers keep going up for awareness and interest," he said.

Sehring added, "It would be great if it held for the weekend. It could break the documentary box office record in just one weekend."

(Ripped shamelessly from Kos)

Phenomenal. Simply fucking phenomenal.
11:56 AM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Other People's Lives

Sometimes, for no particular reason, we are afforded glimpses into the lives of strangers.

I wrote a couple of days ago about text messaging and my renewed capacity for it. Prior to writing that, I hadn't received a single text in well over a year... not a single one. Since then, I've been trying it out, but being a bit cautious since I don't actually know how much they're costing me yet.

But last night I got two I didn't understand, in the midst of several more from recognized sources. They were wrong numbers; somebody sent me messages intended for someone else:
U mean a comma so he might not live

Im going to savanna

I'm assuming "comma" is supposed to be "coma," and "savanna" doubtless refers to Savannah, Georgia.

My first instinct was to frantically go over the list of people I know in Savannah, which, as it happens, is exactly zero. Then I checked the number against every name I could think of -- who's in a coma? -- but nothing matched up. It's a Mississippi phone number, which could make sense for me, but the lack of context seemed to insist that these were just misdirected messages. I tried calling to find out who the sender was, and to let them know their messages didn't make it to their intended target, but nobody ever answered.

So somebody out there is currently sitting in a hospital Savannah, fretting over a comatose friend or loved one. And strangely, I know about it, even though I don't know who they are or what that means to them.

It's just weird is all.
11:39 AM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Fahrenheit 9/11, part I

It's an intense experience, seeing all your anxieties, all your anger, all your disappointment and disillusionment projected onto a movie screen. It's an enormous relief, finally seeing all that you've thought finally, finally stated plainly and publicly in a form that can't be ignored. Dismissed by some, yes; ragefully denied by others, yes. But they're going to feel it, by god; they're going to hear it whether they like it or not.

This is why American liberals love Michael Moore: he's an imperfect filmmaker, and often does things we wish he wouldn't. But more often, he's doing what we all want to do ourselves, but can't; what we all desperately need to see to be done. When others vascillate and avoid controversy, Michael Moore is there saying what we're all thinking. He's the only one of our speakers who is genuinely unafraid.

This film is without a doubt his best; I'll talk about that in greater depth in a separate post. It's not without flaws and weak spots, but finally Michael Moore is pissed off enough to (mostly) forego his usual theatrics, and finally he has found a story so compelling that it he doesn't feel the need to stand in its way as he often does. He shows us the footage that the American press has neglected, or that the Bush administration has been unwilling to release: this is what Baghdad looks like from the inside when bombs are dropping; this is what a dead Iraqi child looks like; here's a maimed soldier to look at, to listen to. And here's your leader, chumming it up with those who really did harbor terrorists; here's your leader sitting useless while his nation was attacked; here's your leader gloating over carnage; here's your leader brushing off his failure to capture those responsible. Do you like what you see? What will you do about it?

In Fahrenheit 9/11 Moore has finally managed to express why the American left is so angry at the Bush administration. Does the right really think it's because we "hate America," because we don't support the troops, because we love terrorists and Saddam Hussein? Are they blind? Are they that gullible? We're angry because after our country was victimized once, by evil men who came seemingly out of nowhere to kill thousands of people, our anguish and our faith in the man who, for better or worse, was now our leader was taken and coldly used for the benefit not of our country, but for the benefit of that same leader and those close to him. Our credibility in the world was destroyed, our freedom at home was reduced, we were terrorized not only by those who'd attacked us but by those who purported to protect us, our treasury was pillaged and our children indebted, our troops were killed, many innocents were slaughtered in our name, we were broadly maligned as terrorist-coddlers and American-haters, and our faith in everything that we had been told was good about our imperfect country was badly shaken. After we were victimized once by Osama and his boys, the Bush administration came along and victimized us a second time. The man who was meant to protect us merely finished the job our attackers began.

So, you bet your fucking ass we're pissed off, and there are more of us than you think. We will not let you get away with it.

I have no illusions that anyone who supports Bush or who supported this godforsaken war will go see this film, or that if they do, they'll change their views as a result of it. But I think it's important that they see: this is what your unquestioning loyalty has wrought. If all you watch is Fox News, you have not even begun to see the reality of this war; your John Wayne fantasies bear little relationship to the war as it actually exists. If Rush Limbaugh is all you have heard of the Bush administration, you have not faced the truth of what it is you support. This isn't about blowjobs and what the meaning of the word "is" is; this is about the failure of all that America is supposed to mean, this is about my ability to ever hold my head up in the world as a citizen of this country. This is about our collective humanity.

While you were droning on and on about patriotism and supporting the troops, while you were accusing us of not being "American" enough, you missed the point: you are speaking of being an "American," but we're talking about being human.

(Note: this post is comprised of my emotional, visceral response to the film. A more critical, intellectual post will follow soon.)
1:33 AM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Day Sixteen

Y'know... I'm really tired of blogging about this shoot. I'm really tired of the shoot itself, too. I'm just ready to be done, to move on with my life, get on to the next thing.

So let's make it simple:

We did some shooting at the Butler Street Bazaar; it all went fine. Some lady, apparently a friend of one of the actresses, wandered perilously close to the shot, but none of us could pull her away without also risking ruining the shot. As the action came close to her, she ended up hiding behind a door. I think it all turned out okay.

An hour or so after dinner, I started feeling really, really queasy. I can't imagine what would have made me sick -- dinner was catered, rice and beans, salad, fruit, bread, brownies, nothing that seemed particularly salmonella or e. coli-prone -- but I was definitely ill. It was the last shoot of the last (official) day, and I was trying my best to hang in there, but obviously out on a film shoot is the last fucking place you want to be with a case of food poisoning, so Amber sent me home. I felt rather guilty about it, but relieved. I had a rough night, but I feel much better now.

Tomorrow we make another attempt at the second party-house shoot, and then, I believe, my obligations to this film are complete, and any further shooting will be on an as-you-can basis.
1:28 AM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Friday, June 25, 2004
Not My Proper Post About Fahrenheit 9/11

I went to the 2:45 matinee at Studio on the Square with a cluster of others from the Co-op and the production. I found it to be a pretty intense experience, and I have a lot I want to say about it, but I'm not going to be able to until later. First, because I'm still trying to digest it all, but mostly because tonight's our wrap party, so I've got other places to be for a while. (I also still have a post to write about day 16 of the production, which I haven't forgotten... I got a bit of a case of food poisoning last night, so blogging wasn't at the forefront of my mind.)

A few quick things, though:

The turnout was phenomenal, literally. I caught a discussion of political documentaries on the radio yesterday, and the question was asked: Will Fahrenheit 9/11 be the number one movie at the box office this weekend? The answer was no, it would be beaten by White Chicks, which is opening on roughly three times as many screens today. But I have to say, if the crowds at my cinema were any indication, Michael Moore's got a surprisingly good shot at the #1 slot. There were hundreds of people there for the 2:45 show; the noon show had sold out, as had the 7- and 9-o'clock shows when we entered. By the time we'd left, ALL the shows had sold out, including two for Sautrday. That's a staggering opening weekend for a documentary... I'd be confident in guessing that it's probably unprecedented. And there are two other theaters in town also showing it... I don't know what their crowds looked like (I'd guess not quite as overwhelming), but the simple fact that a doc feature sold out any screenings at all is incredible; I've never heard of anything like it. If there are several hundred angry liberals at just the 2:45 matinee screening at one theater here in Memphis, Tennessee, I can only imagine what the response will be on a national level.

I think I'll have to post on the film in two parts -- one dealing with my emotional response, and one dealing with my intellectual response. I also intend to see the film again sometime next week when I can watch it with a colder eye I'm sure over the next few days, weeks, and months, various conservatives will continue to decry the film, and will make assertions about falsehoods/manipulations/etc. We'll take those as they come, as we always do, and I'm sure I'll be revisiting the subject over the long haul.

Check back later for more.
6:51 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Day Fifteen

Once again, I'm a little late in posting. Between you and me, it's a minor miracle that I'm still posting on this shoot at all... I lost interest in the venture at least a week ago. I'll probably be glad I stuck with it later, though.

Okay... let's see... where to begin?

I started Tuesday (if you accept 6 PM as "starting Tuesday") by completely bailing on the Co-op workshop. I was supposed to give some instruction on basic camera operating, but by the time 7:30 rolled around I was in a somewhat surly mood, and feeling only like hiding under a rock somewhere. Giving of myself and interacting closely with other people were not things I felt capable of doing, at least not if I wanted to prevent myself from bailing on the shoot later.

So I set 'em up with a DVD -- some doc on poetry slams by a workshop attendee/Co-op member that would've been good if it were cut down to about 20 minutes (the actual running time was roughly two hours) -- and once the lights were out, I retreated to an office and spent an hour or so valiantly resisting the urge to freak out completely. While I was in there, Lee (the director of the next film I'm working on) tapped on the door and asked to talk. To be honest, at that moment that was the last thing I wanted -- it wasn't about Lee, who's a great guy, but just about being spoken to about yet another film, another way to give up two months of my life. But Lee was actually helpful; he's a rather calming presence, and reassured me about where I was at as much as I hope I reassured him about his ongoing preproduction worries. Morgan's been in a rough place the last few days, and the Great Directorial Triad has been pretty inaccessible; there hsa really been nobody to vent to about this uncomfortable last stage of production, at a time when venting is good for one's sanity.

Things on the production front have continued to be tricky. We arrived back at the party house at 2:45 AM with the cast and crew(but no drunken extras), to discover that we were not particularly welcome. This is the problem with unpaid locations, especially those that are normally somebody's home... as much as you try to leave things in good order, once people realize how extensive the disruption to their lives can be, they often begin to do whatever they feel they can get away with to repel the production. It's highly understandable, and even the most well-informed hosts often don't really, really realize what they're in for. I can't blame the home's residents for not wanting us back, but it does cause some significant problems for the shoot. For one thing, we had twenty people standing around at 3 AM not doing anything, and second, while it might be possible to scout another location that would match closely enough, it's a huge pain in the ass and not guaranteed to be successful. We don't yet know that we won't be able to use that location again, but at the very least we have to reschedule those scenes. That means the production just became one day longer at a stage when nobody wants to do an extra day.

The tension surrounding Philly continues as well... she's one of those people who has apparently decided that she has a right -- nay, a moral obligation -- to shit on anyone she decides isn't doing enough for her. She's an interesting personality, to be sure, and I do understand why Morgan cast her; I just wonder if it was worth the trauma. We have a laid-back, adaptable, relaxed cast and crew; there are few rampant egos around, and I think that's a big part of what has allowed this to be as peaceable and smooth a production as it has been. Philly enters the scene as a raving egotist, shitting all over that easygoing vibe. (I want to underline here that this is NOT Morgan's fault; Philly is solely responsible for her own actions. I don't think Morgan realized when he invited her what a disruptive influence she would be.)

11:36 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink


I find it amazing that text messaging is not used in the USA. Over this way, text messaging is HUGE ... I typically send/receive a half-dozen or so per day, and more on the weekends (and I'm an old fart, really old and stuff, y'know ... kids send far far more).

It's just such a handy way of communicating...

If you have something brief to say, but can't be arsed actually talking to someone, it's perfect. If it's late at night, and you aren't sure whether someone is awake, you can send a txt "r u awake" before disturbing them with a phone call. If someone is trying to find your house, you can text them the address and basic directions which they can consult repeatedly as they find their way over. If you have been asked out on a date and really enjoyed it, but are not sure whether it is you or the other person who should call first, a quick text is an ideal risk-free method for letting that person know you're interested. And when the relationship is over, a text - "u r dumped" - is a nice easy way of ending it. (I'm only partially kidding on that last point - text-dumping does happen.)

Ain't technology grand? You Americans don't know what you're missing out on.

I haven't posted for a little while - slack of me. While you're waiting, take a look at Mark Latham (leader of the opposition Labor Party) and his man boobs.
6:37 PM ::
Mr Smithers :: permalink

Tuesday, June 22, 2004
Minor Triumphs

I'm reaching the end of my endurance.

This is a common point to reach on any shoot... the moment when you hit the wall, and feel unable to continue any further. You get past it, of course; you just do what you've got to do, and eventually you either get a second wind, or the production comes to an end. In this case, the latter is likely to happen before the former.

But I haven't had a day off in weeks; I feel as though I'm "on duty" continually, people calling me up to solve little problems and answer questions. The main cause of my malaise isn't physical exhaustion, it's the simple fact that I've had almost no time for myself in the last month. And as a person who needs a certain amount of silence and solitude, the lack of personal time can wear me down as much as sleep deprivation or hunger (if not as quickly).

We're going to get through this shoot, though -- everyone is feeling it, not just me, so I have no place to complain -- but I'm ready to be through with this.

The good thing about reaching this point is that small pleasantries become that much more gratifying... my bed has rarely felt as welcoming as it does now, for example. Also, I was very pleased to discover today that, somehow, I am suddenly able to send text messages overseas.

Text messaging was my primary mode of on-the-run communication in London; I also used it frequently to have happy little interludes with friends in farther-flung places. He who is known here as Smithers was a common text buddy. But when I got back to the US, I found I was no longer able to indulge in international text messages, and nobody here seems to use them. So I forgot about them altogether.

But early this morning turned on my phone to discover than a friend in London, Dom, had sent me a message... and it had actually gotten through. I replied, not really expecting my response to hit the other end, but miraculously it did. A later test message to Smithers confirmed: I can text abroad again. Hooray!

So if any of my foreign friends read this and want to drop me a 160-character line, let me know.
8:04 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Day Fourteen

Jesus fucking Christ, what a night.

Blogging is just about the last thing I want to do right now, but I'm falling behind on these posts, and I know I've got another busy night tonight, so I figure I ought to make an effort now while I've got a little time. Last night was the big shoot at the party house, and a lot went on... I'm facing a few dilemmas because some of what's been happening is mostly interpersonal messiness and thus technically none of my business. That is to say, I fear that I might tread on territory that some would prefer I stay off of... but at the same time, all of this is not only having an impact on the shoot, but is also just part and parcel of the process. And the point of these posts is not only to document this particular film shoot, but also to provide one more case study of an independent feature film production, so it seems reasonable to include some of this. If anyone objects, I'll consider removing it... but I'm not making any promises.

The first drama involves our Executive Producer, Ginger, who's very cool and well-liked by everyone, not to mention the fairy godmother of this whole production. Opposing Ginger is Philly, the NYC punk-diva-queen-bitch who starred in a number of Todd Verow's films and previously attended the Co-op film festival with Mr. Verow; that visit went fine, which is what led to Philly being cast in this film. Ginger has been staying at Morgan's apartment; Philly is also now staying at Morgan's apartment. Ginger and Philly get along about as well as two things that don't even remotely get along... much of the friction is coming directly from Philly, though, who's making herself quite unwelcome in various unpleasant ways. At this point, nobody even really wants to talk to her; last I heard she was being written out of the film. Still, she's angry now, still encamped in Morgan's apartment, and god knows what else... at this point, neither Morgan nor Ginger dare enter, so she's essentially taken over Morgan's home.

The second unhappy episode involves the young actor who has been playing "Superkid" (the junkie fourteen-year-old) in the film, and playing it very well. His name is Adam, he's a very young-looking fifteen-year-old (he looks thirteen at most), and has been one of the most accomodating, patient actors in the whole cast. Amber and Morgan had made very clear to his father that the film was going to deal with controversial subjects -- drugs, alcohol, sex -- and Adam's father, much to his credit, took the time to get to know the crew and decided he was okay with all of that. Thus Adam ended up in a very edgy role that was written specifically for him, which culminated in an incredible scene last week (?) which was on its way to becoming one of the iconic scenes in the film.

But the inclusion of young actors always has its pitfalls, and tonight we fell into one of them. Adam's stepmother brought Adam to the designated meeting place tonight, reportedly saw some people drinking there, and decided she wasn't comfortable with the film and withdrew him entirely.

On one level, I have to grudgingly respect the decision even if I disagree with it... I'm sure she's just trying to do what she thinks is best. As a filmmaker, it pissed me off enormously... that was a shitty thing to do at the last moment, when we had made every possible effort to accomodate Adam's parents' concerns; there had been ample time to make these decisions when it wouldn't have damaged the film so badly. As someone who's had two stepmothers, it pissed me off even more... stepmothers are duplicitious creatures, and not to be trusted. I say this hesitantly, as my own mother is also someone's stepmother... but the fact remains that unlike stepfathers (who either are cool or bad, but never ambiguous), stepmothers go to great pains to appear to be "cool," while their loyalties always lie elsewhere. When it comes down to tough situations, a stepmother will fuck you every time. (Sorry, Mom, it's just the truth.) And last night, Adam got fucked.

So between Adam and Philly, we've lost two cast members in one night, and endured a lot of unnecessary stress. Combined with the usual crabbiness that goes along with an all-night shoot, things were fairly dysfunctional all night long, although not as bad as some shoots I've seen. We muddled through somehow. The rest of the party shoot was rigorous but smooth enough... we got all our scenes (with some modifications around the Adam-shaped hole), and nobody killed anyone else... so pretty laid-back, considering. Over the course of the night I was gradually coated with a thin veneer of sweat, stale beer, and insect repellant; and we got to see the less felicitous sides of some of our fellow crewmembers. But that's okay... that's all part of it.

In the morning we shot some more with Mark at Peabody Park, and then finally retired to the Co-op where Ginger and Morgan lamented not being able to go home and go to bed... I would have liked to have been able to help, but there wasn't much I could do for them.

It's shoots like last night's that really separate the genuine filmmakers from those who aren't really up for it after all... shooting, exhausted and frustrated, in a hot, dirty house, all goddamn night long, when there are a hundred other things you'd rather be doing at that moment. It's not easy, it's not always fun (though it really should be most of the time), it's certainly not glamorous, and often there are few rewards.

And if you think I've got some kind of "it's all worth it, really" statement to make after that, you're wrong... right now, at this moment, all I want is a bath and my bed. I have a vague feeling that in November, when we're enjoying the premiere in Chicago, I'll be very glad I did it, but this morning I can't imagine what I was thinking.
8:11 AM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Day Three, Revisted

(A day late posting this... sorry.)

We re-shot Mark's stuff in Court Square, making up for the shoot when things went a bit wrong. It went much better this time, although we were still short one actor -- a much less difficult thing to deal with this time, as she wasn't crucial to the scene.

One of Mark's scenes involved another time-lapse shot, which went very well. The mosquitos were horrendous, though... the rest of us were being driven insane, and poor Mark just had to sit there, stock still, and take it while we did the shot. He sat there like a buddha while the mosquitos did their damnedest to drain him dry.

We had another encounter with a fire truck and an ambulance... nothing even remotely to do with us, but it does sometimes seem as though our little drama is attracting a lot of other little dramas.

Otherwise, it was pretty much the usual stuff... dealing with panhandlers, sipping coffee... typical movie shoot activities.
6:58 AM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Sunday, June 20, 2004
Inky Fingers

After being paid this week, I ended up with a small sum of cash that I didn't immediately need for anything. Since even small luxuries are so few and far between these days, I went to the only decent stationer in town looking for something useful and pleasing.

I've been feeling what I hope is the beginning of a surge of creativity. I've been feeling like writing again -- I mean, free writing, not this focused blog stuff; it's been a long time since I've actually felt like it. In high school, I was a writer... I got a lot of support and recognition for it, and was convinced for a long time that writing was my true calling. Somewhere in there, though, I became disillusioned with the whole thing -- it may have had something to do with familial baggage (both my father and my paternal grandmother had authorial aspirations, and I didn't care to be like either of them), or it may simply have been that, like all teenagers, I was intensely self-critical and expected more of myself than I could reasonably achieve. In any case, not long before I left high school, I rejected writing. I think the rejection was largely about rebellion: I had little to rebel against in my daily life (my mother was very tolerant, and I was a good and trustworthy kid, so few restrictions were placed on me), so I rebelled against something in my inner life, something I'd come to take as a given.

Once I got to college I did the academic thing for a few years -- which doesn't involve actual writing so much as a kind of tortured reporting -- and decided I hated that as well, and then I made a short film for a class I took on a whim, and that short film launched an obsession.

(Vexingly, when I was writing stories in school, I was often told that I'd make an excellent screenwriter; when I started writing screenplays, I was often told I'd do well writing short stories. In the end, I wrote neither.)

But like I say, lately I've found that I'm starting to feel like it again. Maybe this blog has shaken something loose in my head? Maybe it has something to do with the people I've been in contact with lately? Maybe it's just time to start again? Dunno, but I thought the impulse should be honored.

Going briefly back to high school again... when I was younger I had a thing for writing with fountain pens. My teachers hated it, obviously; ink spreads as readily as blood, and can ruin clothes just as easily. I held out as often as I could, and a lot of teachers tolerated it; I was invariably well-liked (except in a couple of cases), and my teachers generally gave me plenty of room to do as I pleased. I was a sweet-natured, quiet girl, or at least appeared to be... which isn't to say it was a false image, because it wasn't, but it wasn't even remotely a complete image.

Anyway, I did like fountain pens. I liked the way the ink would pool up on the paper, I even liked the scratchiness of writing with one (which is something I'd never tolerate in any other kind of pen.) My fingers were often stained black (I never really did learn how to control the ink very well... I actually still doubt whether that's even possible), but that never bothered me until I was sixteen or so. A teacher I really liked made a comment about it one day -- something about it not being ladylike or some other minor, irrelevant point like that -- and suddenly I became very self-conscious about it. As it happens, this began not long before I decided to ditch writing altogether.

So as I quit writing, I also threw away my fountain pens. And now that I've decided maybe I'd like to try again, I thought I probably ought to go get a new one.

I actually ended up getting two... one cartridge-refill number to carry around, and a plain wooden stylus with a set of brass nibs, and a little bottle of black ink. Once I got them home it took all of thirty seconds to end up with inky fingers again. I think I might actually prefer them that way.
6:54 PM ::
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