Tuesday, January 03, 2006
The Next Small Thing

The holidays are over, and life is returning to normal. So... what next? I'm not even sure where to begin.

Intellectually and creatively, I feel like a high-strung dog in a field full of people carrying sticks, frisbees, and tennis balls. For the love of God, I whimper, somebody throw something! A few weeks off have left me completely re-energized (for the first time in years, I think), and I'm desperate for somebody to come play with me. So far, though, all those tantalizing projectiles are still hanging at everyone's sides.

Luckily, I've got my own stash of chew toys. In fact I've got so many I'm having to divide my weeks up between them -- yesterday I spent several hours working through an introductory lesson on CGI. My first accomplishment was modest to the point of being a bit pitiful: I made a little stick figure dude wearing an ugly hat. But -- and this is the point -- he was a three-dimensional stick figure dude wearing an ugly hat. And one of these days I'll make him dance. My interest obviously isn't in Pixar-style computer animation; to be honest, I've never been all that excited by animation of any kind. And I'm not particularly interested in flashy special effects... no spaceships or photo-realistic giant gorillas for me. I'm just in it for its cinematic applications (which is to say, non-flashy special effects.) It would be incredibly useful to know how to use a green screen effectively, or to use DV footage as a texture map, or to alter lighting or manipulate images on a level that isn't possible in Final Cut Pro. It's becoming one of those skills that any independent film artist should be familiar with, and I don't want to be beholden to anyone else to do the work for me. That would defeat the purpose of being independent, y'know?

Then this afternoon, I'm working on page layouts for my Secret Project. Which is only Secret because I haven't told anyone about it yet... or, at least, nobody in Memphis. And not because I'm hiding it, just because nobody's asked. Which is fine, since it's not ready yet anyway. Tomorrow might be a coffee shop day -- over the last year I've come to the conclusion that there are certain kinds of work I do better in public. I've got two screenplays to work on: one for another short film, and the other for a feature-length project. I feel odd about that second one -- it's not even close to time to think about features yet, and I think I'd want to have a good 5-10 solid shorts behind me before I began to contemplate that massive an undertaking. But the story's here, and while I'm not ready to shoot it I'm perfectly ready to start writing it, and hell, there's no time like the present. Inbetween all of this, my stack of reading is piling up, and we won't even discuss the amount of catch-up film-watching I want to do after a year of limited access.

I'm still trying to find my place in this town in creative terms. I'm well-connected to one reasonably significant film group in town, and socially I'm right at home there, but... creatively, not so much. My nascent style is quite different from the one that seems dominant there, less free-form and more intellectualized, more self-conscious, yet somehow, I think, less "stylish," less haute-cinema. To be perfectly honest, I'm feeling a bit bored with high style, even while I can see its value. Maybe that's sour grapes. However much I might admire it, for me it's always been a case of being outside looking in -- my own work just isn't like that. But seriously, how many species of "quirky" and "off-beat" can we digest before we're all bored stupid with it?

On the other hand, you could argue that I'm aiming for a style even more haute than that. I've spent a year soaking in art film of the wankiest sort, and it has left its mark on me. Pffft, who needs narrative? Not me. Go ahead, tape bug parts to a strip of 16mm and run it through the projector, Stan; I'll get the popcorn. I'm also interested in looking into the possibilities of projection -- extra-dimensional art of a less cinematic, more abstract kind. I'm curious about finding new kinds of display and exhibition, maybe making a few tentative expeditions into the jungles beyond the usual borders of film.

Maybe it's just that a year of taking film seriously, of thinking about it deeply, has left me thinking about my own work more deeply and taking myself more seriously. Combined with some self-indulgence in my reading, I seem to have tapped into a new and particularly deep-looking well of material. (I still didn't really grasp the physics, but the stuff about cellular biology and evolution made my world-view wrap pleasingly back on itself.) I haven't had this much creative energy at my disposal in years, and while that's absolutely a wonderful thing to find oneself with, it's requiring a bit of effort to channel it into some kind of productive structure. Where'd it all come from? I didn't have it a year ago, I know that much. Vermont may have had something to do with it, but it was holding me back as much as it was propelling me forward. But I'll be disgusted with myself if I don't manage to make something of it.
1:22 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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