Sunday, March 12, 2006Sunday Aimlessness
I don't know how things are for you, but I find Sundays almost painfully dull. This, admittedly, has a lot to do with the unstructured quality of my present life -- still not having acquired the real, honest-to-god grown-up job, there's no external pressure that differentiates weekends from weekdays. So weekends are mostly defined, for me, by the fact that everyone else stops doing anything interesting (for me to participate in or just watch), leaving me to wait impatiently for them to start again on Monday. Alternately, we could put it down to my being a steady kind of worker -- the times when I've been happiest at work were the times when days off came few and far between, when I was working three or four weeks at a stretch without a break. I tend to get in a productive groove and then want to stay there; weekends have always felt artificially imposed upon me.
Anyway, the point is that Sundays are when I'm left to my own devices, and that means I invariably start to mull over the less-demanding sorts of issues in my life, and that in turn means that Sundays are when I'm most likely to impose upon my gentle readers the kind of aimless, meandering, quasi-philosophical post I'm going to start writing...
I've been thinking about art again, and more specifically about how I, as a filmmaker, interact with other artists. One of the reasons I chose film as a medium over all of the other worthy candidates was that it promised me the greatest opportunity for creative cross-pollination. Film is a super-medium, potentially encompassing all others -- I'm not a musician, but I can work with musicians; I'm not a writer (well, not for the screen especially) but I can work with writers; I'm not a sculptor, but I can work with sculptors -- you get the idea. Film allows me to focus on all the things that I love the most -- process, structure, narrative, visuals -- all at once, while also finding plenty of opportunity to gain insight into all of these other disciplines. Film, for me, is as much a vehicle for learning as a vehicle for expression. The most interesting people I've met and places I've been and things I've done have all been by way of film.
And these other people are a hugely important part of why I stay in it. Of necessity I find myself working with and around other film people, and generally speaking I love film people. But the people I love the most are the non-film people, and that's where I always hope to forge my strongest creative connections. Some of it's down to ego -- I am frequently jealous of film friends who seem to be doing better than me, although I try very hard to keep my jealousy (and my ego) on a short leash; but I'm never, ever envious of my non-film-friends' successes. In fact, I support them fervently: what's good for them is good for me and good for our various collaborations. But it's also because those are the people who get my mind out of my film-based assumptions and show me new ways to consider creative issues.
One of the things I love best is talking about process -- I don't just want to know what an artist makes, I want to know how they make it. And not just in physical terms -- I want to know about the conceptual work, about the obstacles they have to deal with, about how their processes differ from mine, and why. I haven't the foggiest clue how a composer goes about writing music or a costumer goes about designing a dress, but I'm absolutely, avidly eager to hear their explanation of it. I could sit and listen and discuss all goddamn day long. Sometimes I suspect I got into this just so I could engage in those kinds of conversations. And this can certainly extend beyond pure art -- the wonderful thing about it is that you can draw any discipline or field of knowledge into the circle. Film, for example, is solidly grounded in science and technology; without them, there'd be no such thing as the cinema. The (post)modernity of the medium is part of its intrinsic character.
On the other hand, as I get older I increasingly suspect that some of my artistic values are always going to get in the way of traditional success in my field -- my interests and the film culture at large have yet to really intersect. The deeper I get into whatever passes for my particular, still-developing style, the more I find that I'm chiefly concerned with structure and process -- visual structure, narrative structure, repetition and variation, conducting film production the way you might conduct a lab experiment or a mental exercise. Even at my most optimistic I have strong doubts that the market's ever going to come clamoring for inwardly-self-referential films of people's lips moving. (I think I must've been deaf in a previouslife, because I can happily watch people's lips move for hours at a time -- it's the most sensuous, fascinating thing in the world. I probably shouldn't say that aloud, because now anybody who watches my stuff will always pick out the moving-lips parts -- of which there are plenty -- but fuck it, an artist just likes what a she likes.)
I guess this is all an indirect meditation on what it is I'm actually trying to do, what I hope to accomplish as a filmmaker. At this point, I can safely say that I don't ever really expect to get rich (although a living wage would be a very welcome thing), and that if capital-$ Success ever comes knocking it won't be because I went out courting it. My plan, at the moment, is to crank out at least nine more solid shorts before I even consider attempting anything in a longer form; to be honest, except where compelled to tell a story that requires a feature-length running time, I'd be perfectly happy to keep making chamber films for the rest of my career. I've always had the greatest respect for short forms in all mediums.
I think it's plainly obvious that however mad my skillz may be in some areas, I've probably got another decade's work left to do before I am officially kicking ass. The thing I wrestle with the most when showing people my work is the strong urge to denounce everything I've done so far on the basis that I can do so much better. I've really got to figure out a better way of coping with that, though, since it is my sincere hope that I always feel on the verge of being able to accomplish more. That, for me, is the big reward of doing the work; it's great if people see my work and like it -- that's important, too -- but it's the process of getting better that pulls me in.
I'm all about the process. Sadly, there's not much money in that. |