Monday, June 25, 2007
Everything To Everyone

Just so nobody can say I don't strive to satisfy my readership:

I started this blog more or less on March 1, 2004. The start of the Iraq war almost a year previously had sent me fleeing to the internet in search of socio-political succor I couldn't reliably find in Mississippi, and I'd ended up doing a lot of writing and interacting online. After a year of it, though, I'd become frustrated by the restrictions and high bullshit factor of online forums, and kind of hated that I put so much time into writing stuff that was inevitably ignored and/or lost to the void. The former I can't do much about, but at least I should be able to keep what I write.

So I started this blog. There were other reasons, too -- it's a cheater's way to stay in touch with lots of people at once, it serves as a sort of home base where I can always be found, it's an ongoing journal of my day-to-day life, and it's an outlet for all the stuff I otherwise wouldn't say. It helps me overcome the worst of my inhibitions, it allows me to take my writing skillz out for walkies on a regular basis, and I never have to feel guilty or self-conscious about pushing myself on other people -- by definition, the only people who read any of this are the ones who are interested. Or at least they can't say they didn't come of their own free will.

Mostly, though, it provides me with the one thing I desperately need in order to write: an audience. Usually it's an abstraction, a sort of generalized "you" to whom I might address myself, but I can't write without it. I've never written only for myself, I don't see the point. Some of my posts are directed at specific people, some of them are just me talking to myself to you. But the idea that someone might be reading is the bridge that gets my thoughts out of my head and down in text.

If you've ever checked out my archives, you'll see that the early posts were mostly of the standard political snark variety popular at the time. It was something I needed to do back then, but a couple of years ago it began to shift -- less topical, more personal. Posts became less frequent and less relevant, but chewier and more revealing. If you ever want to know anything about me, it's probably in here somewhere. People I haven't met yet will one day get to know me, at least in part, by reading my old posts; a few of you have already done that. I can almost re-live the last few years of my life by reading my own archives. Not that I ever do. Whenever I try, it's always surprising -- I don't remember writing any of this stuff. Sometimes I don't even recognize it.

The "Sister Novena" part of the title I would probably change now if it weren't such a pain to do it -- significant parts of my online persona are tied into Sister Novena, and switching to something else would require a lot of updating. But I don't think it suits me anymore, if it ever really did -- still, I haven't come up with anything better, so for now it's stuck to me. And I actually came up with the name "Portapulpit" when I was a kid, for something else entirely. I used it for the blog because a) it suggests mobility, which is paramount in anything in my life that I hope to make last; and b) I can be kinda preachy. Ergo...

I suppose I should say that I hope post #2000 is about my recent win at Sundance, or the tremendous reception my film received at Cannes or something like that. I hope it takes place in a marginally saner America, and I hope it's not still about the fucking Iraq war. I hope I have a quieter place to write -- you have no idea how many posts I've aborted because the space here can be so hostile to concentration. I won't say I hope I'm "happy," because if I am, I probably won't be blogging anymore. I think I can say, looking back at post #1, that I've made progress since then; and I guess I hope that when I get to #2000 I can say the same relative to this one. I wouldn't care to suppose what that might mean, though -- right now, my main thing is staying open to whatever comes next. All I'm looking for is a surprise.

I did that last interview today, finally; it was good. There was a moment towards the end when my subject looked down my lens and spoke for a couple of minutes with such articulate concision, summing up his experiences of the last year with earnestness and perfect clarity. And I knew as soon as he'd finished and looked up at me that I was done shooting; those were the last words of this interminable shoot, and will likely become the last words of the film. Each of my three subjects has a particular contribution to make -- one is warm and engaging, open, unfailingly optimistic and enthusiastic; one is sardonic and goes off on fantastic, almost poetic little rants about the pressures of teaching in the delta; and this third guy I know I can always count on for clear-headed analysis and the perfectly formed, well-expressed thought.

He asked me, as I packed up, what the film was going to be used for. I told him honestly that I didn't know -- all I was going to do was make the best film I could from the material I have, and then give it to the MTC to do with as they like. He asked me what I thought the film would be, and I told him again that I didn't know. Somewhere in all those tapes there's a seed, some little scrap of footage that will make me think of something else, that will lead me to explore one aspect of the story or another, which will then demand an explanation which I will go and piece together. And that's how it'll all come together -- as artificial as it is, it's a wholly organic process that can only take place over the course of time. And as much footage as I have, I could make a hundred different films. At this point I have no more idea what film I'll end up actually making than I have what kind of life I'll end up living. I have the same sense of potential, the same kind of vision in my mind, but enough experience to know that it won't -- and ultimately shouldn't -- turn out exactly how I think it will. And that's the best part of it. It's the process that matters most, not the product.

Still, one phase of this process is over now, and another will start directly. I find myself at the terminus of more than one process lately. But more on that in another post.
7:32 PM ::
Amy :: permalink