Tuesday, April 15, 2008Reprieve
It turns out that my earlier certainty regarding looming disappointment may have been premature. It now seems that disappointment has been, at the very least, pushed back another couple of weeks.
So that's good.
It doesn't actually change the question, though. While I now have, if only temporarily, renewed hope for my immediate future, I've still done a lot of thinking about what I'm actually trying to accomplish in my work. A little stability and an adequate income are necessary regardless of what I choose to do for a job; what I do for my work is still an open question.
Maybe the point is that a part of me wants to put the filmmaking away for a year or two and focus on writing instead.
I've written about all of this before, and I'll probably write about it again and again. But for me, setting aside the technical and aesthetic stuff, there isn't actually much difference between filmmaking and writing, at least not where the end goal is concerned. My objective is basically the same in both cases. I love stories, and I love the little stories of normal people living lives of quiet passion and tiny, unexpected drama. I love the structure of a well-made story, and I love playing with that structure. I can do it with film, or I can do it with words. One requires a lot more force of will for me to produce, but both require enormous effort to do well. So much effort, in fact, that I can't imagine trying to seriously do both at once. Serially, sure, but not simultaneously; I just haven't got it in me.
So acknowledging that from my own perspective, I can accomplish my personal ends with either medium, the next question is which medium currently suits me best. There are aspects of film which I value highly and which can never translate to writing; but the trade-off is that the work is much, much harder for me, not perhaps on the creative level but rather on the practical level. Writing leaves out all of the complex, dynamic process of making a film, but in exchange it leaves me with work that comes to me relatively easily. And I think the obvious point that needs to be made again is that, unlike film, against which I've spent ten years thumping like a moth against a windowpane, I've never made any serious attempt to write. I just spend my evenings reeling off this self-indulgent prattle because I happen to feel like it. I've never approached it as real work, only as a half-assed hobby. So maybe it would be interesting to try taking it seriously for a while. And maybe putting the film aside in the meantime is an acceptable compromise to make.
I have a project in mind. It occurred to me a couple of years ago, and strikingly few examples of similar work seem to exist. Not as many as you'd expect, anyway. It has potential for broad general appeal, and tons of amazing source material available. And to actually undertake the project, which would be immense, would be an act of sheer love and passion on my part. The downside: it's hard material to work with, especially in writing, and especially coming for a basically intellectual perspective. It would not be a simple or easy thing to accomplish. It would be a challenging bit of work for even a brilliant writer, much less me.
To put it as simply as possible, for a half-formed idea: I want to write about the greatest performing comedians -- not just the good ones, but the transcendent few -- and about stand-up comedy as a modern vehicle for hard philosophy and the seat of society's hardest collective work. Bruce as a post-modern philosopher king, Pryor as catalyst, Hicks as prophet, Kaufman as holy fool. The most serious intellectual matters disguised as light entertainment. I want to take their art as seriously as they did, and root around in it the way people do about the work of Dylan, or Picasso, or Joyce. Because I believe very strongly that in their way they were artists of equal stature; but because they worked in one of the low arts, what they were really doing has been mostly missed by society if not by their individual admirers.
I mean, you're all smart; you can imagine how something like that could go horribly, dreadfully wrong in the writing. But if it worked...
The good news is that I have some other material to work on as a dry run, stuff that's similarly intangible and resistant to discursive definition, but about which I feel just as strongly, the work for which would be just as much an act of love, and for which I have my subject within easy first-hand reach. If that initial project was successful, it would be a good step up to dealing with this other, more complicated material.
The other thing I've been thinking about this is that, were I to set off in this direction, I think I must resolve to get past my unrelenting need for outside approval. Even starting to think about doing this, I immediately started to think about how I would know whether I was good enough, to what authority I might appeal for judgment, what proof of qualification I should obtain. But my quest for a stamp of approval, I know, is ultimately just another way for me to uselessly spin my wheels. It's probably time I take up creative responsibility and turn to myself as my own authority and judge. |