the circular runner

the anxiety of making my first short film…

In humor, life, media, observations, Uncategorized, writing on January 27, 2012 at 11:45 am


This weekend, along with fourteen other generous and talented people, I shot my first short film. You’d think that I’d be on cloud 9, or at least, that I’d be excited and anxious to get on to the next piece, which is to edit down the footage I have. Yes, that would be a normal response. And to a certain point, that’s how I feel. Normalcy can breach even the fort of craziness that is my head. But just like in those late-night commercials that peddle penis-enlarging pills, my brain is also yelling out, “WAIT, there’s more.”  And that more comes in the form of a question: what was the point of all that work?

My answer: I’m not sure. And maybe that’s the best answer I can give.

Up until I was 23, I was a classical musician, very serious and pretty untalented. My high school music teacher, a strong, opinionated lover of school spirit and Schubert, was unable to sell me on the former, but I took the latter to heart. I also took on her disdain for something she sneeringly referred to as dilettantism.  It’s probably not the best pedagogical strategy to fill your artistically-inclined students with a fear of doing something for the love of it, which is, at least one meaning of the word. But I can also see her point. There is the flighty connotations of the word that she wanted her students to avoid. Mrs. Anderson wanted her students to do things as well as possible. I think that’s all she meant, but I corrupted the lesson somewhere along the way.

When I take on an artistic project, I am less concerned with whether or not I do my best and much more concerned with the purpose of it, by which I mean, will it help me to a career? This not only leads me to judge the validity of what I’m doing, but in the case of this weekend, it leads me to judge some of the people around me, as well.  Basically, as my crew worked the two twelve-hour days this weekend filming my script, I kept having to fight back this annoying gnat-sized voice inside asking why all these people were doing what they were doing. Could this movie lead to anything tangible–beside the move itself?

This little voice is clearly a symptom of my recent conversion to the cult of crass careerism. As a musician, I was always more concerned with practice than with performance–no one, it’s safe to say, gets a career in music by playing scales alone in a room, but that’s all I wanted to do. Then, in my next incarnation, I thought I might be an academic, but once again, I thought about ideas and mastering their lessons without asking myself til a good way into grad school if I could see myself as a career scholar. The answer, I found out, was no, no way in hell!

See the pattern? I know I do. And though I’m glad to say that in middle age, I’ve found mine, that I’m throwing my lot in with writing, that I’d like to make my living creating stories, that I can actually see myself doing what needs to be done for both the craft AND for the career, I can also say that this new concern for career is driving me to ask the WHY question, which is dangerous.  When I think about it, I know there really are two sides of myself battling for control. And to keep with the context of this post, I will liken them to a producer and a director. The producer is practical and worries about budgets, bottom-lines, etc. He is judgmental and always questioning.  On the other side, there is the director/writer side that doesn’t care. It has to be free to play without worrying about what it all means.

Maybe both sides are necessary to making art. Like any team, there’s going to be disagreements, and I need to accept that. But even now, I hear the battle raging. I think of it as subtext for the movie.

The producer inside me is strong and completely uncomfortable with the notion of play for play’s sake. He is feeling a little threatened surrounded by fourteen other playful souls and wondering why they were all there? Then director/writer enters the scene and begins to yell back. With bullhorn in hand, he says: We are a bunch of kids pretending to be in a different world? So what?

Fine, the producer yells back, “but aren’t they concerned about their rents about making it?”

The director smirks, answers by showing and not saying. He yells for the camera to roll and the camera goes on and then the lights follow suit and the sound person starts to make words turn into 0s and 1s on her digital recorder, and soon, everyone is playing. And collectively saying by not saying, SUCK IT, MR. PRODUCER MAN. SUCK IT!


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