Saturday, December 08, 2007

... a Filmmaker's Quest for Mastery ...

When I wrote the subheading for Finding Fellini I took great care to acknowledge that I am on a journey. A quest for rather than toward mastery. I accept that while I may not achieve mastery, that it may not be my manifest destiny, it is my goal. It remains my goal three years later, though my concept of mastery has changed monumentally.
Admittedly my earlier concept of mastery was almost entirely solipsistic. I was concerned with my ideas and my achievement. I thought that was the alpha and omega of having vision. Somewhere along the way as I experienced the vicissitudes of my quest I began to see the need to be a more effective communicator. Having brilliant ideas wasn't enough working in a medium that requires collaboration no matter how much of an auteur one considers himself.
Making change usually depends upon a simple formula like eat less, exercise more and you'll lose weight. However when the human mind and emotions are involved that bit of addition and subtraction becomes advanced Calculus. When faced with trying to stop yelling at people and trying to shift to a less condescending tone I became more tense. It wasn't a matter of simply stopping or changing. There was something behind my cruel narcissism. I thought that perhaps I had what the DSM-IV classifies as a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. But just as alcohol is but a symptom for alcoholics, my narcissistic habits and tendencies were symptoms of something deeper. Besides no narcissist on a pathological level would be able to recognize their own affliction.
I always knew that I suffered through some tough stuff as a kid. We were very poor. My mom made some bad relationship choices. I was molested by my step-brother. So I had some shame over some of that stuff. I thought it was a matter of not discussing it in polite conversation. And yet on the other hand I thought it wasn't really a cause to be emotionally troubled. There are a lot of people that have suffered and survived much worse upbringings. The fact was is that I was troubled emotionally about something and I couldn't just get over it through will. In fact my will was making things worse. So I entered the darkness once more, trying to sort myself out. By talking through the aforementioned traumas I've discovered more truths of my life. The day to day stuff that became normalized in my perception. With some help I was able to challenge those perceptions and undo some of the kinks in my psyche. Perhaps watching your mother and other adults pull guns on each other is not normal. Nor is it normal for a nine year old to live in a tiny travel trailer by himself in his dad's girlfriend's backyard on 82nd while his mother runs off to track down her outlaw biker husband that smashed the house apart with clubs and chains before splitting town. I've learned that someone that watched television for eight hours a day may not have been offered a healthy opportunity to develop emotionally. I've learned that someone that transfers schools every year and sometime three times within a single school year may not have been offered a healthy opportunity to develop socially. Basically I've learned through looking into all the day to day activities and interactions in my childhood that I was not offered hardly any opportunity to develop into a functional person. A statement in and of itself that's evidence of my downplaying the trauma I've suffered.
So when someone says you don't get here from there, they're talking about a person like me. Now the wonderful thing about surviving my childhood, and I did survive many violent and literal threats to my life, and the reaction that was my earlier adulthood is that while I may still have some problems I have had the opportunity to work through much greater personality defects. In doing so I've become accustomed to working through changes. I don't accept plateaus. I am conscious. And the more conscious a human being is the more powerful he is. I've spent a long time on this planet feeling powerless over people, places, things and my own emotions. It gives me the strength of empathy for all the horrible suffering that's going on in the world.
My quest for mastery of the film medium has expanded to a quest for mastery of being a fully realized and conscious human being. I still want to be good at directing actors and writing screenplays and all the other things that it takes to be a good filmmaker. Mastery of the craft of filmmaking is essential to be sure. But mastery of kind, compassionate and effective communication in the deepest most organic sense is far more critical. Initially, I just wanted to change the tone of my communication in order to get people to do what I wanted them to do. If only they would listen, it would make getting my work done all the easier. Had I received what I had hoped for I would have totally short-changed myself. I just wanted to stop patronizing and belittling people and I ended up thinking about the way agribusiness treats animals and the way governments and multinational companies oppress people. In trying to find out why I felt insecure I became interested in early childhood development and education. In search of a source of strength to do all the work making films requires I became closer to my family and my family is growing closer to the human spirit that connects all of us. You, me, everybody. Some people call it God. I'm not sure I'm willing to go that far, but do what you like. For in learning to be patient with others I am learning to be patient with myself.

Signore Direttore

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