Saturday, February 23, 2008

Division of Labor

I spent some time yesterday with a man that's written a short film that he would like me to direct. He answered an ad on Craig's List that I posted looking for scripts. He sent me the script a month ago and I liked it. I liked it a lot more after meeting with its writer and then rereading it.
I've been thinking about it a lot since yesterday, getting ideas and starting to see it. I really enjoy this form of discovery. It's quite different than being the author of the story. It gives me a sense of freedom. As if I can be more committed to the story since I'm not pushing my own agenda as a writer. I play a tricky game with my own scripts so as not to seem too attached to them for fear of coming across as immodest. I hold myself back from swooning too much about the story. Which I admit is false modesty at best. Then there's the unconscious attachments that happen. With Jim's script, I'm like the Iron Chef, "This has got to go, why can't this be that, let's collapse these two locations, etc." He's pretty thick skinned about it all. When he told me he had written this particular script after seeing partners I was encouraged. It meant that, for one, he wasn't attached to ideas he had been laboring over for years. It also meant that he was meeting me where he was inspired by my work.
The latter is invaluable. For years I've encouraged actors and other collaborators to tell me what kind of stories they want to tell. October inspired partners by telling me she wanted to work with guns and be a bad ass, that she wanted to do something fun. Ask and you shall receive. Jordan has been a reluctant cinematographer since I've known him. He wants to write and direct. I've offered to direct or produce for him many times. So far, so nada. I think he's talented and he's been so committed to our collaborations from behind the camera that I'm willing to be patient with him. Not so with others. I always try to inspire my actor-students to know what roles they want to play. Those that are more inclined to the stage have been more forthcoming, but still more passive than I would like to see. Film actor-students seem to have a very tractable approach - "Whatever someone might want me for." Probably not much with that lack of verve.
So thanks Jim and October for bringing something to the table. I know I have a lot of energy and a strong personality. It's intimidating for some, but I realize that it's also a filter that protects the integrity of the work I'm trying to do. The more I commit to the integrity of the process rather than feeding my ego, the better. I was talking about being humble in our approach to making films yesterday. How by embracing being amateurs we have mucho freedom. Independent filmmakers need to stop trying to model our "productions" on professional sets. We don't have the resources. We don't need someone who's trying to be a gaffer lighting our stuff. He's wanting to work with more expansive equipment and setups in order to gain experience toward working on professional stuff. But it's apples and oranges. We don't have an experienced crew on hand, there's no grip and electric truck, there's no four hours or more to light one set up. And there's no room for apologies or resentments because we're not working on that scale. We just need to see the action and make an attempt at expressing the mood in shorthand. Yes, photography is about light, but the Hollywood style is just one approach to lighting films. I don't want to hear what we can't do, that's a drain on our energies in more ways than one. Artists accept limitations and challenges, many arguing that art can't happen without limitation. Technicians need more gear, which is subject to the laws of diminishing returns. "Technology is a distraction", admitted a wise gaffer (and one of the owners of Gearhead). While enthusiasts and artists only need enthusiasm and inspiration, both of which are subject to regenerative abundance.
When we're candid about what scale we're working on, we avoid letting ego cloud our productions. And when we get our egos out of the way, we have an opportunity to get to the magic that can happen when people get together to tell stories.

Pasta and Bagels,
Signore Direttore

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