1/20/14

Man Without a Movie Camera

A painting by David Lynch
When I was 20, I wanted to make movies. I remember talking with my brother about going to film school and we had more or less talked about it like it was going to happen. Filmmaking is actually how I ended up in Johannes Göransson's class at UGA. My film professor, Charles Eidsvik, suggested I go take a class, get some writing in, and come back over when I finished. Well, I haven't stopped writing yet but I also never made it back over to the (literal) other side of the street.

What drew me to making movies wasn't just narrative or storytelling: it was the process of editing and making things fit together even though they very likely did not fit together in the first place. I remember shooting a whole five minute film in a theater at UGA, the camera facing the seats and two characters sitting and chatting. I remember being pissed off when going back and viewing the footage that they a) had mostly been reading the script and hadn't prepared and b) the male had crossed and uncrossed his legs between takes, mucking up my continuity (which was crucial). Being that people are impossible to get a hold of multiple times, I never reshot. Still, Eidsvik liked the movie alright, at least in the sense that everything worked as it was supposed to work. I had my bases covered in terms of shots and audio and that mostly seemed to be the way I did things as a young filmmaker.

The thing is...I never became an older filmmaker. I quit doing it. Beyond not going back to filmmaking after getting into poem writing, I also realized that 1) filmmaking is expensive and I likely would not be able to afford to make the things I wanted and 2) I really did not like relying on other people to make my project work. Like the actors in the one film, in the second, I had an audio person who kept hitting the wall with the boom mic and I never caught it until I went to edit. It was really annoying. I was also bad about thinking of the whole picture. The walls of my friend's apartment seemed perfectly normal to me but to my professor, they were "vanilla." And that was just one of many problems with the second little movie.

It's strange now, thinking back, how boring my movies were. Where everyone else was trying to experiment, I was trying to tell sort of...stories...that necessarily could be told simply. Where I did get "experimental" was when editing, trying to find clever ways of cutting things together to make them seem more interesting. In a test shooting before I began my two projects, I wrote a short bit of dialogue that involved two people trying to figure out how to get information from someone. When an epiphany strikes them both, the shots jump around as both actors in the scene blurt out the answer together. Eidsvik seemed pretty impressed with it, but it turned out to be the highlight of my filmmaking.

I still love film and movies and discussing them endlessly like texts you can press your face into and still not distort everything. I've thought about getting a Ph.D. in film studies but I feel like I would only be a hack or someone who just showed up out of a love for something. At the same time, it seems like every idiot with a YouTube handle discusses movies and TV shows now with some intellectual bent. Tom & Lorenzo are brilliant when discussing Mad Men and they run a website that talks about fashion primarily. There are lots of voices and a crowded market and I'm not sure I could be any better than anyone else at it.

Sure, I would like to make more movies, but I'm not sure what about. It's weird: I think when you start working in a creative medium, you begin to process everything through that medium. When I still thought I'd go back to filmmaking, I had dozens of ideas floating around about what I would do with a few hours, a few  actors and a place to do it. In the same way, every strange thought is possible fodder for a poem now, which I guess is not entirely different from making films to me, but at least it's a generally solitary act.

I still have ideas come to me occasionally and I jot them down with the idea that if I ever purchase a camera, I could probably do something on a weekend. Then again, surely there are plenty of folks doing the same thing, though I guess plenty of folks write poems and teach creative writing, but I haven't stopped that yet either.

I've never been able to find this quote again, but perhaps someone reading knows: It's about how filmmaking is a refuge for the mediocre. I always liked that- I always liked that it turned filmmaking into an everyday act, something that can be done by anyone, a sort of Marxist art. Of course, that's not really true, but I always appreciated the sentiment.