There’s nothing quite like the ephemeral feeling of being alive, ahead, of the universe and realizing you can either wait for the world to catch up to you, or you can continue pressing forward, alone, into the future, and hope that leaps in technology and thinking and education will circle around and meet you in understanding tomorrow, today.
If you live and work in the Arts you are oftentimes stuck in a generational limbo of being misunderstood and underappreciated. There is no harder conversation for the Artist to have in situ than with a surgeon discussing emotions.
The history of many things I’ve done has required a certain amount of hubris — in that I am forced to either know my vision is right, or give up and wait awhile and waste away.
In 1987, I made a film — Watershed — and in many ways that movie was the crowning achievement of everything I’d done so far in Lincoln, Nebraska. Watershed was fewer than 10 minutes long and some felt the movie was “Too short.”
I replied, “Nope, just perfect.” I had a vision and a means to that end. Now, 30 years later, many people today may watch Watershed and say, “Too, long.” I still say, “Nope, just perfect.”
Growing up in Nebraska, I was trained to do everything in the Arts because there were not a lot of options, or competition, to get things done. When I moved to New York City, my world changed because I had to “choose a niche” in which to compete and be appreciated. I could no longer cross-pollinate film and theatre and writing. I had to pick one; and I not only had to pick one niche, I had to also pick a subculture as well.
I quickly went from a master of all trades to just a Playwriting specialist technocrat — not allowed by the system to direct or produce or film what I’d written. Part of that mentality was territorial, a bit was the unionization of the Arts, and a lot of it of it was keeping you in a control box from which you were not allowed to expressively escape.
I understand the want to keep creatives bound by imploring them to follow the crowd, and not explore thought — because that creates a more comfortable, monetarily predictable and quantifiable end result for investors and training programs.
What I’ve taken away from the “niche-ification” of the Arts is that money and fame must not matter — the only thing that matters in the end is staying faithful to your vision of the world.
Success must not be defined by bank accounts, but rather by your formally trained internal aesthetic that knows if you are successful or not. Doing well is not valued in how much someone pays you, but in how much someone believes in you without being asked for their faith.
You earn fidelity merely by the deeds you produce for public inspection, and in those totems of living, you create your own internal guidelines for sustaining a right, eternal, public life.
It can be a tough task to follow a vision and wait for the end of the world to catch up with you.
Mesopotamia shifted. Continental plates slide. Mountain ranges rise and disappear. Everything changes, but in the scope of our instant lifetimes, nothing matters because nothing really perceptibly changes.
Visions do not.
They journey does not.
The Artist must always be looking over the horizon for the next time marker, and when you hit the pace, you must continue to keep circumnavigating the world — the circle in which you spin — because that is the only imaginary time that matters.
Being right means being ahead, and being misunderstood. Being ahead means being mocked and unfollowed by those who do not believe.
Vision is having unconquerable strength in not just being right — or of being permanently ahead — but in knowing where you’re going. How many people do you know in the world who are treading water, creating nothing, and just soft-shoe shuffling through their lives until the ultimate mouldy, end?
The Artist must not wait for the stitch of visionary approval. The vision cannot defer for the world to catch up. One day, if you are lucky, the circle will close while there’s still a little life left — or, as with Da Vinci or Andy Warhol or Matisse — the universe will only wind you long after you’re gone.
Great point. Wonderful, and true in my estimation. And your film WaterShed was beautifully structured, paced, scored and directed. Very nice work.
Looking forward to more…
Thanks for the keen commentary and feedback! I appreciate you for taking the time to check in with us!
There will always be more… SMILE!
You got it! It was a great read + watch.
Re: …always be more…
GLAD TO HEAR IT! 🙂
It’s so much easier to do things today than it was when those shows were being made. Oh, if I only had an iPhone way back then — I could’ve changed the world! SMILE!
Hahahahaha. You’re right!!!! Isn’t it crazy how things have changed? I went to film school in a different era the hardware ISN’T NOW. So true!!!
But – you can still change the world. O_o Least a corner of it.
Yes, movie making in the 1980’s was film and processing and it was not fast and the whole thing was super labor-intensive.
Videotape made the process a little faster, but it still took big machines and oftentimes more than one person.
With an iPhone, and digitization from the start, you can shoot an HD movie right on your phone, in a day, and have it published online the same day for real-time streaming. What a wonder — and the quality of the image today beats much of what we were doing back then.
We always try to change the world for good — and sometimes that’s a challenge with all the bad elements trying to bend the universe down and away from humanity.
You know what though, the labor intensiveness built character (I like to tell myself). It killed entitlement, everything felt lucky if it was viewed or got somewhere, and that attitude circles back into the work one way or another. I.e. Michael Bay, Transformers.
Can we have a little humility please. But then again, he’s making a killing in China. So the explosions are working.
But the good news is, with the accessibility of equipment and the increasing need of audiences to watch everything, everything can get its chance.
I just wish I hadn’t detoured into corporate film for so long, only now returning to my roots and having to get up to speed from scratch.
Anyway, there are alot of bad elements trying to bend the universe down and away from humanity and with the loss of consciousness and responsibility we have to one another as a collective, going with the tide has become normal. Standing against it errant.
Anyway, an invitation into my universe:
Yes, the problem with the ubiquity of easy filmmaking — is that there’s so much noise now that nothing of real quality can break through. The playing field has not only been leveled, it’s been cheapened so much that nothing matters anymore.
Thanks for the links to your blog!
I would say “story,” and characterizations are getting lost. But unfortunately so are we in society, so I guess tv and film is a reflection of what we have become?
I’ve seen some really great breakthrough work of technical quality and not, but they are finds, and definitely don’t come by often at all.
And now, I am the go to person for non-filmmaker friends because they are tiring of the CGI-sequel push. Still want to go to the movie theater but are finding themselves challenged around finding stuff they ‘really’ want to see. So then you hear things like… “Well I went to see transformers.”
But there are still some things breaking through. For instance I loved the Swedish version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I re-watch it almost every month, for fun, and there are great documentaries about…
It’s a question of vision. People will follow you if you offer them something new that they don’t yet know they want, but that they’ve wanted all along. Nobody knew they wanted an iPhone before Steve Jobs. Nobody knew they wanted Uber before it started service.
You can’t go along with what is already known if you want staying power. Sure you can imitate what’s come before, or even steal from yourself like Michael Bay, but those schemes are only about money and not about creating something that matters.
Yes I agree, and no I don’t. Yes, people will follow you if they follow someone else to the ride (or maybe this is the American viewer)? No if no one else defines it as okay first. How I think things like crowd funding gather momentum?
And Steve Jobs and Uber had to get the vote of go ahead from somewhere. And technology may be different from films or even gaining momentum on a social issue.
Take American History X (New Line Cinema), a film made on a 20 million dollar budget. When it opened in the US it made a 6 million dollar profit. But then went on to gain 23 million dollars in profit, over time, internationally.
IMO, people didn’t know how to take it in the beginning. They didn’t know how to react, if they wanted to see it, and how to feel about it. It showcases a very difficult issue, which at the time was a little bit more over the line than it is now.
With the advent of reality TV and more and more violence in film and television films, nothing is really shocking in that little amount of time anymore.
But at the time this subject was not where too many people wanted to go. However, there is alot of stuff that isn’t being addressed on screen now.
But addressing the things over on the side, may have left society with a weak muscle for handling such issues, because everything now is being geared toward one view, one response, one consensus socially. Or at least this is the ideal.
But taking this back to HW, it’s become about sticking to what’s known. And I hope you’re right about staying power because I’m bored by much of what is released too. But if you like going to the movies, you gotta watch something so you cave alot. :-[
Visionaries don’t ask permission. They just do it — and if others follow fine, if not, that’s fine, too.
I prefer to watch the old original movies. There’s a truth and honesty to them that doesn’t exist today. There’s not as much direct imitation on screen because they were all pioneers creating the stuff for the first time.
Unfortunately, asking for help is part of the equation if your audience is a wider base these days. Whether of the fundraising kind or for distribution, if like I said, you want some sort of extended reach. But — that is changing rapidly with Youtube, Netflix, and Hulu.
But I agree in that the older movies are more original, there isn’t as much rehashing. It hadn’t become solely about making money yet, so artists were more supported in a different kind of way.
Then again, artists today (filmmakers) simply have to remake the map to get their work out there. And there are avenues, but we have to work at laying the track work down a different path outside the paradigm of one way to those audiences. IMO.
What are your favorite films?
Favorite films, in no particular order:
Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
End of Watch
Ivan the Terrible (Eisenstein)
Star Wars was a favorite, loved Gattaca and Battleship Potemkin was pretty interesting. I haven’t seen the others, but I’ve been interested in Metropolis for years..
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is another important cinema milestone. It marks the start of the German Expressionism period.
Way back when, to see these movies, you had to actually go to a cinema art house. It took effort and dedication and you had to do it outside of film class.
Years later, you could buy the movies on videotape for something like $300 each.
Now, almost all the classic good stuff is right on YouTube for free!