Saturday, September 27, 2014

The inherent struggle of success in film

Read. Read. Read.
  1. Herzog's accent makes him way more artistically credible.
  2. Get $10k and make a film.  Don't wait.
  3. Would Refn have benefited from the reminder that storytelling should be its own reward?
  4. If the ends are all about reputation, you'll end up reputed to be an asshole.

I'm not a film-o-file or whatever - the folks who have amazing Scorcese-like memory regarding all things cinematic.  I'll often admit to people that I found film in college where I first understood how to watch films critically rather than be swept along.  Every critical thought that I've had since then I've believed to be naive; a stumbling toward some true insight that would eventually be of service to my job search.

But it's really is just easier to be an audience member.  Their function is just way more accessible.  The work we filmmakers do to pull definitive arguments behind our process often soars over the real impact on the masses (I mean maybe not but you just can't ever say).  Meaning takes on a life of its own.  

Every time I've tried to make a judgement of a film, especially after working (hard) on several sets of varying intensity, I've felt like an ass.  It's made more sense to me that either that filmmaker was able to connect with something inside of me or he wasn't.  But I couldn't denounce any picture for the effect it might have had on my neighbor.  'LADY IN THE WATER' makes me cry almost every time I watch it - in the good way.  But apparently that was a big step in M. Night's downfall.

I love this movie.
I'm talking about being pretentious.

What I can judge objectively though is the mind of a filmmaker and the balances they attempt to maintain behind their work (how they balance partnerships and sustain work ethic primarily).  I can also argue a great set is responsible for a great film.  That assumption will never hold absolute.

I certainly wouldn't want to say that a poorly handled set can nevertheless be paired with a great script and a filmmaker/star for a winning combination.  But that has been the case.

A director that knows how to work without boiling over can do amazing things but that pressure is maddening.  Herzog shares too many influences (which means he generally likes things) but no mentors or contributors to his style.  He says filmmaking came naturally to him as a child and it suggests a childlike self-belief must be sustained.  That naivete walks boldly in the face of adult reasoning and that narcissism might have helped Refn face his demons about industry approval if he'd just focused on doing what he was born to do rather than what the industry declared he should be.  

I don't mean to discard the marketing or forget mythic structure.  I don't mean waste money.  Simply be the fulcrum that proves the absurdity works (I've been reading Camut's Myth of Sisyphus, so absurdity is currently my way to explain things).

I believe these articles in conjunction serve both an inspiring message and a warning.  You have to believe that the work your doing is important but also appreciate that what makes it challenging, as in all cases, is your own humanity.  You can't go on hating yourself for the values of an industry trying to keep thousands employed.  The machine can't do the work without mitigating the risk of art.  But your honest efforts are the only thing that will keep the machine true.  For the sake of the system you've got to have a clean handle on what's inside or be working toward it.

I never write about spiritual issues in film and this post certainly won't cover the spectrum, but it's no surprise the masses of interested filmmakers aren't out wandering the world with a book in hand, scrounging up $10k. We're scared of the world.  Labor is expensive.  The industry can be cold.  And there is no school teaching us how to afford an inflated sense of self - without the matching currency - just to handle the danger.  

Maybe, ignoring our peers and the hazards of those that came before is not an uncommon trait.  Intentionally putting on the blinders toward any type of conditioning force (the affect being something like Herzog's success without specific idols in mind) can be a strategy for momentum.  Basically you have to take leadership of yourself at some point and that really means not allowing yourself to get bullied by the controlling efforts of any number of influences now capitalizing on your work.  Success isn't even the issue here.  If you work hard and attain success, will you understand how to shift gears and be that guy/girl?

In a practical setting at my school, I've often advocated away from guest speakers.  Insight is great but it's all over the fucking internet and the training's in the textbooks and on set.  I've embraced re-inventing the wheel if the community is big enough, diverse enough and intelligent enough, which almost all college arts communities have the right to be BECAUSE we're in effect learning to be leaders and entrepreneurs.  

The Hollywood militarized blockbuster machine is just a pain in the ass for all that dick sucking you have to do to break in if you weren't already born into it.  

I'll talk more about re-defining values in our generation in a later post but these two sides of the filmmaker's journey (two sides of many), them being the highly stressed underdog and the composed veteran with his idealistic certainties, are definitely food for thought on keeping our shit together as we take the next leap.