I want to shake up my entire process when the time comes to produce my third narrative feature: I want a (slightly) bigger crew, and I want a (slightly) less frenetic style. I want to maintain some of the comic (?) voice I’ve developed over the last two films, but I want to tone down the pitch of the laughter as much as possible while still claiming to have made a comedy. Laughter is most commonly an incredibly sick pleasure, and the cliché regarding the efficacy of its service as medicine demonstrates the probable certainty of schadenfreude‘s primacy within the nexus of my (and your) instinctive “lizard” brain. A filmmaker ought to be a kind of cultural doctor, constantly experimenting with diverse procedures, with the goal of easing the disgusting pain of our general existence. The inducement of laughter (even if of the uneasy sort) might be one way in which to do that. And if the preceding remarks sound like a clinical and/or scientific distillation of the ultimate sentiment found in Sullivan’s Travels, then I have explained myself well, and can only hope that my films will read as the kind of thing that a student of Cautious Optimism might request on Interlibrary Loan from some more pragmatically oriented, fictional Earth.
If my driving instinct in filmmaking is to start with comedy and then to turn as many points-of-chuckle as possible into points-of-empathy, and if I have already assembled thirty-seven minutes of documentary footage in which empathy is instant for anyone still capable of self-questioning, why not flesh out those 37 minutes? If I frame my project as a thing analogous to the project of a doctor, isn’t there a bitingly obvious confluence if I treat, filmically, a medical subject?
I’ve made two short documentaries about breast cancer–more specifically, about the desire to refrain, after mastectomy, from having fake goo attached to one’s body. Maybe I ought to combine those two shorts, and add more material. While I write a third narrative.
Maybe that’s what I’ll do.
Anonymous: I’m going to be selfish and ask two questions. 1) What got you into filmmaking 2) Which directors inspire you or whose work you admire?
My response: I grew up in a little town in Southeast Tennessee. There wasn’t much there in the way of cultural enrichment, so those of us who craved it would create our own. I started out as a bassist, and played in a lot of bands. By the time I was eighteen, my friends and I were experimenting with any number of creative outlets. One friend and frequent collaborator of mine had a VHS camcorder, and we started goofing around with making movies. I found that filmmaking suited my temperament, and that the need to grapple with the multiplicity of creative disciplines within filmmaking appealed to my control-freak tendencies. It was fun. So I stuck with it.
As for your second question, I could probably ramble on for days and never really get anywhere. I suppose if I had to map out my current filmic “neighborhood,” and provide a list of filmmakers whose work is most relevant to my own at this point in time, I’d begin with the Maysles Brothers (more at the Salesman end of their output than Grey Gardens), cruise through Hal Ashby, and end up next door to (early) Mike Nichols. I’ve been pretty fascinated with Alain Cavalier lately. Haskell Wexler and Conrad Hall are a couple of cinematographers whose work influences mine–and maybe I might include Michael Chapman in that latter list, if only for his efforts on Ashby’s The Last Detail.