Aug 28, 2015

Filmmaking: A Crisis of Faith

As a piece of Art, I value Mad Men as highly as anything else I’ve ever experienced, but did it need to be made? It’s a question that I’ve been struggling with for a while. Some films such as 2001 have a very clear, almost immaculate, message to present to the world. Getting people to think about, and revel in their grandness/importance. However, any new idea I have, I wonder if it has any value within that context. By now this is normal to me. I’m confident in my (mid-level at present) abilities, but I’m driven by my desire to be considered among the best filmmakers of all time, and to make a film I personally consider to be a masterpiece – one that deserves to be part of the canon. Have I done that yet? Not by a long shot.
Last week I had a real crisis of faith. I couldn’t find any reason to continue making films, or more specifically a film spanning ten years, about two friends whose lives take drastically different directions. I like the film we’ve most recently shot (‘MUTE’). It’s a huge step forward visually, and is a break from our former “little films”. We stretched ourselves with a very tight budget, to create a huge, believable world, and everyone involved delivered exceptionally. My only issue with it, is that I didn’t feel as invested in the ideas on a personal level, as I had with either ‘Narcissist’ or ‘Time and Place’.


So how did I reconcile my struggle with the value of my work, and whether it needs to be made? I let go. I’ve been reading ‘Rebels on the Backlot’ – covering the independent filmmakers of the 90s, who subverted the studio system to make some of the most original films of all time. Films like ‘Magnolia’ and ’Being John Malkovich’. What’s striking about the book, is the fact that these films, that a small group of individuals were so passionate about, actually got made at all – that is the biggest inspiration. While I’m intimidated by how someone like Paul Thomas Anderson makes…well any of his films, or by the age at which he had accomplished some of the biggest, bravest films of all time; alternately how someone like David Foster Wallace made ‘Infinite Jest’, I’m also greatly inspired. So what happened? I let go of the idea and can continue making stuff again. It’s how you make a film about, say interconnectivity, or the dark night of a soul, and what it can mean to an individual, that is important. It’s not about function, and it certainly doesn’t devalue the work.
So in the space of a week, I’ve done a complete 180 on considering taking a year out from filmmaking, and have taken a new angle on the next feature film – ‘COUNTERPOINT’. My original (easy route) approach to the next feature would be to make one of the two leads the more central story – the story of the artist/rockstar (embodying chaos), because it felt like the natural route for me to follow, and was obviously the more dramatic of the two. Now I’ve switched it to be balanced on the story of his friend, trying to do good despite overwhelming odds, and being met with indifference. It’s an entirely different story, but the other characters life will continue in the background and still interfere. In short, I’m still making films…