With the last episode I consciously set out to make a ‘personal documentary’ in the vein of Ross McElwee or Jay Rosenblatt . In the making of this one it occurred to me – or rather I’ve decided to share – that all of these films are personal on one level or another, and this episode is no different.
This has been a great month for the Sparrow Songs project in a number of ways. First we were named to Filmmaker Magazine’s annual list of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film, then we got a great write up in IndieWire. And now, because of all this, people in the film world are emailing and expressing interest in helping with whatever is next. There is no certainty, but there is potential. It is a great place to be. It’s also a little nerve-wracking.
So this month I wanted to speak with people in a similar situation, folks blessed and cursed with the onus of potential in a situation where their performance would determine their future. Early on, I thought about minor league baseball players. After a lot of leg work – including a day-trip out to meet with the Inland Empire 66ers only to have their involvement fall through – we were given generous access to the players, personnel and ballpark of the Lancaster Jethawks of the Class A California League.
You – of course – can see the results of all this in the new episode. But, there’s more to it than that. Listening to these guys, watching the way they played the game it reminded me that we do this because – to put it simply – it’s fun. Making and exhibiting these films is a source of joy. Sometimes the pressure, the praise and the desire to make something concrete out of the opportunities this project has afforded us obscures that. It was nice to be conscious of just how much fun this project is, to be aware of how much I’ve learned not only about filmmaking but also about the world itself. I think that line of thinking brought me to an understanding similar to what the players, coaches and broadcasters in minor league baseball all have: the work is the reward, desire and ambition are part of that, but the work is the reward.
Lastly, a little something about the experience of making this piece: I love baseball and the chance to sit in a professional dugout for two games was a privilege. It offered an entirely different perspective. In the dugout, no one talks stats, you can’t hear the PA system or the incessant music pumped through it and the game seems much simpler, more pure – there’s the ball and the batter and the subtle drifts of the fielders and there’s a chance to start at home and a desire to make your way along the base paths and then return.