What Have I Learned, Part I

15 10 2010


I’m in the middle of cutting the final episode of Sparrow Songs and find it hard to gin up any of the reflection that completing a project like this would conceivably entail.  This is odd for me.  I tend to be a pretty reflective person, I know how to talk about my feelings to a fault and I tend to be honest enough with myself to generally know how I’m feeling about a given thing at a given time.

 

Not right now though, not about this.

 

If anything there’s simply a sublime sense of having completed it.  The goal was to make 1 film a month for 12 months and that goal’s in reach.  But I’m still too close to it – as I’m writing Final Cut Pro is the other open window on this computer for God’s sake – to have any kind of perspective.  When we began and started shooting I knew nothing more than that this project felt right.  Now, here, late at night I know nothing more than that it’s done.  I’m not purposely trying to be vague or reticent,  it’s just that the feeling that is there is layered and tinged with conflicting emotions and genuinely unlabelable.  Here’s what I can offer: I have a metallic taste in my mouth and when I post this last episode I’ll sit down, drink a beer and probably cry for about two hours.

 

Part of that is because I don’t have any real desire to stop making these films.  But that desire doesn’t have anything to do with the actual making of the films.

 

Let me explain.

 

Yes, when we began this whole thing I thought I would learn about filmmaking (and I did) but early on, somewhere around Porn Star Karaoke, I realized that anything I learned about filmmaking would be secondary to the act of getting out into the world and experiencing it.  The films then became an attempt to make sense of what we’d experienced and to replicate the feelings that the places and people we came in contact with inspired within us.

 

For example, the first time I went to the L’Arche house that would become the subject of our sixth episode I went with just my wife, no camera and only the intention of experiencing the place.  As is to be expected communicating with the core members was difficult, there were long pauses and stammering on both sides of all my interactions.  I felt ill-at-ease and couldn’t quite understand why the assistants had chosen a life in a house like this.   We sat with the core members and assistants, prepared dinner with them and then, after dinner, they asked us if we’d like to join in their Sunday prayer.  What followed was one of the more profound and moving moments in my life.  The core members felt no self-pity or shame at their disabilities and in measured and even tones one by one they expressed simple yearnings – for happiness, safety and friendship – common desires that rarely go spoken or acknowledged in the outside world.

 

The feelings then, as they are now, were layered and conflicting and genuinely unlabelable so the goal then becomes to communicate some semblance of it all, the little tugs in the heart and the little tastes on the tongue.

 

I think that’s why the word most often used to describe the films is ‘intimate.’ Chances are people watch them alone, on their laptops, in bed or at their computers at work, with headphones on.  And the stories — films rather — don’t labor to tell you what we experienced or to synthesize it down into some clear point, instead they merely ask that you experience them, that you meet these folks and see this place with us.

 

And when people watch the films, my sense is that they start to learn what I’m still coming to understand: that just about every person you come into contact with has a secret that would break your heart and that everyone — from people in a forgotten small town, to the disabled, to the former high school jocks grinding it out in Double A – has a wisdom about their own lives that can help you understand your own.

 

 

 


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