Monthly Archives: October 2013

Liberation Through Limitation

I know it’s been quiet, lately, around here.

I’ve been thinking.

I’ve been thinking that – after living – the most important things there are for a writer and filmmaker to do is write and make films.

Much of this past year was spent drafting Sophia The Great. On a script level, the project is almost ready to go. On a practical level, however, it isn’t.

So, I’ve decided to postpone Sophia for a while, for her sake and mine. I’m going to focus on other projects right now.

Here’s why:

  • The script, as scripts sometimes do, grew in scope as I continued drafting it. Sophia still can (and perhaps will) be produced on a slim budget, but I’ve done as much as I can (or am willing) to do scaling back scenes and locations such that they still fit the needs of the story and have yet been rendered as simple as possible, from a production standpoint, so that we can shoot the film within its likely budget range. Still, this range itself is probably outside the realm of what I can come up with at this time in my career.
  • I can’t, at present, spend time and money trying to create more time and money. I get that this is how business works. I get it’s how most feature films get made. And, actually, it’s not that I’m not prepared or willing to do this, or that I don’t have plans. I just don’t want to put so much effort now, while I am still young, burning off a surplus of energy and exhausting limited resources by pursuing possibilities that are just as likely to not work out – or to endanger my vision – than they are to morph into the solution to the problem that is financing. I’m better off dedicating myself to making good art.
  • Relatedly, due to both of the above reasons – I’m just not ready. Multiverse has proved to be a significant step up for me in my development as a filmmaker. It helped me prove to myself that I can do this, in the terms that matter most. To make Sophia what she needs to be, that time and money needs to be there. The story is delicate and nuanced. It requires tact and care. A guerilla-style shoot, which we’d have to embrace to offset budget challenges, might be possible, but not with my life the way it is right now.
  • I like my life right now. I don’t want to give up on it for a year or more to get Sophia made. I know that this would be forcing matters, rather than a simple case of facing the reality of what needs to be done. There’s a difference between making something happen and forcing it to happen. If I went the forced route, I would suffer and the film would suffer and I would resent the film and the job itself and all the work I’ve done to deal with my anger would crumble. All of this is against the spirit of creativity.

None of this means I’m going to stop reaching.

Sophia will happen. Multiverse, and then probably something else, is going to happen first.

I’m actually very excited about a particular “something else” – but I’m not going to tell you what it is yet.

What I will say is that I recently came to the above “hard realizations” more easily than past versions of my angrier self would have expected. I haven’t had much trouble acknowledging that they merely reflect reality – or a reality that I have to accept.

The other side of this reality, however, is that I remain compelled to create. Because that’s what I do. That’s what I must do. It’s what’s necessary.

I have made no secret of my dissatisfaction with the tides of American culture. I won’t spend time rehashing my grievances, or re-identifying the various possibilities that I believe exist, in order to raise awareness and advocate for change. All that can be found in the archive. Click around and have a blast or a good cry.

The imperative to get out there and address what’s hurting us has begun to outstrip the imperative I’ve always felt to not only say something, but say everything — perfectly.

So, I’m just going to keep making things, and then you can start telling me what you think. We can talk stuff over. Start a dialogue.

That’s what makes good art. In all the anxiety of trying to figure what to do next and how, over this last year, I lost track of this crucially important, core fact of creativity.

Films are business. Films require critical thinking and demand practical solutions. But they’re also (sometimes) art.

And art can thrive in the face of limitation – because art is born through limitation.

Thanks for reading. More later.

The Tyranny of The Minority/The Inevitability of Change

I just recently finished reading the Dune Chronicles. Labeled “The Best-Selling Science Fiction Adventure of All Time” the books are in actuality a much more robust exploration of humanity’s trajectory through history than the commonest understanding of science fiction as a genre may suggest.

The ambitious goal of the series, which spans millennia among six books’ worth of stories, is nothing less than a highest-level view of humanity as a collective of interdependent peoples striving together to survive even as they continue to struggle inevitably for power. Delineations dividing one “people” from another are formed on the macro and micro level. The inhabitants of a particular planet often represent one particular race of human, the next planet another, and so on.

Each named planetary society is also split into its own unique factions of citizenry, often comprised of one small aristocratic group that holds ultimate power; another one or two merchant, military, or religious group that hold great influence and the capacity for ultimate power (a middle class); and the workers and/or slaves who keep the machinery of the planet’s society going, and are sometime driven so deeply into the ground or so far out to the perimeter that they eventually become hardened into a powerful force capable of revolution.

Over the course of the series, power changes hands many times, on planets and among them. Much attention is paid, on the part of author Frank Herbert, to the inevitable cyclicality of human political history.

The last of the books, which I just today finished, was published almost thirty years ago. I feel changed, on a deep personal level, after having worked my way through them in only a few months. The philosophical long-view Herbert takes of humanity, built concurrently alongside personal narratives of profound experiential detail, as major players of his imagined future strive to figure out what it means to be human even as humanity continues to cycle perpetually through conflict and power struggle – it’s simply a marvel. Sometimes, to be truthful, it’s also a burden. They aren’t the easiest books to work through – one or two even caused me stress as I continued reading – but they felt important.

I’m going to return to that note about stress in a little bit, but first I want to talk about a phrase I encountered in Chapterhouse Dune, the final book in the series. That phrase: The Tyranny of the Minority.

In context, this phrase helps form a reference to the exploits of a (comparatively) small group of vicious, violent, vengeful people – representing one particular, rigid, narrow, bureaucratically organized belief system – who set about conquering and threatening their way to power over the majority of those other peoples who make up the whole of the books’ primary universe.

Whenever this group is challenged, they retaliate with murderous force. Whenever they gain power, they seek more power. Wherever they suffer defeat, they return in force to destroy everything in sight.

This reminds me of today’s conservative Republicans.

Tomorrow, the federal government will most likely shut down, and responsibility for the hardship this will cause for the majority can be placed squarely upon the shoulders of a loud, willful minority of politicians who, for a variety of insubstantial reasons, would rather see this happen than surrender to the will of the people and to the conclusions of the systems of checks and balances built into what is left of our democracy. This minority, of ultra-conservative Republicans in the House in particular, also appears intent on extending their hostage-taking, extortionist behavior (once again) to a “debate” over the national debt ceiling – a situation which could potentially cause even worse damage to the world at large.

Nominally, Republicans are resorting to these tactics as a means of repealing or effectively crippling or gutting (or at least discrediting) the Affordable Care Act. The details of this situation have been well-covered (though I use that term loosely) in the media.

It’s nonetheless worth pointing out that the Affordable Care Act was: passed by Congress (after much debate), affirmed as the will of the majority (after becoming a major referendum in the 2012 Presidential election, which Republicans lost), and upheld as law (by the Supreme Court). Despite these facts, however, House Republicans in particular have refused to accept reality and move on with the governance of the country (also known as their job). Instead, they waste time and money on efforts to repeal the law anyway, at a time when the rest of us can ill afford to spare much of either essential resource. Having learned the will of the majority, having lost the battle against health care reform, they now threaten us, brazenly invoking our own name as they do it, by refusing to back down, accept reality, and move on to real policy-making and discussion.

Thus we are victimized by The Tyranny of The Minority.

I have read opinions that compare these exploits to those of “spoiled children.” For the past few days, I have tried on similar ideas. The metaphor certainly appears to fit. Denied what they want, Republicans respond by reiterating that they want it. Denied again, they reiterate more loudly and purport to take it anyway by ruining everything else until it is given.

Except this issue is more serious than anything that might involve a child and his or her wants. Children, even spoiled children, often don’t know any better than “demand or destroy.” Adults do know better – even when, under the guise of propaganda and double-speak, they pretend not to know. Self-deception, also, is still deception. Truth still lives underneath.

Make no mistake: conservative Republicans know they are the losers in the health care fight. They know they are a (shrinking) minority. And that is why they are sabotaging everything.

The symbol of past and present power in America is a middle-aged or older white man in a suit, even today, while Barack Obama is President. The symbol of future power in America is not so cut and dry. The white majority is shrinking; feminism thrives; multiculturalism rises inevitably; youth grows up, opens its eyes, and glimpses the injustices, built from the top-down, that continue to plague our society on the whole. Change, the recycling of power – even if its approach is neither clear or broad or fast enough – is assuredly coming.

Our current crop of Republican influencers act as they do now out of fear and desperation. They seek to destroy what they cannot control. They fight health care reform because our legacy version of health care keeps the average citizen tethered to big employers, and/or renders them powerless via the actuality or possibility of steep costs that signify a level of potential financial hardship seldom imagined or experienced in any real way by middle-aged white men in suits.

I said I would return to my observation that the Dune books were sometimes a difficult, burdensome, stressful read. What I mean by this is that I often felt fearful of the consequences of truly considering some of the sadly contradictory human truths exposed by certain passages and sections (and one whole book). But I proceeded through the series anyway. Purely pursued, honestly wrought ideas – they have a way of leading you inevitably towards careful consideration.

I opened my mind and heart to Frank Herbert’s opinions of humanity. This is what we are, for better or worse. Good happens. Bad happens. Always, there are power struggles. Power inevitably corrupts. Always, there are victims. Always, we will wish change could have occurred differently, that fewer could have suffered. Still, change is inevitable. It will be better, if we keep trying to be better. They will lose power, if only because the reins of power, held too long in the same way, by the same hands, dissolve in the absence of adaptation on the part of the rulers, even as the need for Change seizes and alters the hearts of the ruled.

I’ve occasionally grown furious, over the past few days, as I have kept up on the news out of Washington. As is typical of late with me, the fury doesn’t last. I end up only sad, that so many have to suffer undeservedly due to the inability of the few to see the truth for what it is and adapt. I am nonetheless, ultimately, hopeful.

Tyranny breeds contempt. Contempt burns in memory. Bitter memory attaches purpose to change.

If the minority refuses to acknowledge the expressed need of the people for change, let them do their worst with what influence they have left. We will remember. And our memories of such injustices as this unnecessary shutdown, and everything else they have done, will fuel our drive towards a better future – one where the will of the majority is respected, where representation and responsibility mean something once again, and the only aging white men in suits left in power are the ones who acknowledge and respect that the future belongs to the present, as it is…not to some imagined idyllic past that exists only in the minds of fanatics.