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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Four Eyed Monsters. Slacking Off From Script Revisions. Conflicts. The Loneliness of Art.

My course coordinator/ teacher/ lecturer/ supervisor, Melanie (whom I always known as Melanie Rodriga, but was apparently credited in films she's involved in as Melanie Read!), sent me an email few days ago after reading the latest draft of the Girl Disconnected screenplay. She loved it and was very encouraging, telling me that it has huge potential to be very magical, meditative and emotional. What struck me most was her description that Girl Disconnected was like a futuristic Alice In Wonderland meets Chungking Express. It's funny that throughout the past few months of developing Girl Disconnected, Alice In Wonderland was the LAST thing in my mind, even though I did draw ideas and influences from children stories and childhood imaginations ("I want to fly to the moon and see Chang Er, yippee!"). Guess it's a subconscious thing.

The screenplay was returned to me by Mel with comments and suggestions for cuts, which are really useful for me in my painful attempts to keep my film within the 15-minute mark (I was originally aiming for 20-minutes). Most of the changes I have to make are pretty minimal, just fix and shorten the voiceovers, which were pretty excessive and bloated at times, rearrange the sequence of one particular flashback scene so that it doesn't have to be a flashback. Yadda yadda... I'm starting to lose my readers.

I went through some films in the past few days for inspiration (for visual techniques), most notably Darren Aronofsky's (a brilliant director too few people in Malaysia have heard of, alas) Requiem For A Dream (2000), listening to the director's commentary (something I seldom do). Aronofsky, you see, is my hero, firstly, for being the father of Rachel Weisz's child, and secondly, for being so great (done only three films so far in the past eight years). Just look at the trailer of his upcoming film, The Fountain, below.

"Together, we will live forever!"

Whoa, it gives me the chills.

And in addition to watching numerous films, I've also been watching the video diaries at Four Eyed Monsters that I mentioned few days ago. I just reached episode 6 while writing this. More and more, I am enthralled by the process of their film's production. Perhaps I find that I can relate to the work Arin and Susan have put in their films, along with the methods they use to market it on the new media. Each episode, they bring me through the various stages of the film's production, from how the idea was conceived, to the acting classes they attended, to the world premiere at Slamdance Film Festival, the disappointment of not attaining an actual distribution deal, yet everything wasn't perfect. The bond between Arin and Susan was stretched to the limit, there were conflicts not just between them, but also with others involved in the production, a law suit that almost happened, some friendships that may be forever affected.

(By the way, the vodcasts have a great soundtrack! And I'm adding most of them onto my Myspace list)

They were somewhat painful to watch, because they remind me of some things I myself had to go through in making my last short film, Vertical Distance, and also what I know I'll be facing when the actual production of Girl Disconnected is beginning next month. I guess what I was seeking when watching their videos was reassurance, that whatever happened to me usually happens to other film production groups too. I appreciate the transparency that is allowed only in independent film productions, where you can get close to the filmmakers and everything they are facing. I believe that conflicts must exist, as long as they are not detrimental to the quality of the film, conflicts mean more if they are productive, and can help everyone improve on their works. Unfortunately, some things can turn really ugly. And when it does, you'll start wondering whether you were wrong, that you had a hand in causing, or prolonging the clash. Would I've done something different to change things? Am I really such a monster?

I compare this entire year of taking the filmmaking course to doing my literature classes last year. As much as I love filmmaking, excited by the possibilities of fulfilling a lifelong dream, of creating something that can make a difference, it is undeniable that writing is a much peaceful thing to do. With my English literature classes, all I had to do was shut myself in my room and write, be it critical essays of books or comparisons of Shakespearean plays and movies, and then submitting it without hassle. The quality of the work is entirely dependent on myself, and because of that, you answer only to yourself, it's less stressful, less complications.

Film production is interesting because it is comparatively less lonely, I have fellow crew members beside me, I can listen to their opinions on how to help develop the film. And these opinions are usually invaluable, because I am given an entirely fresh perspective on the screenplay I wrote. And in return, I can work with their ideas, mix and mesh it with my own, turn it into something that can make the film better. Everyone can grow together.

There are times when your paranoia overwhelms you. You may question why your teammates are just thinking of it as a school assignment and looking so much at the grades they will get from it? Why can't they just be as passionate in it as you do? Why aren't they as excited of the project as you are? Why does it feel so lonely to sit in the editing lab sometimes? Again, are you being a monster for not being able to convince those in your group to share your vision and passion? But this is reality, different people have different reasons for doing the same thing because they have different values and beliefs. To not realize that is naive.

But then, during the rare moments when you realize you are not alone in the whole filmmaking process, and that the ones you work with, you feel, happen to be in the same wavelength as you are. It can be a pretty joyful feeling. Ultimately, to me, dealing with people is just as challenging as the creative process of filmmaking (if not more). Looking forward to the next production meeting on Tuesday.

Currently enduring the calm before the storm. The short amount of peace I can savour before jumping into a non-stop working state.

Strangely, I hate the calm and peace. It bores me.