Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Moving Midway

Last Saturday, after I returned from Fayetteville I came home to unpack my equipment. Fairly immediately I went to Durham to watch the movie Moving Midway, where the filmmakers were in attendance for a question and answer session. How divine that I could come back from interviewing Col. Donlon and immediately go to such an event.

It was a good, locally shot film. I'm excited to see that it's gotten reviews from publications like The New York Post. It was odd to see a place I had visited years go now there in front of me on the big screen, and even stranger to see people I know interviewed for the movie. I can only imagine what excitement I'll feel to see my own film in a theater. (Gasp! What excitement!)

When my friend, Chris Moore, showed his short film Hard Stapled at the All American Film Festival, it was so incredible to see it in a theater full of people and hear them laughing in unison. What a great feeling to see my friends on the screen and hearing a chorus of laughs, knowing each of the people involved in the project. You almost have to pinch yourself to believe that it's real. And then, if you're the filmmaker, celebrate because you got the reaction you'd been hoping for while working on it. You sit there working in a semi-vaccuum and it's hard to know until you screen that film if you'll get the reaction you want.

On Saturday night, I sat in the audience as Godfrey Cheshire, the writer/director/producer, and Robert Hinton, chief historian/associate producer, sat before us to answer questions. Many people asked about the race relations, the house, and why it had to be moved. They asked questions until our time was cut off, and the conversations moved into the lobby for the next screening. I felt a tinge of disappointment, mostly at myself for not asking the questions I wanted to hear answered.

Immediately I flashed back to my experience at the Kilowatt Ours second debut in Durham, where everyone wanted to talk about anything but the filmmaking process. In front of us stood Jeff Barrie, a filmmaker showing his piece of work, and not a single person asked about the process. I wanted to stand and shout, "Tell me how you did it!?"

On Saturday night, I had to remind myself that these are people there to see the film because they care about the subject matter. It's not a room full of filmmakers, or geeks like me who want to full behind-the-sceens story. And, that's a good thing. That means the film and marketing have done their jobs--brought people out to the theater to watch movie about something they want to see.

Last Saturday I didn't chat with Cheshire (people were swarming around him), but I overheard some of my questions asked by others. You can learn a lot when you listen to conversations. I heard his answers. Throughout the film, I kept wondering about the timeline. When did he start the project? How long did it take to get to this point, here, tonight, in front of this audience? Then someone asked and I heard his answer.

He started filming it in 2003. Released it in 2007. And started screenings in 2008.

Five years?! Oh, my heart sank! I know that we've only been working on our project since March 2008 (now 8 months), but I cannot fathom it being released in 2013! Already, the number of interviewees has tripled, and we are well beyond our original deadline of completing it by September. Yes, we set these deadlines ourselves, and we went beyond the original scope of work--but the thought of having to wait that long to finish this project is painful.

I know I put too much pressure on myself. That's a given. But I have this fear that--because I'm working full time--the project is going to take a lot longer to finish. And, I'm notoriously terrible at finishing anything anyway, so I also have this fear that something will keep me from wrapping it all up the way I have envisioned it. I suppose we all have this buzz of "what-if" thoughts, like annoying mosquitos flying around screaming our fears at us constantly. We are much more fragile than we appear.

My heart sank in that moment because I'm so anxious to finish our project. Everyone is asking me about the film, how it's going, and when it'll be finished. Maybe that's just small talk, or maybe they genuinely care. Either way, I am doing my best to be patient so that we have a final product that is as excellent as it can possibly be with our given constraints. That's the most important thing to remember. Not these fears and doubts.

Oh, fear. Fear is a killer. Improv has taught me that fear is a silly, silly thing. A waste of time, really. We must face our fears and get on with life if we ever wish to accomplish anything. Doubt is the same way. We cannot fear and doubt ourselves, or we shall never cross the finish line. You cannot get on stage with nothing more than trusted teammates and an audience's suggestion, if you don't move with confidence and energy. It's impossible to have a good show if you're not making bold moves, casting fear and doubt aside like the infectious waste that they are.

Visualization. There is a powerful tool. That's something you want in your back pocket, like a fly swatter when those pesky thoughts just won't stop. "I think I can,...I think I can,...I think I can." A silly children's story, or a life lesson?

It is of the utmost importance that we finish this thing with integrity and honor because the subject matter demands it--and we demand it. We want it to be as great as we can possibly make it. But I think I will explode if it takes us five years to finish!

Seeing Moving Midway on Saturday sent me through a whirlwind of emotions. Some of them I was very familiar with, and others I was not prepared to feel. For example, Jay Spain, producer/cinematographer, and I shook hands and spoke for a while. I asked him a bunch of questions. He was very kind, which is one of the reasons I really like local events like this in North Carolina. Everyone's so kind and generous with their time and attention, something that's rare these days.

Then he turned the tables. He asked me if I was a filmmaker and I fumbled. A simple "yes" would have done, but I struggled to say it for some reason. I think I'd gotten so caught up in seeking answers that I didn't have my networking mindset on. Just as I have formed an elevator speech for the film's subject matter, I will now have to grow accustomed to identifying myself as a filmmaker. What a joy!

Pinch me! I am becoming a filmmaker.

1 comment:

History Is A Weapon said...

What do you think of Peter Davis's documentary Hearts and Minds?