Sunday, May 17, 2009

Chaotic Space

Deadlines, deadlines. At my full time job, and in life in general, deadlines are not to be missed. It's a sign of keeping your word that you'll meet a deadline, a sign that you're worthy of trust, that you can be held accountable. That, when you give your word, it actually means something. You've made a promise, and it's up to you to keep it.

I keep giving myself hard deadlines so that I can finish a certain stage of the project. I need a date, a deadline, to work towards. My background is in graphic design, which is typically done for a client, which means there's usually a hard deadline. So, you learn to work backwards. If the design is due three months from now, you can set up deadlines for the process: first draft, review, revisions, etc. For the film, though, there is no client. So, these self-imposed deadlines help me keep things moving forward. It's all in my hands right now, and the work of my volunteers can't start until I finish this battle against myself to stop tweaking the screenplay.

Many people have asked why write a screenplay if it's a documentary. I've gotten a lot of questions about that. Well, it's the road map for me and my team. We have 30+ hours of interview footage, a mountain of original images, archived 8mm film, original audio, and eventually original animated graphics and original scores. We have a volunteer team of editors, writers, designers, musicians, managers, marketers, programmers and more that ask to help on a weekly basis. Simply put, the screenplay is a way to make order of the seemingly chaotic space we're in right now.

It's easier to tweak lines of text now, rather than wait until we're down the road. It's easier to battle myself, alone in my house, than drive my editors crazy by asking them to move footage around on the timeline. We are, after all, volunteering so I want to make it fun for everyone. If it starts to feel like work, then they might walk away. That's a very real, very scary thought for me. This group of volunteers is made up of my friends, colleagues, acquaintances. If they feel the need to walk away because it's no longer in their best interest or they have a major conflict in time committments, then that's one thing. But if they feel the need to walk away from the project because it's no longer fun, then that is altogether very different. I can't pay them, so it absolutely must be fun.

So, I want to protect them and give them an enivornment in which they can flourish and do their best work. Work they are proud of, and want to share with their network. Work that builds their portfolio so they can get paid jobs. Great, intelligent, talented people are hard to find. I want to make more films, and I only want the best people on my team. And, I want to take the lessons that I've picked up from my full time job and work in the most effiicent means possible. It's all been about processes for me at work in the past two years, and I've not forgotten those lessons while working on this film.

There comes a time and a place where you have to recognize that you've got it as good as you can get it right now, though. An artist is rarely ever finished with a piece of work. The time to stop tweaking is coming for me soon. I've been working on the screenplay since January, when I returned from my interview with John Plaster in Wisconsin. There is much more work to be done, and I'm holding up the process by tweaking too much.

So, my final deadline is the end of May. I boldy state that I will finish it this week, before my Memorial Day vacation. We shall see, we shall see. Wish me luck, folks. I'm in a battle, and it shall end soon! Man versus self. Who wins?

On the other hand, I must pat myself on the back for just a moment. I've been reviewing the footage and transcripts, and it's quite refreshing to see just how far I've come in the interviewing process.

Previously I mentioned that there are a lot of synergies between my full time job and this film. What I've learned at work, I have applied in my filmmaking. And now, what I have learned on my film, I can apply at work. Interviewing skills help save money, basically. The more talented the interviewer, the faster you get to clips you can use. The faster you get to clips you can use, the less time and money is spent filming and then hunting for those clips.

Think of it in the America's Next Top Model terms. Tyra's always congratulating her models when they get a lot of great photos, especially when they have the final pick in the first few frames. Back in the film days, you wanted a model who could strike a winning pose quickly because it means less money spent on film. Oh, man, I spent so much money on film! Today, even without film, the same rules apply because time is money. The faster you get to the winning end product, the more money you save. The more money a model saves a photographer or creative director, the more jobs she'll book and the more successful she can be. Similarly, the more skilled you are as an interviewer, the more money and time you'll save, allowing you to keep building your portfolio.

If only I had these skills at the beginning of the project. We must live and learn, though. We must learn to yeild to that which we do not know, so that we can grow in the chaotic space. We should surrender to where we are in life, and go into something new open minded and ready to learn. This project, as I previously mentioned, has helped me grow in so many ways. Ways that I will be thankful for the rest of my life. There's no doubt that my world is changing. It's one unbelievable dream come true.

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."
--T.S. Elliot

"The ability to let something go, to yield and thence to empty, is essential to growing. New skin does not flourish until the old has been sloughed off."
--Nicola Phillips

No comments: