I’ve found that when I understand how my brain works, how I react to specific stimuli, I can learn to control things that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to. For instance, creativity. There is, among artists, the idea that we have to wait for a muse to come upon us and only then can we do the great things we imagine are possible. Until then, we are often emotionally erratic, often contentious people.
To facilitate the muse, many artists rely on drugs, opium, in the case of Edgar Allan Poe, alcohol, in the case of Ernest Hemingway, everything all together in the case of Hunter S. Thompson. And, they all created amazing works that facilitated change in the world, either in art, or in the very paradigms by which we evaluate this life.
The long-term effects of those mind-altering chemicals is either unknown, or known and more often than not, extremely bad.
I have to ask, then, is it the plight of the great artist to suffer a bipolar mind of ecstatic bliss followed by horrors so abysmal that they cannot be communicated except to those who have had a mutual experience? That would be a rather sad life, one I choose not to live.
* * *
So, back to knowing how my brain works.
I know that when I get feedback on my work, if it says something that is anything other than praise, I cry for two days. After those two days are done, I have energy again and I keep working. That’s my process. I fully acknowledge that feedback is critical in making my work better. That’s why I’ve been doing all the screenings with the people I have. And, it’s one of the reasons I invited Mandi Reno on as a producer.
I just got my first critique from Mandi. Much of it was incredibly insightful. I’m not going to follow all of her advice. That’s something I told her when we met. I have this… I’ll call it an issue; the psychologist I had as a child labeled it “Oppositional Defiance Disorder”. Basically, what it means is that when someone tells me what to do, or when I feel I’m being controlled, my natural reaction is to resist. It also means I generally distrust authority of any kind. It also means I have struggled a lot to try and fit into this world.
It also means, after years of searching, I’ve been able to find a way of living that perfectly suits my personality.
* * *
Once again, back to how my brain works.
I know that in order for me to facilitate creativity in myself, I need to be calm. My creativity takes a certain kind of energy and that energy only exists when I’m at peace. When we were shooting ALGORITHM, I deliberately created this calm on set so that I could be as creative as possible. It worked so well that some of the cast now tell stories about how relaxed and pleasant the set was.
When I was in the writing phase, I knew it helped to start each day with a bath. I don’t know if that’s because of the sensory-depravation, or the increased blood-flow because of the heat, or if it’s something more primal and reminds my subconscious of the womb. Whatever it is, it helps.
* * *
And so, as i mentioned in the previous post, I’ve been having a creative problem with ALGORITHM. The problem still exists. While I was in the bath today, the problem became clear to me as a systemic one.
A few weeks ago I screened ALGORITHM for Miles Maker. He told me to call it a Techno-thriller because if I called it a Thriller, people would come to it with a different set of expectations.
In an earlier draft of ALGORITHM, when it was called THE ROOT KIT, Matt Wallace called it “a drama about hackers.” That initially made me kind of sad. I was hoping for something more gripping, something that would hold the viewer fixed to the movie until it was done. For me, dramas just don’t do that.
Mandi’s insightful notes come with the presupposition that ALGORITHM is supposed to be a thriller. And those are great notes because that’s what I told her I was trying to get ALGORITHM to become.
The problem is, I don’t know that I’ve written a thriller. I don’t know how to categorize it, of if it even needs to be categorized.
The bathtub revelation was that as long as I try to label ALGORITHM a thriller, the edits are going to be going in that direction. In order to solve the creative problem I’ve been having, I have to stop trying to make ALGORITHM into something, but instead try to see what it is, find that, and then craft it to be the best whatever-it-is it can be.
And, as to the whole, drama-is-not-good thing, I was browsing Netflix yesterday and found THERE WILL BE BLOOD… in the drama section. So, now I know dramas can grip just as tightly as anything else. In fact, most, if not all, of my favorite movies are dramas… including my current top 2 favorites, BLADE RUNNER and APOCALYPSE NOW.