To make a movie is to have hope, hope that someone as un-notable as I am, until the world deems otherwise, is capable of creating something great, something that will last, maybe even outlast myself. Each day, each moment is an act of faith, the perhaps naive belief that the hope I have is not entirely misplaced, and that the great men of the past were men, not extremely unlike myself, who did something, like I can do, and that thing made them great.
It’s a rather flimsy structure to live on. But, that’s what being an artist is to me. It’s flimsy, it may or may not last in a storm, or an earthquake. It can be blown over and it’s not easy to rebuild. There’s no way for me to know if it’s going to be destroyed by even the slightest breeze. But, that hope gives me the faith to continue.
And, sometimes that hope is rewarded.
In the previous entry I mentioned that it might be a while before I make another entry. Well, I guess it wasn’t as long as I thought.
This afternoon/evening (depending on which timezone you’d chose) I spoke with Stu Kennedy for the first time. I saw his face and his mannerisms. We talked about what ALGORITHM’s soundtrack should be like. We talked about what the current state of TV/Movie soundtracks could be, given the history of soundtracks. We talked about Star Wars Ep 7, and if Disney will wreck it. We talked about the most recent incarnation of Spiderman, and he said something geeky that instantly let me know that he and I are simpatico. He said, “If you have an accident at work, you become a mutant.” I laughed, for a while.
Then our Skype chat got dropped by servers.
Stu immediately called (is it called “call” on Skype?) back and we resumed where we left off.
When I listened to Stu’s demo tracks, from several years ago, I knew he was good. When I listened to his pitch of what he thought the movie would be, I knew we had the same vision. Today, the chat was about me doing what I’ve done with all the other great artists who are helping make ALGORITHM a finished movie.
I find people who are good, I make sure we’re on the same page, that we share the vision of what I’m trying to do. If those two things are true, I usually end up liking them, which is a good thing because working with people I don’t like is not something I plan on doing.
When we share a vision, then I enable the artist to do what they do, to make art. Stu asked a bit about music queues and I told him, “Put the music where you feel it should be.” We then talked a bit about how a lot of music tries to tell you how to feel about the scene. Neither of us like that. It’s entirely too common in movies, which is an incredible disservice to the industry and the world that enjoys this form of art.
Stu has a PhD in math. He writes computer code. He is a hacker. He also writes music, and he’s good at that too. He’s not only the type of person I’m trying to portray in ALGORITHM, he’s also the ideal audience. Much of ALGORITHM will not be understood without quite a bit of a computer science background. Of course, it’s a good story, so the the CS background isn’t required. But, if you know about CS, it will be a better story.
And Stu gets it. He likes it. He understands what I’m trying to say and likes how I’ve said it. In other words, he’s a perfect partner for this project. His enthusiasm has reinvigorated what was my rapidly deteriorating hope. To use an anachronistic term, he’s a Godsend.
I’m not saying I was going to quit. I can’t. I don’t have anywhere else to go. I don’t have anything else to do. But, it’s a lot easier to continue when I’m excited than when I’m depressed.
Right as my conversation with Stu was ending, I let him know that while I would prefer to get ALGORITHM done in time for the various festivals, it wasn’t a requirement. I would rather have him feel he’s done the best he can and make something he’s proud of and I would have to work a little harder promoting the movie that is that much better for his hard work. I’d rather have that then have a movie that is less than it could be because I rushed to finish it.
Every time I find myself rushing for a festival, the words of my friend Sean Hackett come back to me, “Don’t rush to finish the movie for a festival. Make the best movie you can.” Thank you, Sean. You continue to inspire and guide me, even a year after that conversation.
* * *
Before ALGORITHM was even an idea in my head, before its predecessor The Root Kit existed, I was teaching my friend John Santino to be a DP. He’s a good photographer. He has an artist’s eye and an artist’s heart. I knew he would make a great DP, if I showed him how to tell a story with a moving image, because he clearly knew how to tell one with a still image.
After a year of training, Santino met the woman who would become his wife. He fell in love. And his artist heart took him from me. For a while I was mad at him, and his wife. But, it’s not his fault. It’s his heart, the heart that makes him a great photographer and my very good friend. To blame him for what he is is foolish.
Of course he’s still my friend and I still enjoy his company whenever I have that pleasure. He’s not around much anymore.
I got to spend most of yesterday with him, running errands. When the errands were done, I showed him ALGORITHM.
Part of me wanted to show off what I had done, what he could have been a part of, had he stayed with me. That’s a cruel side of me that I don’t like.
Another part of me wanted to show my fellow artist what I had done, to be validated by him because his taste matters to me. He loved it. He talked about the composition of each shot being perfect, the placement of the camera, the angles and the light… all the things he knows so well. It was a great compliment, doubly so because it comes from someone who knows the difference between good and bad.
* * *
That gave me a chance to boast of how good Satsuki is as a DP. It wasn’t to belittle Santino at all. It was to marvel at talent. I told him about what is easily the most complicated shot in the movie and how it was executed so perfectly that it will probably go unnoticed, which means it really was perfectly done.
The shot is when Will leaves the library. He walks out of the darkness of the library, toward the camera, then outside, into broad daylight, away from the camera. This shot required five variables done simultaneously, with perfect precision to work: The elevation change of the jib (that’s a crane the camera sits on), the tilt of the camera, the pan of the camera, a focus pull as Will walks toward the camera, and then another as he walks away, and an aperture pull as Will moves from darkness to light.
Not only is it a beautifully orchestrated shot that was amazingly executed, it’s also symbolic of the entire movie, of Will’s character progression. And the beauty of it is that if you don’t know what’s going on in the background, the shot is just a guy walking outside.
Forgettable, like so many of the lives we pass each day, so many of the semi-automaton relationships we have with the sales clerks, the people on the bus, or the secretaries, janitors, etc. But, when we dig a bit deeper, the full spectrum of a human life, in all its beauty lay underneath, waiting to be understood, or at the very least, explored.
* * *
I tend to be a bit wordy when I’m happy. That’s why this entry has gone on so long. But, before I end it, I want to talk about one more thing.
* * *
My confidence in Stu gives me the ability to truly not worry about the project, maybe even not think about it, at least for a couple weeks. That’s a good thing, because, two weeks ago, before Stu signed on, I was exhausted, in every sense of that word. I had nothing left to give. Lots of crying to Miles Davis. (Ironically, I’ve got John Coltrane playing in the background as I write this. Jazz isn’t just my sad music.) I’m getting the rest I need. I feel my energy and sanity slowly returning. I’m again finding my calm center, from which I can make good decisions. It’s a good feeling.