Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Art, Life and Blogs

"Write what you know!" is a common and meaningful axiom in writing. The point being that you are expressing authentic truths in your life and detailing authentic situations instead of making up a bunch of bogus crap that you truly know nothing about. Even great fantasy writers draw from their own inner experiences (and obsessions) in creating their fantasy worlds and in crafting the deeper thematic threads that underlie their stories.

We at FA urge filmmakers to do the same. If it isn't your life or story, it should at least be a story/life you to which you feel a personal connection. And if it is complete fantasy, hopefully it is a reflection of things that exist deep inside you. Because if it isn't personal for you, it won't be personal for us (the audience). It is important to know, however, that sometimes, that can get you into trouble.

Take this blog, for instance. I very much want it to be an open and honest reflection of my life as a filmmaker and of all the things I've learned in that life (or as much as possible). But it is not my life. It is merely a creative (I hope) and subjective reflection of certain elements of my life. That's what all art is (not that my blog is art, but it is a creative endeavor of sorts). Art can never be truly authentic unless there was some possible way to allow the audience to actually live the life you have created for them. But that isn't possible. So, what we are actually creating is the feeling of authenticity. Not authenticity itself.

In my blog, there is indeed the a sense of authenticity, but there is also plenty of creative subjectivity that is expressed through through the thoughts and impressions that form my particular perspective on the world. And that perspective is not always kind to the focus of my musings. Quite frankly, it is sometimes filled with entertaining (again, I hope) dysfunction. And, finally, there are actual human beings (not characters in a movie) that are being described - and sometimes insulted - by that particular perspective.

I kinda trashed Wes Anderson's "The Darjeeling Limited" in a blog, then met him briefly at a screening afterward. Some of the way in which I trashed the film was also a bit unkind to him personally - though certainly not nasty or abusive. It was simply not something he'd be overjoyed to read, even if he found it useful feedback. But I don't know him at all personally. And what little bit I did see, seemed very nice. When I met him, he was as gracious and friendly as if he'd never even read my blog. That's because he didn't. Let's face it, nobody reads this blog except you.....or so I thought.

Awhile back, I did one of my "Day in the life..." or "Week in the life..." or maybe even "Month in the life...." pieces (soon I'll be doing a "Year in the life..."). In it, I made a passing reference to an encounter with a writer/filmmaker who also happened to be a porn actress. It was unkind and dismissive. She read the blog. She was not happy. She sent me an email to express her understandable displeasure.

My initial reaction was one of surprise - first, that she'd actually read it (honestly, I was also flattered), but secondly, that she would be upset by it since I had absolutely no objectivity about what I'd written. So, I went back and re-read it, putting myself in her place. And it was easy to feel the full impact of her upset.

Naturally, I apologized. I also tried to explain myself. I made the point that I am communicating things from a particular perspective and it is not necessarily "true-to-life". The people I identify in my blog, in essesence, become "characters" - even if they are real live persons - that represent ideas and issues I face in my life as a filmmaker. Somehow, none of that made her feel better. I'm not surprised.

The fact is, I failed to acknowledge that she truly is a creative being, even if that creativity is a bit raw and restless. And it is clear that she is attempting, through that creative work, to reach beyond the perceived limitations and imposed judgements surrounding her life choices. And she reached out to me as earnestly as she knows how. And although I responded to her genuinely in our email exchange, I used her as nothing more than creative fodder for my blog. And I did it with a bit of dismissive indignation.

So, naturally, she was hurt by what I'd written. For that, I am truly sorry. She also feels crushed by my perceived lack of support. For that, I do not take responsibility. Because, in the end, I have to say that I still stand behind what I wrote, even while feeling sorry for the pain it has caused her. And I say this knowing full well she will be reading this. In fact, I'm sending her a link to it. So, let me explain that comment, for her benefit, as well as yours. Although I doubt what I am about to say will make her feel any better.

My blog is a work of creative energy that demands creative choices. And sometimes those choices are tough. I certainly don't feel good about making anyone feel bad, but that was not my intention. It was an unfortunate consequence of a desire to express an authentic perception. The fact is, I was struck by what I perceived as dysfunction in my original encounter with this filmmaker. It is not a objective judgement, just a subjective perception. And that is what I wanted to convey in my blog. She thus became a "character" in my blog, representing a larger thematic idea.

It was not a very "human" choice....more of an intellectual one. And, upon reflection, not the best choice. Not because it hurt her (although I am truly sorry for that), but because a "human" choice is always a better one creatively. That's because humans are far more complex and interesting than any theme or thesis my limited intellect chooses to support. Had I mentioned that she was indeed a creative being and had indeed reached out to me earnestly, it would have been much more complex and emotionally affecting.

But that would have been for another (better) blog. This one was what it was - a brief paragraph about something that happened to me during the course of a week. And I conveyed what struck me most about that encounter. Does this mean I don't support her creativity and creative work? Does this mean I don't respect her feelings? Absolutely not. I do respect her as a person and as a creative being. But I do feel that there is some damage in her psyche (not that there isn't in mine) and it struck me as a microcosm of a much larger issue in the filmmaking universe - one that I chose to convey as I did.

And I don't want to run from that perspective. I don't feel that I "branded" her publicly as I never betrayed, nor will betray, her identity. But I did identify her in a way she could clearly recognize. And, given that she's identified herself, I guess I wish she could step back and really "see" herself or, at least, see the personal and larger affect of a proposition such as the one she'd offered. And then, if she so chooses, stand behind it fully. My reaction has no bearing whatsoever on her creative energy. She is a meaningful creative being no matter how I might respond to her approach to soliciting creative support. She is a meaningful creative being no matter how "damaged" or "dyfunctional" I may perceive her. She needs to know that and not need me to tell her that.

I say this because it is true for all of us. We need to stand up for our work and our choices. We may learn from them and make different choices in the future (hopefully). But we should struggle not to be offended by the reactions of others - be they friends, family, critics, programmers or...bloggers. They do not and should not affect who we are in our essence. My reaction should not affect what this filmmaker needs to do creatively. And I can honestly say, that as sorry as I am, her reaction will not affect what I feel I need to do. That reaction is the price we all might pay at one time or another for "writing what we know".

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