My Other Work

Friday, July 14, 2006
I spend a lot of time fretting over whether I've chosen the right road regarding my work. This morning was exactly such a time, although not in an unpleasant way. Not knowing exactly what one should be doing because one is Pretty Good (TM) at a couple of different things is a good problem to have (even if both things are impractical and hard to make a living at.)

I re-re-restarted this website as a base of virtual operations for one particular project, but I've always assumed it would expand to include all the other projects I'm working on simultaneously. There are two others upon which I consider myself currently "at work": a video, and a book. The video (assuming all goes well) will be done relatively soon, the book will doubtless be a long time in coming -- years, I expect. For me, the creative dichotomy balances film on one side (my adopted meduim) and writing on the other (the only one win which I might be said to have been born innately talented -- if such a thing actually exists.) The big irony is that, as smoothly as these two things could fit together, the one thing I don't consider myself is a screenwriter.

Music videos are the best thing ever, from a filmmaking perspective. It's the last modern bastion of the avant-garde (and the greatest hope the avant-garde filmmaker has ever enjoyed). It's sort of the opposite of a film score -- rather than creating music to accompany a film, you're creating a film to accompany music. It's a liberating form, in that it's film in its purest state -- no narrative (or none necessary), no dialogue or exposition, no character development; just imagery. The music holds the piece together (since music is actually better at temporal cohesion anyway, being a strictly fourth-dimensional medium) so any further coherence in the piece is optional for the director. All you have to concern yourself with is making the thing visually interesting.

That said, you do need a good visual hook. You still need a structure (though that structure can be a lot more flexible), and the thing still needs to make some kind of internal sense. This one I'm working on now already has its structure and visual hook in place, and I'm happy with them -- I've had the idea in my mind for a few months now, and I still like it, which is generally how I know that something is worth pursuing. I hate 90% of my ideas within a week of having them, so surviving for months is a good sign. But there are still gaps to fill, and that the last, hardest step. The one thing I've learned is not to try to have other people's ideas, but the alternative -- waiting patiently for your own to come -- is the most frustrating thing in the world.

And then there's the book. It's a nonfiction piece on a subject about which obnoxiously little has been written, considering the subject's cultural magnitude -- I'm still waiting for the book I want to write to turn up on a shelf somewhere, already written, because I can't quite believe that nobody has done it yet. I have a feeling I'll be talking about this one for a long, long time, but I'm committed to it, and I feel confident that it will eventually see the light of day. Just last night I formulated a solid thesis and found that it allowed me to understand the subject on a more concrete level. Structure is still a problem, but I think that'll sort itself out as I go. The problem is finding the time and the creative energy to spend on it. There are days when I just want to hole myself up in the corner of some coffee shop or diner somewhere and spend the day pecking away at a keyboard, but I don't have means to do that. It would be even better to have a space of my own in which to work -- a private space, with white walls on which I could tack up notes and sketches knowing that nobody else would see them if I didn't want them to (creative privacy is a big thing for me.) But I don't have any of that yet, and as of this afternoon I don't really know how I might acquire it.

Writing is what everybody tells me I should be doing; they've been telling me that since I was in junior high. I'm reasonably good at it (when I set my mind to it), although I'm still undisciplined about it. When I write I start at the beginning, write straight through to the end, and then go back and clean up the obvious typos and stylistic problems (leaving just as many forgotten.) It's rare that I write a second draft of anything. With an experienced editor behind me, I think I could turn out some damn good work. Enough to get paid? Maybe; I don't know. I'm at a sort of pessimistic place about ever getting paid a living wage for anything right now.

It's funny, in a sad way -- one of the attractions of film originally was that it was something that I might be able to make a real living at, unlike the unending hell of making a living as a writer. Film work is a skill, a trade, and one that's always in demand in the modern world. I've never wanted to get Spielberg rich, but to just, y'know, make enough to live a modest bohemian life. And now that I'm skilled enough to expect payment, I find myself in a place where there's very little steady paying work. And so I turn to thoughts of what I might do to get by during these barren days, and I think about writing -- writing to support my filmmaking habit. I have to laugh for fear of crying.

It's a big problem, though; I find myself with plenty of time to work, but so anxious over being eternally broke that I spend a lot of that time consumed with worry over how much free time I have, which I'm not using properly because I'm so worried. The only thing that saves me from falling into despair is the work.