springtime

More movies. I swear I wrote this summer--one grant, two articles, three stories, and some good poems--but the news at hand is that Wednesday afternoon I finished the film that Jenna and I started shooting in May.  I mean, I finished a film. If the summer of 2015 was marked by minor loss of control in writing, that effect was of much more consequence to our film project. 

We started with a short, atomic fable of a story and drew up a plan for a single short film. What we produced is three short films and a much longer story, a story so far from finished that I've decided to draft it from scratch. I did not expect this.  

In May I sent Jenna a 500-word story and asked if she'd like to make a film for it much in the way that someone makes a music video.  I could record myself reading, we could pair the audio with some related images. The story was about a man who builds and burns a boat; since we clearly could not shoot anything on that scale, I said we could shoot a scaled down allegory, a woman folding a paper boat and burning that.  But Jenna understood that the story was actually about someone finding themselves alone. She suggested that, to give us more footage to work with, we should also shoot the woman going about the business of living alone. Since Jenna would hold the camera, I would be the woman. That first day of shooting, we spent the most time in my apartment. Jenna filmed me getting up, brushing my teeth, making a shopping list, making coffee, eating breakfast. We decided to also get some shots of Jenna driving Dylan's truck Susie--my idea was to frame the visual narrative as if it was being related by a character in the short story, who tows their friend's new boat up to Slave Lake. 

The second day of shooting, we broke into Dylan's apartment to film me folding paper boats at his dining table. By this time I was messing around with the story, revising it, fleshing it out. Jenna was entirely right; it was actually about being alone. I tried to figure out the particular loneliness that would prompt a woman (it was actually a woman) to build a boat in her backyard. The second draft came out at 2000 words. 

I recorded the audio late at night, smoking at my kitchen table, hunched over my phone in the dark. I do not know how to read a story aloud. My god, I hate the sound of my own voice. Jenna and I finally got around to shooting the boat burning scene--in retrospect, very illegal. We shot it in the Mill Creek ravine, just a few blocks from my house. I don't walk there often enough, though Mill Creek is creek enough to remind me of dead-mother, meadow-sleeping, country-house children's novels like The Four Story Mistake, and smack in the middle of the city. 

Finally, in July, we tried to cut it all together. Jenna edited on Dylan's computer while I hovered, fascinated by the magic that is Premiere Pro--allowing us to make a movie out of 50 short, shaky DSLR clips. You might remember that I thought we were done. Both Jenna and I were reasonably satisfied with the visual editing. I paced out the narration track, stretching a five minute recording over seven minutes of footage, and sent it to Jenna.  The next day she came over for breakfast and brought chocolate croissants. We were not done. She and Dylan both thought I should make a cleaner audio recording using a proper mic. I said I'd do it if I could revise the story again. 

(Meanwhile, I cut the 60-second version, so we'd have a taste of completion to tide us over.)

Third revision and the story was still 2000 words, but changed, morphing from prose-poem into something messier, about real characters who, in my mind, were not the characters in our film. And the story wasn't done. I recorded it anyway. The recording was much better. Jenna said she thought we needed one more scene. I said I thought we should cut out the narration entirely--it would be a better film if we let the images stand on their own. And I wanted to add music. I agonized. Dylan refereed. 

I wanted to finish the film collaboratively. Working so closely with someone else over a whole summer had already become the most interesting and important aspect of the project. Jenna's commitment my written story had catalyzed my entire revision process. It seemed ironic that that same commitment was the source of our disagreement re: the final cut--ironic that I wanted to discard the initial source material wholesale and Jenna wanted to maintain our original program, in spite of its messiness. She thought it was beautiful, and I felt that I must be missing something. I think I was. 

Last week, we finished Boat, and it felt good and Jenna and I are talking about getting tattoos to celebrate. Jenna also gave me permission to make an alternate cut. She showed me her newest Super-8 film with an incredible soundtrack she'd made with Dylan's Korg Kaossilator, which he'd also used this summer in a series of iPhone shorts. I decided to try something similar, because for all my rebellion, those two are perpetual sources of inspiration. I finished springtime late on Wednesday afternoon. 

I hope you like it. The story is still in the works--I'm hoping to write a new fourth draft before I start classes again next week (this last September of my BA). When it's finally finished I'll print it up as a book, and maybe even record an audio track to accompany it. Yikes.

In the meantime, here's a Frank O'Hara poem about convoluted process:

 

Why I am not a Painter

 

I am not a painter, I am a poet.

Why? I think I would rather be

a painter, but I am not. Well,

 

for instance, Mike Goldberg

is starting a painting. I drop in.

'Sit down and have a drink' he

says. I drink; we drink. I look

up. 'You have SARDINES in it.'

'Yes, it needed something there.'

'Oh.' I go and the days go by

and I drop in again. The painting

is going on, and I go, and the days

go by. I drop in. The painting is

finished. 'Where's SARDINES?'

All that's left is just

letters, 'It was too much,' Mike says.

 

But me? One day I am thinking of

a color: orange. I write a line

about orange. Pretty soon it is a

whole page of words, not lines.

Then another page. There should be

so much more, not of orange, of

words, of how terrible orange is

and life. Days go by. It is even in

prose, I am a real poet. My poem

is finished and I haven't mentioned

orange yet. It's twelve poems, I call

it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery

I see Mike's painting, called SARDINES.