Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Anatomy of Creation

On a beautiful day in May, I placed a dvd copy of my film, Play Dead, in my purse and drove down to the Centene Center to turn in my submission to the St. Louis Film Makers Showcase. When I arrived, the sky began to darken and thunder rolled across and I handed my film to Brian, who greeted me with a friendly smile.
I've had a couple films in the festival as an actor, and done various jobs behind the scene and last year I debuted a trailer as a director but this is a big deal for me. I've volunteered many times at parties and the Tivoli, and last year had a screenplay in competition, so this was almost a social call. The nature of that almost overshadowed the largeness of the moment.
Here in my hand was an idea I had conceived in my head. I looked over at my daughter a year ago and said "I'm going to write a ghost story and I think you should play the lead."
At which point, she jumped up and down.
I brainstormed with her for a few hours, she is brilliantly creative and not shy about saying 'that's stupid' when it is. The inkling of the idea was already forming and dividing in my head like cells, over the next few days, it grew bigger and I started calling people and telling them. I carried it around in my brain for about three days, tossing it back and forth, giving it bones and flesh and shape and finally I sat down at the computer with an outline in my hand and began pushing it out.
Then, there it was. The story was much bigger than the twenty pages I had written it on. It went through a period of transition where it struggled to be what it wanted to be- where I took a scalpel and cut away at the dead skin and let it emerge as what it was meant to be. It was born of frustration and desire but it did not breathe until the actors put voices to it.
Then began the long wait, as shoot dates got pushed back and days turned into months and I hung on to it and said "I will do this, I will accomplish this, it will become real, it's not going to sit on my shelf and gather dust."
We searched for just the right house and all the right locations and I began to curse my imagination for being so complex. We made some sacrifices that now I feel weren't sacrifices at all but happy twists of fate. I cannot believe I originally wrote a spooky car scene to take place during the day- I see it now and what was I thinking? Of couse it needed to be the deep, dead of night.
Shooting this film was much like taking a newborn into its terrible twos- up all night, patience stretched to the absolute limit, stress, moments of pure joy when a smile peeks out unexpectedly and a performance exceeds wildest expectations- and then it is finally finished. The last words have been spoken by the actors, the last piece of equipment has been loaded up and packed away.
I wanted to sleep for a week- in one way thinking the worst was over but then came the first rough cut- taming this rebellious, unkempt awkward and unruly thing was not easy. It took patience and nuturing and guidance to get it there. Putting music on it was like refining it through angst ridden waters and helping it find itself.
It emerges finally, a polished thing, shining through, proud of where it has come from.
I hand this small disk over and know it now has to stand on its own. I have birthed it, raised it and nurtured it and now it has to prove itself, find its own way. I can't be there for it when other people watch it, dissect it and consider it. It is mine but not mine, it has become a piece of me that has grown beyond me.
Two hours later, I received an email that my film has been accepted into the St. Louis Filmmaker's Showcase and it will show July 20th at 7 PM at the Tivoli.

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