I was sitting in Vegan Treats bakery, having just finished a tiny pumpkin cake, when a wave of elation washed over me. After weeks of planning and stressing and trying to handle a million details during one of the busiest times of the year, I had done what I had set out to do. I was filled with a combination of excitement, relief and just plain happiness mixed with a touch of disbelief. It started with disappointment.
The previous summer I directed my first real short film since college (where I essentially just made abstract art films anyway). It was challenging. Not just because I didn’t have money to spend on it or hardly any crew to make it happen, but because I was in charge of everything. I’m not one to shirk under the pressure of planning and organizing but, looking back, I did not have a lot of confidence in myself. I put so much of myself in to that little film that it was difficult for me to visualize how it would come together. There were aspects that were so clear and others that were murky and intangible. The story was ambiguous and I couldn’t seem to resolve elements based in reality with bits of fantasy.
Months after putting together an edit of the film, and subsequently taking a break from it, I returned to the footage and was supremely unhappy with it. There were elements of the film I wanted to make there but there were other parts that felt stiff. I wanted to move on, start another project and forget how things had gone wrong. Shawn would pester me about it though, reminding me of the parts I liked, questioning me on how it could be revived. I was stubborn. Finally though, a plan arose. We cut out everything that didn’t work, shot more footage and reassembled.
The end result was not the original story I set out to tell, and it is all the better for it. It’s still a tender little thing. It would have been so much easier move along and bury it with any past failures, to try again with something else. As much as I didn’t want to fix it, I now know that making something I’m actually content with gave me the confidence to keep creating with the knowledge that I’m fully capable of making something good. Once it was truly complete it cleared up my head to start thinking about the next thing without a cloud of doubt hovering over me. I will at some point share this film I’m speaking of, I’m just waiting for the right moment.
Not long after Shawn finished filming Ashes of a Cowboy I came across a historical event that I found so disturbing and bizarre that I knew immediately I wanted to make a film about it. I intended to file it away as an idea for later but one day, feeling inspired, I started writing. The script came together quickly and the momentum carried me forward to keep planning to film it. Since the story took place in the late 18th century, the whole thing became more complicated. Actually filming it seemed so distant and unreal but I just kept on moving forward as if it would happen.
Something compelled me to keep moving forward. I wanted to make this film and it was going to have be before winter came or it wouldn’t happen until sometime next year and the momentum I was gliding on would be lost. Then a moment came where things turned from possible to real. A historic location was booked and schedules coordinated. I had just under a month to piece everything together from costumes to props to casting and getting it all to a distant location all while working my full time regular job and hosting horror marathons and making Halloween costumes.
There were many times in that month where I thought maybe it wouldn’t work. Unlike before though, I trusted myself. I knew clearly what I wanted and also knew where to let go of that vision for the greater good of the project. Still when we arrived for the first day of shooting I had a list in the back of my head of all the things that could potentially go wrong. Yet somehow, almost magically, in so many instances where I had backup plans, things went even better than expected. A prop I needed that I wasn’t able to bring showed up the day before at a relative’s house. A room I didn’t know we would have access to had the exact lighting I needed for a shot. That’s not to say there weren’t difficulties. Shooting a film, even a short one, is always a battle against time and light and so many other things.
I had a lot of help from some very patient people, some of whom I enlisted through the internet and only met for the first time the day of shooting. Plus some some family that Shawn convinced to don period clothing and populate my historic village. It goes without saying that Shawn helped me tremendously, though I’m not sure he knew entirely what he was getting into until the last moment.
There will be a long way to go to finish the film. Editing is its own harrowing process. I wanted to record this feeling though, the one I felt back in the bakery, of pulling all the pieces together and actually making it happen.