Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Paradox of "Making It"

It doesn't take a Media Studies degree to realize that we're living in a culture of hyperstimulation.  This word, borrowed liberally from historian Ben Singer who used it to describe the barrage of stimuli that arose with technological expansion at the dawn of the twentieth century, applies even more so to the current new media landscape.  However, the promise of technology is simultaneously both a blessing and a curse for artists trying to emerge into the Art World.  To plant their flags in earnestness.  To "make it."

The notion of "making it" was seeded fairly early in my brain.  It all began with music; when I received a guitar at the age of 12 and my teenage years were spent desperately trying to be Noel Gallagher from Oasis (minus the massive blow habit).  I had the Epiphone guitar, the Adidas Samba sneakers, and when I sang (others will tell you) there was the hint of a Manchester accent in there.  I craved the role of the intelligent songwriter: the backbone of creativity rather than the rock and roll swagger of brother Liam.  That immersion into Brit-Pop finally led me to Radiohead.  Through Radiohead I observed that an artist could have it all: killer songwriting abilities / artistic credibility / on stage chemistry / a book club...while critics all but permanently stitched their lips to your asshole.

Music eventually gave way in my college years to film and filmmaking and this paradigm actually has a word that describes what I had been questing after my entire teenage life: auteur.  Hitchcock, Scorsese, Kurosawa, Kubrick, P.T. Anderson: their films are synonymous with their names; inseparable even.  Films, though entirely collaborative, are essentially little golden eggs laid by these artists - or so that is the impression we take away from them.

I've been making small digital films for a few years now.  They started off god-awful but I firmly believe that each and every effort is an improvement over the last.  This is on all levels: screenwriting, cinematography, editing, visual effects, acting, etc.  Note that the end-credit sequences of each film have gotten longer and longer.  It was beaten into me in an Introductory Psychology class that "correlation does not imply causation" but here it absolutely does.  These films are not only improving because I'm maturing within the art form but because I'm surrounding myself with like-minded individuals and together the final product is infinitely stronger than had I gone it alone.  Through my attempts at becoming an auteur, I have learned how impossible the idea ever was.

Screenwriting is ultimately how I hope to break into the business.  Unfortunately there is a catch-22 with "making it."  That is, it takes an agent to sell your screenplay but you cannot get an agent without having sold a screenplay.  There are always exceptions of course but hundreds and hundreds of query letters will eventually yield hundreds and hundreds of rejections: "PASS," "NOT TAKING NEW CLIENTS AT THIS TIME", "YOUR WORK DOESN'T MEET OUR CURRENT NEEDS."  It's enough to drive even the most determined insane.

And so in between screenwriting attempts I'll continue to make short films with the hopes that the film will hit just the right person at the right place at the right time.  But even this is impossible.  Why?  Because, as I wrote at the beginning - this is a culture of hyperstimulation.  Everyone has access to digital cameras and editing software.  Everyone can self-publish their book of short stories.  Everyone can learn how to write screenplays online.  The same opportunities that have allowed me the tools to make films also allows access to anyone else in the world.  How many other filmmakers posted films to Youtube today?  Frankly there is an ephemeral sea of media out there and I am but a drop of water.  Bite sized files of ones and zeros clog the pathways.  It is virtually impossible to rise above the muck. 

But this does not depress me.  How can it?  Through working with others I've found a collaborative of wonderful people who quest for and share the same desires that I have.  It doesn't matter if my films reach the west-coast, net deals, inspire millions: as long as they continue to make me happy there is a purpose to it all.  And on that saccharine note I'll beg of you:

Watch my movies!    ;)