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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Puppets, Porn, and the Artist's "Skin"

In one porn-research filled week, I crammed in Behind the Green Door, The Devil in Miss Jones, and Deep Throat. I’ll admit. They all had something redeemable about them, and the psychedelic moment in Behind the Green Door had me both laughing and delightedly creeped out by the scoring. I do wonder how much of this film influenced aspects of Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut. There are some rather uncanny similarities. Would Kubrick have watched porn? Does this even matter?

I have more vintage titles on my research list, but need to put them aside to delve into the world of puppets.  Annie, who might be considered the protagonist in this story, is an unskilled puppeteer, who none-the-less has a unique eroticized take on Romeo and Juliet. I hope to learn a bit about building puppets, but first need to choose what sorts of puppets Annie is using. I’ve never worked with puppets, and my memories are filled with Mr. Rogers and Jim Henson, obviously limited in scope.  But luckily Austin is home to some great puppet theater, where I can learn and watch.

I’m working on the second draft of this 127 page script, in the tricky part of revision. It comes down now to clarity, good decision making, and being willing to take chances. How does one balance risk taking while also trying to sort through choices for making good decisions? It’s a precarious place to be balancing. I am taking a lot of risks with the script, thus far, but could take more.

Once of the biggest setbacks I think any modern creator faces right now is how to depart from everyday adult concerns and the hectic pace of modern life. I find it impossible to create deeply and meaningfully when my brain is in “adult” mode. I have been reading a bit about this problem for the artist, and revisiting my interests in meditation.  For the artist, meditation is only one step. There is also the “shedding of skin” we have to do. Meaning, riding ourselves of the personas we naturally carry in our jobs and how we present ourselves to our colleagues, etc. Nothing with any artistic merit will result from creating with these shallow representations. They are there to “get the job done,” but because we wear them so much of our waking day, we often forget to take them off.

For me, luckily, it’s not too difficult as I have purposely avoided making my living in a corporate workplace.  But, I still grocery shop and drive in traffic and pay bills and do all the other things adults do, so, I still have to shed some skin. I am finding ritual before creating to be essential to transition into the mind of my creator self. To loosen up my brain, I often will draw stream-of-conscious types of figurines with my copic markers, or stream together random bits of spoken jibberish. Georgia O’Keefe, and others, painted completely nude. Others use drugs and alcohol and while it’s easy to condemn this, I am guilty to this day of having many moments of revelation due to the amount of red wine I’ve consumed. I cannot be overly critical of this approach as humans have for so long been interested in substances that alter our minds, for spiritual or creative purposes. There are theories that suggest that the early cultivation of wheat was for making primitive beer, not bread as we like to think. Any way you look at it, artists must have a good warm up session before they sit down (or stand up) to create. Athletes do, so should creators.

As I nitpick over aspects of this script, one thing that seems essential to compelling cinema is how much the filmmaker is distorting and reinterpreting reality. I sadly feel most films still stick to the language of their genres a little too hard nosed for my tastes, especially first time filmmakers. Cinema is a wonderfully expansive and endless tool to create with, but I see so much of the same coverage, and same types of hearts in stories, same characters (I’m guilty of these traps too, which is why I can talk about them). What are other ways to push a story forward without dialogue? “How to Eat Pho” (the working title of the piece I’m doing now), has a lot of dialogue, but it is just that this film requires it. A challenge I have is, how do I want the essential information in this dialogue to be worded? What can be cut? No word should be there unless it is needed.  Good dialogue is amazing to hear (Shakespeare, Noel Baumbach's Kicking and Screaming, Ingmar Bergman) but taken for granted, and difficult to create. It’s easy to just write how we talk in normal day to day life, but this is unnecessary in cinema. Cinema allows us to craft and shape elements of life into a more interesting, cohesive, and artistic whole. To take an expression, a statement, an emotion, and represent it in other ways.

That being said, I do plan on approaching the next script in a manner I never have attempted: create the script as a series of images first, then write it without a word of dialogue, to see what alternative methods I can locate without using the crutch of language.