The Happy Filmmaker Blog

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  • Musings on Love and Filmmaking

    Musings on Love and Filmmaking

    Talking about love: I have come to believe that our relationship to our films mirrors closely the human relationships we have in our life. The more mature you become about love and your relationships with the people who are dear to you, the more easily they will flow - and miraculously (or not so miraculously, but logically) so will your work as a filmmaker.

    If you believe that love hurts, it is also a painful task to work on your films. Like the spurned lover who secretly expects to be rejected because, alas, all relationships are a struggle, your film project eludes you, proves difficult, there are starts and stops, you give your all to it, totally exhaust yourself, prostitute your happiness, your life, your integrity to make this film happen, you run after it like you would after a particular person in a particularly toxic entanglement of dependency, mistrust and addiction. Yes, you might manage to keep that entanglement going and equally you might manage to push for this film project to come to completion. But the question is: at what expense!

    This obviously applies to any creative project, not only to filmmaking. But with their many opportunities for supermodel attitude of demanding more money, bigger cars, fancier technology, more attention, more time offered to them just to get them out of bed in the morning, film productions tend to offer a few more pitfalls for the unexpecting - or let's say, for the expecting-the-worst - than other creative endeavours with more Zen-like simplicity.

    Think ink drawings or pencil sketches, two of the art forms whose production I envy most when planning or executing a film shoot, cause literally everything you need there is a piece of paper and a pen for a bit of practicing your art, flexing your creative muscles, showing up as the artist you are. (In contrast to the technology park that goes into even the smallest film production.) In that respect, these art forms are only topped by singing and dancing, I guess, where literally all you need is your body in order to practice. (But whenever I despair about this, I take the muscle flexing image a bit further and try to remind myself of the Ohio University study that suggested that mental exercise can have a similar effect on building muscle strength as actually exercising your muscles. Surely, then, spending the time to focus on your art will contribute to its evolution, too...)

    But back to love: so, yes, it 's easy to get trapped in the belief that the demanding lover that is your film will abandon you if you don't sacrifice everything for it. But when in your life you come to the insight that the door-slamming, silent treatment, on again/off again drama is not a necessary element of love, but in fact a rather clumsy and malfunctioning version of relationship behaviour born out of fear and installed by modelling bad examples for which there are much healthier, more effective alternatives - which to learn, by the way, I recommend greatly, and if you are inclined to do so, a great resource to start is The Relationship School podcast - you start to function differently with the people in your life, and to apply these different principles also to your relationship with your work.

    Organic Filmmaking is the term that has been popping up in my mind for some time now. Or Sustainable Filmmaking. I have an acquaintance, Michael Nobbs, who first introduced me to the term Sustainable Creativity. Out of his dealing with ME/CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) and trying to figure out a way how to continue work as a visual artist while at the same time respecting the boundaries his body is quite forcibly setting him, he developed his Go Gently approach. (Listen to his podcast or watch his videos and check out his beautifully drawn books to find out more about his approach to sustainable creativity.) The idea stuck with me, but I hadn't realised that beyond the boundaries our body is setting us - which are valid and often also get violated in the pursuit of our art - the idea of sustainability applies to much more in life.

    A lot of us get forced by an illness, others by another particular pain (of the soul, most likely) to change our approach. There have been many waymarks on my own path to working out what my Organic Filmmaking would be. Since I am a passionate person - not in the sense of passion as suffering, but as devotion or, even better, commitment to something - it came easily to me to link the passion I feel for my art to the passion I feel for the persons I love.

    Shiny cars, slick pick-up lines and hot-and-cold treatment are all amusing, but don't exactly turn me on. I recognise them as tools of a trade for whose wares I am the wrong target group. The wholesome, sustainable, and - yes, let's face it - grown-up loving I get really exited about these days includes the courage to dive deep into who we are, to prioritise what feels good over what impresses others, to prioritise growth and development over a box office hit.

    In the same way as I discover how to let love easily and powerfully flow in my life, what blocks I have build against this flow and how to dismantle them, I am also learning how to design a filmmaking life that honours my values, allows me to show up fully as the person I am, engage with all my senses and feel rewarded by the flow between us - and energised, re-charged. Go work on your capacity for love and watch what it does for your filmmaking. You might be surprised.