Alright Stop, Collaborate and Listen

The Intimacy of Film and How I Got Vanilla Ice Stuck in My Head

Originally posted on LinkedIn

I recently had the opportunity to work with a young, talented filmmaker. She had put together this beautiful short piece capturing a recent adventure abroad, filmed by yet another very talented young creative.

We both had looked at the same footage and had approached it in two very different ways. I loved what she had done with it. As I watched what she had put together, I began taking notes. Jotting down reactions, questions, attempting to capture my overall response as it occurred.

It was the first time we had ever worked together and breaching the topic of sharing notes was something I wanted to approach gently. I shared my thoughts, empathizing where I could on certain things and then held my breath for her reaction. It’s difficult through email, words alone can be interpreted in so many different ways. To my delight, she came back with enthusiasm, and a dialogue then emerged between this excited editor and me.

Our focus fell on the fact the piece ran a little long. We both understood this but did not have a solution just yet on how to tighten it. She candidly, very upfront, shared she feared making any edits would sacrifice her vision and the emotional impact she had built into the experience. I could appreciate this fear. I think most artists and creatives could. I struggle with it every day, I get it, but this is how I see it and what I shared with her;

“I GET IT. THIS IS A WHOLE EXPRESSION, AN UNINTERRUPTED THOUGHT THAT HAS YOU WRITTEN ALL OVER IT. WHEN YOU WORK ON SOMETHING LIKE THIS, YOU DO PUT A PART OF YOURSELF INTO EACH FRAME, AND IF IT WERE MEANT TO BE SHORTER YOU WOULD HAVE MADE IT SHORTER!
I FIGHT THIS EVERY DAY. IN WRITING, IN FILM, IN JUST LIFE AS A WHOLE. WE ARE PASSIONATE AND LOVE THIS MEDIUM. I HAD ONE MENTOR WHO WAS A BIT OF AN ECCENTRIC WHO SAID, “SOMETIMES YOU JUST HAVE TO KILL SOME BABIES.” MY JAW DROPPED HEARING THIS FROM AN EDUCATOR, BUT I UNDERSTOOD BECAUSE IN SOME WAY THAT’S KIND OF HOW IT FEELS.
YOU BROUGHT THIS SEQUENCE OF IMAGES INTO THIS LIFE. YOU NURTURED IT AND LOVE IT. YOU ARE PROTECTIVE OF IT. HOW COULD IT BE ANY BETTER?
ONLY THROUGH THE PAINFUL PROCESS OF TAKING THE GREATEST OF THE GREAT CONTENT. THEN, THAT’S SOMETHING THAT STANDS OUT.
FILM IS MORE AKIN TO POETRY THAN CREATIVE WRITING. THE SOUL HAS NO TIME FOR PARAGRAPHS. THE IMAGINATION NEEDS ROOM FOR BREATHING. SO, UNLIKE THIS EMAIL, OUR STORY THROUGH FILM MUST BE TOLD THROUGH EXPRESSIVE PHRASES. WE TAKE OUT THE LITTLE MINUTIA SPECIAL TO US SO WE MAY ALLOW THE VIEWER TO MAKE THE CONNECTIONS BETWEEN THESE PHRASES WITH THE HAPPY MEMORIES SPECIAL TO THEM.
OUR WORK MUST INSPIRE THEIR NEXT ADVENTURE TODAY, BY WARMING THEIR MEMORY OF YESTERDAY. ONLY THEN CAN FILM TOUCH THEM IN A WAY POWERFUL ENOUGH TO SHAPE TOMORROW. FOR A MASS MEDIUM, IT IS A DEEPLY INTIMATE EXPERIENCE.”
It doesn’t make the process any easier, removing the inside jokes, the shot where that thing, at the place, happened. It hurts to take those things out, but our expression must be in its most concise, stripped down form. It is not so much about decreasing attention spans amongst younger generations but more about the timeless truth that film and art can change a life. So when we do have their attention, we owe it to ourselves and to our audience to be sure we deliver something that matters. Something they can relate to and as a viewer feels that as an individual, their unique life experience has been respected. In a way, we collaborate with our viewers. A duet of visions. The one we bring to the screen and the one they bring to their seat. We must be good partners in this way, being sure not to step on toes, steal lines or take away solos.

Above it all, I think the coolest thing was this conversation even took place. The work of three young creatives, collaborating as the upcoming generation of storytellers. Each of us in our niche of skill and passion challenging one another to think, and think differently. I know I had felt this way before, but I had never formalized the thought, documenting it on paper. I would have never done so if it were not for her. She, in the best way of earnest collaboration, challenged me to form a full thought. To think it through and explain why I felt the way I did. Because of this, I approach my work with a renewed commitment to it. I am all the better for it merely because of her willingness to collaborate, and I hope, dearly, she has been able to say the same of me.

So remember;

STOP, collaborate and listen. Ice is back with my brand new invention. Something grabs hold of me tightly. Then I flow like a harpoon daily and nightly. Will it ever stop? Yo — I don’t know
It’s scary to say, but it’s genius, and its also probably going to be stuck in your head for the rest of the day. You’re Welcome!

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