Making Movies

Sorry, but this isn’t an iMovie tutorial. Yikes–even thinking about writing one of those makes my brain ache. There is so, so much that I haven’t even begun to discover, and a lot of it that I never will discover. But the very fact that I’m making movies at all is kind of a big deal to me, because it’s absolutely nothing I ever thought would interest me.

I’m not a video person. I grew up in the days before digital video cameras, of course, back when people made home movies and then invited their friends over and inflicted those movies on them, sometimes with the inducement of popcorn, although sometimes it required significant amounts of adult beverages to get your friends to sit through 2 1/2 hours of your trip to visit the family in Nebraska. There was nothing there (in those movies, not in Nebraska) to love, and I never grasped the lure. I was never much of a photo person, either. I’d take photos, sure. After I started acquiring digital cameras, I’ve taken a lot of photos. But they don’t really interest me. Sure, I like looking at great photos, but I have no interest in thinking about composition, lighting, mood–any of that. I have no interest in the process of taking photographs.

So when I volunteered to do the Book Notes videos here, I thought of the process of learning to make movies as just something else I had to find time to learn about, you know: right up there with Photoshop and audio editing. I bought the manuals, I played with the program, I started making movies. OK, fine. I could do it.

Then, somewhere in there, I realized that the movies were more than just a way to to show people stuff. A good movie, like good writing, can do so much more than provide information. It can set a mood, make people laugh, strike an emotional chord. In fact, a good movie is a LOT like a good piece of writing, and I discovered the things I enjoy in writing are also the things I enjoy in making movies.

I.e., I’m not so much with the research. I don’t enjoy doing research in large part because I went to graduate school in English, and they might as well call that a degree in doing research, rather than one in studying writing or literature or criticism. Oy. Likewise, I’m not so much with the shooting of the video. I don’t like having to think about lighting and focus, about getting a large enough swath of footage to have what I need.

Nope. What I like in both writing and making movies is the part where you’ve got everything you need laid out in front of you–the first draft, where you’ve dumped everything and have it all ready–and then you get to go in there and make something interesting out of it. The truth is that I like editing, taking a big muddle of stuff and shaping and forming and tweaking it until it can make other people experience what I experienced. I’m really surprised that I get that from making movies. And from editing audio. And so I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, about how these two things–movies and audio (in the form of podcasts) give me a chance to do the same sorts of thing I do and most enjoy with my primary focus, which is writing.

It makes you think: what other thing–artform, medium, skill, technique–might you discover that would allow you to do the thing you most enjoy about your primary passion? If you make jewelry, and you’ve realized that what you like best about making jewelry is getting metal to do what you invision so that it becomes not just “hard shiny stuff” but, instead, a work of art, then what other things might you want to explore? What other things would give you the opportunity to take seemingly unlovely, recalcitrant material and make it into art? Sculpture, sure. What about assemblage, taking old auto body parts and making something fabulous out of them? Or recycled art, like the wonderful work by a woman in Santa Fe who makes jewelry and functional art from everything she finds, from antique nails to discarded license plates to chunks of vintage hardware?

When you figure out what it is you love about what you do, you can explore other things that will allow you to do that same thing, whether it’s altering metal or shaping fabric, changing the color of paper or working with glass or creating collaborative pieces. Take some time to think about what part of the process you most enjoy; you might be surprised at the possibilities it opens up for you.

Ricë also blogs at Notes from the Voodoo Cafe. You can see her latest movie project here.


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