A Dreamer Walking

Is It Worth It?

Posted in Personal Philosophy by Jacob on April 19, 2018

640x640_11664732I sit here at 3:30 AM debating for one of the first times in my life, if my life goal of becoming a filmmaker is worth it. I hate to be dramatic, but it’s simply where I am.

Two years of my life has been devoted to a documentary about a place I love, a place I grew up in. It was my first job as an adult. I was given the task to care for the men of Paxson. Six men living in a group home whose value has been questioned throughout their lives. See, these men struggle in a ways we simply can’t imagine. Simple everyday tasks are mountains for them. The ability to walk, have conversation, or even stay awake are all tasks needed to be conquered each new day.

Their struggle was not the reason they deserved a documentary however. We need their story told because of the humanity they show through facing their struggles. The difference is key. Throughout my clients’ lives they’ve been defined by the disabilities they have. Schizophrenia, down syndrome, or cerebral palsy – it doesn’t matter. People simply take one look at them and shutter because they are different. Believe me, I know. I’ve gone on outings numerous times throughout the nine years of knowing them. It’s tragic how the crowd parts ways when we are walking through the store or on the fairgrounds. I see the stares. I see people hesitate to be near them. I hear the judgement when they are talked to. And, they feel these things, too.

All this is not to say I am angry at those who don’t understand my friends. It’s completely understandable. I was the same way until I got to know them. Yet, I know if people could just get past those first awkward moments they would see something amazing. I was actually willing to bet two years of my life and all my talents as a filmmaker on this fact. With the help of some good friends and the support of the special needs community, I set forth to tell their story. And let me tell you, it’s been a bumpy ride.

The most prominent problem has been lack of finances. I’ve actually lost about $500 dollars in the two year process. Until just recently I received no financial benefits. And as much as I can confidently state financial gain was never the reason for this project, I must admit the lack of it has made things extremely stressful. My University has been overly gracious to allow me to use their equipment through the years. Yet, as with all used equipment, it’s a task to get everything rented and upsetting to find things that don’t work. There is nothing more tragic in the mind of a filmmaker then to miss a event or a moment due to waiting periods or malfunctions.

Another factor I must admit to is the question of ego. Oh yes, we all wish we could simply say we are over being rattled by the opinions of others. Yet, artists most of all struggle with having the confidence in themselves to share their work with the world. I told my professor after my very first documentary short, Mary Rose, my next project would be a feature documentary. Two years later, if someone told me the same thing I would struggle not to laugh in their face. Insisting you have the capability to engage your audience for more than sixty minutes is no small statement. Let’s forget about the story, how could one with such little experience expect to accomplish such a feat? To be honest, I started out writing this because I don’t know if I can. I’ve hit the ditch numerous times through this two year process. The hundreds of hours of footage is drowning me. One of my greatest weaknesses, organization, has constantly been something I’ve needed to address. My communications skills, technical skills, and emotional strength have all been tested to the max. The struggle between having enough confidence to lift this project from the ground and the humility needed to hear criticism and get feedback, has not been a battle I’ve always won.

This brings me to my last big dilemma, the loneliness. Now, I do not want to be saying nobody else has been there for me. From the beginning, I have had family who supported me in this project and who have dealt with all kinds of insecurities from this young filmmaker. I have film buddies who have sacrificed countless hours assisting me with setting up shoots and filming. I have a handful of professors who meet me on a regular basis to go over edits, despite me not going to school anymore. And I have the clients and staff from the house, who have championed my cause and been humble enough the allow me to film them. Yet, the vast majority of my time on this project has been spent alone. I sit in a empty room from 4PM to 3AM working through each element of the footage I’ve captured. I am the assistant, the editor, and the director. And my process is labor intensive. I must sync the good audio, organize each interview, and subtitle every line of dialogue for the clients who struggle to be understood. I must be emotionally connected to the material, fighting to allow each voice to be heard, while also figuring out how to stay objective enough to have an accurate perspective over the whole. And, as of today I have not found those who are able be with me on some of the most perilous parts of the journey.

What I describe to you is the great dilemma of every artist. The battle of outside sources and inner conflicts. Each artist I have studied has dealt with these dilemmas in different ways; sometimes at great cost to their personal lives. I don’t know where I will land in the end. Not knowing if I have enough money, struggling to contain the ego, and dealing with the loneliness — all threaten my ability to finish this film.

And this is where I sit.

Then I remember the men of Paxson. They represent what all my struggle, talents, and drive is for. The only time the crushing weight lifts is when they become more important than my fragile ego, my mandatory woes, my sitting in this room alone. Tonight I can soak in my sorrows, but tomorrow I wake to fight for them. In this profession, the soul of the story is what makes each task worth it’s weight.

The Ides of March- Review

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on October 14, 2011

The Ides of March is a well put together film. It has an all-star cast and the director George Clooney did a great job with its shooting and pacing. Clooney was also one of the stars and co-writers of The Ides of March. He went about creating the film in a very simple and clear way. Nothing was over used. There weren’t too many cuts, the score was played sparingly, and there were several cases where Clooney restricted what the camera revealed so we as an audience got more involved with the picture. However, none of this stuff makes a great movie.

The story is always the most important thing in a film. The cutting, score,  actors, and camera movements are only there to further the plot and get us more involved with the story. For The Ides of March, the story was hardly worth telling. Clooney said nothing new with this film and he tried to create entertainment through completely deceiving the audience. We are given characters who have good ideals, who seem to have integrity, and love for their fellow citizens and then out of nowhere they betray us. We find out that the characters who we believed in are truly as corrupt as everyone else. The point of the film seems to be “Politics is full of corruption”, a point that has been played in movies a million times over and something the audience already knows.

Another problem was the fact that we are told so much more then we are shown. The movie starts on a character named Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling). Stephen is fully devoted to Governor Mike Morris, a Democrat in the middle of his run for the presidency. We are told again and again in the film that Stephen is good at what he does. People say he has this charisma that makes everyone trust him. He is described as an excellent campaign secretary.  However, we never really see this charisma or understand how he is so good as a campaign secretary. He gives us and the characters around him all the reason to trust him, yet he is pushed out of the campaign by his own people. We are also told in this movie that running a campaign is a lot of hard work. Yet, the movie starts right in the middle of the campaign. The movie starts at the time of the corruption, we don’t see what caused the corruption. We don’t see the wear and tear of the campaign. We don’t quite understand how it could turn people who were good to evil.

The thing that really stops the movie from working however, is the motivation factor for Stephen. For some reason Stephen believes in Mike Morris at the beginning of the film. But, we don’t really understand why. Because we don’t understand what he sees in Morris we don’t understand his dedication to the campaign. The movie almost completely avoids the actual issues that come with running for a public office such as the president of the United States. Each one of Morris’ staff members verbally express how much they believe in him, yet we are never shown a scene where they need to back up their beliefs in his policies. Maybe that was the point of the movie. Maybe the point was that people run for president because they want to win, not because they believe in what they or their leader says. But if that is the point of the movie, why should we care for any of the characters?

In The Ides of March the twist becomes more important then the actual reasons behind the twist. If we as an audience can’t understand why a character would do what he or she does, we won’t believe it when it happens. We are left unsatisfied not because we aren’t surprised, but rather because we don’t understand and thus do not care. The film is full of cliche’s. We have the misunderstood hero, the naive victim, and the unexpected villain. The reason why they feel cliche is because we don’t understand or don’t care about their motives. Motive is what makes things unique. Many people have punched another person, however they all have different reasons they did what they did. The story of the why is often far more interesting then the final result. We don’t get to know Stephen at a personal level. We don’t know why he believes in Morris and we don’t know why he is in politics. Ryon Gosling gives Stephen a natural sympathy through some great acting, but that can only go so far and our empathy for Stephen only goes skin deep.

The Ides of March will most likely keep you interested for it’s 102 minutes of running time. However, the characters are quite forgettable and the story seems forced. The film does nothing new. It is no doubt clear that George Clooney knows how to shoot a film, but his cause will most likely leave you unsatisfied. The movie keeps our attention because of fine use of cinema and exceptional performances from an all-star cast. However, I am left wishing the story was on a par with the filmmakers and actors who are telling the story.