Saturday, January 16, 2010

This Gives me Peace

I think about this past slow year and I panic. Going into it, I knew I would not be making much money, and I accept that. The problem is, I fear I have not developed myself enough personally in the extra leisure time. Sure, I write, but I know I could be doing more and better stuff, and I don’t focus nearly as well as I should; and even if I do think I make momentary accomplishments in writing, overall, that endeavor will remain a daunting, yawning pit for my time and self-esteem.

In ballroom, my partner and I have received some valuable coaching which has really opened us up to more intensive, better-styled moving; but dancing feels like a side-show in my life, something I can progress fairly well in, but which is not so distinctive to me.

Then I remember this other thing I’ve done this year, and I feel some peace. Southland of the Heart.

This independent feature movie was made piecemeal on weekends, about half of all weekend days since August; was captured mostly on my Sanken CS-1, run through cables in my hands and under pots beneath my fingers, stored on flash memory in the camera along with Ken’s footage, which always blows me away when I get a chance to see it long after it's been shot. I learned the dialogue and swung the boom with it, kneeling on gravel or standing on two desks if I had to, dodging the curveballs of accidental and intentional improvisation as best I could, and getting burned occasionally. I griped about background noises, I asked diner owners to shut down their giant freezers and their computers, I bitched about electrical cables running through doors from the outside and necessitating letting noise in. Sometimes I held up production to find a better mic position, or asked for another (and another) take to have a chance to boom boom it better. Sometimes they gave it to me, and sometimes they said “tough shit.” But the director and actors have been genuinely appreciative and complimentary of the audio. This strokes my ego. I need a community of people stroking my ego from time to time. This is what gives me peace.

And the movie is coming out pretty well, if I may say so.

I had known Southland’s director Todd since January of 2008 when he shot another director’s, Nic’s, Nightlife, for which I did the audio. (On Vimeo, the video has a sound/video synch problem which seems to be the fault of the website). Both Todd and Nic make several movies a year on weekends, and they are getting good at it. Over a year later, in April of 2009 I had purchased my own sound equipment package and was not working enough to really break it in -- or to break myself in on it, as they say. So one day I happened to be in the car with Todd while driving to work at a conference for this conservative think-tank, and I asked him if he had any projects coming up. He said yes, in two weeks, he would be shooting a short, Mary and Jennifer, which is currently not available for viewing.

While shooting that short, there was a moment when, kneeling on the tile floor of the kitchen, I noticed the hard set of Jennifer's face in my peripheral vision past the tip of the microphone, and I thought, “damn, she’s on time.”

In the following weeks I was thinking Todd could do a lot more with those characters. And I was thinking that I liked his style of directing, in which he would go to the actors and have a short conversation in a low voice, like, “You know how when you’ve had an argument and you’re close to apologizing, but you still are holding back, not giving it up yet . . . .” He would speak quietly with them, then go back behind camera and leave the actors to make it sing.

In June of this recession year, he called me and told me what I was thinking he should do. He was going to make a feature movie with the two characters, and asked if I could work on it for no pay. I had few prospects for paying audio engagement, so I said I certainly could, as long as I could dump him at the last minute if paying work were to come up.

It only came up on two days, and one of those days, I raced back from shooting an ACC PSA with the basketball coaches in Greensboro to work late into the night on Southland.

Now it’s January 2010, and people keep asking me, “Isn’t that free movie done yet?” I say it’s the never-ending story. No, it’s still not quite done. We have a couple serious dialogue scenes to do, and this coming Monday, MLK day, we are doing a light-dialogue day. But it will get there. And it will be good, if I may say so.

I hope I will always be able to experience times when the actors really nail it -- when they cry and act like they are experiencing the biggest kick in the gut of their life, and they pretty much convince me of this -- and I have the mic right in position, not a little off-axis but right in there, to not just hear it well but make a little extra tickle of immediacy in my headphones -- and the noise from outside is at a lull, and nobody’s stomach growls, and I look over at the director and assistant director and gaffer standing at the monitor and see tears brimming in their eyes too, and know that a lot of things are working out at once -- and feel peace.

1 comment:

Marsosudiro said...

Amazing. Thank you, Ben.