It was the end, but not THE end. In filmmaking, projects go through phases. Phases end and phases start. Many of them. Until it's finally over. The film is made. And then it's not really the end! There's still the distribution, the film festivals, the premieres, the TV broadcast. It is an Endless Summer of sunsets and sunrises, and who really knows when your film is finally done with you and you can move on.
When I first became a filmmaker, I followed a film guru, an avant filmmaker, who had written a book of prose about the filmmaking process. I was in the process of developing my first film, and James Broughton's SEEING THE LIGHT shaped my process and my life. I had been a moviegoer from childhood; but now, Broughton was calling me into a life quite different from going to the movies or making movies. "I am not talking here about going to the movies; I am talking about making cinema. I am talking about the life of vision. I am talking about cinema as one way of living the life of a poet. I am talking about film as poetry, as philosophy, as metaphysics . . . ." Wow, that is loaded with profundities!
So ever since I understood that I had a calling to make film poetry, I have tried to follow that path. My first film, SIMPLE COURAGE, which told the tragic story of Hawaii's leprosy epidemic and the banishing of some 8,000 Native Hawaiian souls, set my course to be poetic. I deemed I would make poetry, with the power of the story's emotions and with the depth and complexity of the truth, to create filmic alchemy that would transform this story into a soulful window. SIMPLE COURAGE was all that, and at the end of the 5 years and $500,000 it took to make, it won an EMMY.
I'm very proud of that EMMY. Not bad for my first film! I nailed it, according to the voters who viewed it. It won a Regional EMMY, i.e. broadcast in the San Francisco region (which Hawaii TV is part of). But an EMMY is an EMMY, and let me tell you, they are hard to win!! Did I thank God in my acceptance speech that award's night? Oh yes. In my heart. What I did say in my speech stopped the room's chatter as I accepted my award. "SIMPLE COURAGE tells the story of ....." That's how I began, and with tragedy in my voice clearly describing this powerful story, I felt the room was moved. The power of story. The power of emotions. The power of film poetry. A film that mattered. The film went on to a national broadcast on PBS and to win many more awards.
9 documentaries later, I still feel called to make film poetry. I ask the Thomas Chapin film every conscious moment, show me your poetry, show me the power of your story.
I can now report that after finishing my first round of shooting that I had an AHA! moment in which the story approach and the storyteller for the film arose. It was like a smack, and Oh My!, for it arose out of holding the question subconsciously, What Do You Want To Be? It never fails; when you ask and wait, and believe, you will be shown, it does emerge. And then you go with it and see what the path holds. Another EMMY? That's not my goal, but it would be a lovely ending to the filmmaking phase anyway.
One P.S. Trust our instincts. That's part of making poetry. When I started shooting, I had no script. Just a lot of questions, and some themes and ideas and threads. Thomas Chapin said, creating for him was like making mud pies. It is for me too. It's in that "conversation" with the mud that the pie emerges. A beautiful pie with poetry and power, you hope and trust.