Yesterday I made a very poor decision that put the future of the entire production I’m directing in jeopardy.
The writer and I envisioned a scene wherein one of our fearless French-Canadian travellers who work at the restaurant up here would take a canoe across the channel from Stanley Mission to Holy Trinity Anglican Church, the oldest building in Saskatchewan, retracing the steps (or strokes, I guess) of the Voyageurs. Yesterday, the cameraman and I, both too excited about the scene, too excited to shoot something different, something outside the usual day-to-day routine of the Fish Camp, failed to prepare contingencies that would save our equipment should the canoe capsize. It was such a short trip, less than half a kilometre; I knew something terrible could happen, but I chose to just trust and believe that we would be fine, and that the scene was worth the risk. I also let my cameraman talk me out of leaving the second production camera behind; I had told him we should leave it in the car in case the canoe tipped, so we would have a camera to shoot the rest of the show with if we lost the A cam. He was adamant that he wanted the B-cam for when we got to the other side so he could shoot time-lapses and slow-motion footage, and I conceded because he is older and more experienced than me, even though I knew that I was right. Now B-Cam is at the bottom of the lake.
While it is a short canoe trip across the channel, a surprisingly fast current and a little wind were enough to tip our canoe. We lost probably about $10 000 worth of gear, and I personally lost a trusty sound recorder and my new iPhone (the price I pay for wanting to Instagram the shit out of that church). Now we’re waiting to hear back from the network about what we should do. We each have DSLRs that we could continue to shoot on, but it will be a significant change of aesthetic that could be potentially jarring. We’ll see what they decide.
I was up most of the night thinking about the vast array of steps I could have taken to prevent this from happening. The alternatives are legion, of course, and easy to recognize in hindsight. I lay there in bed, obsessing over the embarrassment of this, physically pained by it, when suddenly a wave of calm came over me. I realized that I was experiencing the price of leadership. I recognized the importance of accepting the consequences of making terrible decisions as well as you would the praise for achieving something wonderful. I’m a movie director, not a captain in the army: the decisions I make will likely never result in someone losing a loved one. I re-evaluated the stakes, re-focused my energy. I owned my shit.
It was an epiphany. I’m twenty-five years old; maybe it was the final piece of my pre-frontal cortex snapping into place. I recognized how much ambivalence I was succumbing to in many different facets of my daily life. All the ambiguity I had been letting lie in relationships with friends and family. This event has awakened a desire in me to become more forthright and confident in everything I do, to never half-d0 anything ever again. To be straight with people – to tell them exactly how I feel. To not second-guess a decision while I’m in the process of making it. I’m willing to experience embarrassment and shame over and over again if it means that I can continue to dictate my own path in life, stand for something. I want to lead. I can lead. The depth to which I get emotionally invested in my decisions opens me up to a lot of pain, but it can also inspire others. This is what I want.
Still unable to sleep, mostly out of excitement now in thinking what I can achieve with this new-found clarity, I stepped outside for some fresh air. It was three in the morning and the Northern Lights shimmered across the sky, as bright and clear and breathtaking as I have ever seen in person. It was stunning. I tried to photograph the celestial wonder of it all, and was once again reminded of the amazing power of the human eye; though the Lights were seemingly bright as day and all around me, I couldn’t get even the slightest exposure with my camera. The photo above is a still from my friend Kyle Armstrong’s amazing film Magnetic Reconnection, which, thanks to a custom-built camera specifically designed for this purpose, features some of the most incredible Northern Lights footage ever captured. I swear it was like that photo.
Until next time.
Dylan – Missinipe, SK