OPENING NIGHT AT METRO CINEMA

And with that, our mini-retrospective of Cassavetes’ films comes to an end. I thoroughly enjoyed having the opportunity to present some of my favourite movies in my favourite movie house. Here is the last intro I prepared, this one for my personal favourite from the Cassavetes canon: Opening Night.

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OPENING NIGHT

Hello again, and thank you for being here. My name is Dylan Rhys Howard. I’m an independent filmmaker here in Edmonton and I’m also on the Programming Committee here at Metro Cinema. I’m an unabashed Cassavetes enthusiast, so I was asked by Pete, the head programmer, to curate this mini-retrospective of three films and to do a bit of an introduction for each. First of all: is anyone completing the hat trick tonight? Has anyone been to all three films? Nice job outta you.

I’d just like to thank you all for coming out to see a movie at Metro Cinema. We’re a not-for-profit organization; by coming out tonight, you’re helping to ensure that we can continue to bring weird and wonderful movies to Edmonton, and also that we can continue to experience them together in the dark, on the big screen. As much as we all love watching “Arrested Development” from bed on an early 2013 MacBook Air, I think a collective artistic experience like we’re about to have tonight is something is worth cherishing in this digital day and age. So thank you.

Opening Night. Our final film of the series and my personal favourite. The film once again stars Cassavetes’ wife, the inimitable Gena Rowlands, this time as an aging actress named Myrtle Gordon who’s making a return to the stage after many years of quite successfully starring in movies. In 1974,  believe it or not, Cassavetes was actually asked by Barbara Streisand if he would consider directing her remake of A Star Is Born after Streisand was moved by a screening of A Woman Under The Influence. He ultimately turned her down, of course, but nevertheless the original Star Is Born and All About Eve, these classic Hollywood movies about show business, were two of John’s favourite films. And so he started working on his own story about the same subject. Like A Woman Under The Influence, Opening Night was originally conceived as a play but evolved into the movie we’ll see tonight.

I love this movie because I love any movie about the inner workings of theatrical people. I like the idea of actors wrestling with how to get a handle on a character as an extended and very direct metaphor for how we all spend our lives trying to figure out how to relate to ourselves and to other people. In this film, Gena Rowlands’ character struggles with her relationship to getting older. While this might seem like a bit of a trope — the aging actress — I think this film manages to transcend representing this simply from the perspective of the character’s vanity. Rowlands’ character seems to struggle not so much with how she looks, but with how she feels: she doesn’t know how to relate to the world as an older woman and, more directly in her daily work, she doesn’t know how to relate to the character she’s trying to play. She’s holding onto an abstract, idealized idea of youth that even becomes personified by this mysterious young woman who keeps appearing before her like Banquo’s ghost; perhaps this Shakespearean aspect of the apparition is another nod to the intersection of life and art for someone as dedicated to their craft as Myrtle Gordon (or John Cassavetes or Gena Rowlands).

If the central question of A Woman Under The Influence was: who is really crazy here?, I think the central question of Opening Night is: what is theatre and what is life?, which again echoes Shakespeare. This movie argues that ultimately there is —- or should be — no difference, no separation, and the only way for Gena Rowlands’ character to find peace is for her to surrender her life completely over to art and do away with the “craft” of acting that is keeping her tied to a sense of duality. If you haven’t seen the film, you’ll see what I mean by the way the film ends. What might seem absurd, ridiculous, and an outright betrayal of the playwright during the performance of this play we’ve seen the characters rehearsing throughout the film is ultimately met with reverence from an audience that in John’s words has seen “something utterly beautiful and inspiring.”

Once again, I messaged my favourite film critic, A S Hamrah and he had this to say about Opening Night: “Greatest film about an actress, also best film about aging. Its dream/nightmare quality embedded within Cassavetes usual ultra-realism is truly unsettling. The cameos are funnier than in [Scorsese’s] The King of Comedy.”

I want to leave you with some words from Cassavetes on the nature of being an artist vs. being a professional, which I think inform the film we’re about to watch and also provide me with a tremendous boost whenever I’m feeling exhausted by what I do for a living:

“Actors come into the business and have great enthusiasm because they think they’re going to make it. They think they’re going to be great. Then people tell them they’re not so great, and they feel they’re not so great. And the one thing they’ve always wanted in their lives — to be great — they realize they’re not going to be. Their own vision is crossed out and replaced by the vision of the way other people see them. They have no dream anymore; they only have a profession. They are businessmen. They are looking to make a dollar; looking to enjoy themselves the best way they can; looking not to make too many enemies in meeting people because then they won’t be working. They are looking to please the public, please the writer, the director, everybody — so that they are not concentrated, they’re not contained. Working for money and working under pressure they can no longer spin the dream for an audience…

…An actor must really believe what [they’re] doing, and [they] mustn’t care whether [they’re] good or bad at the moment, it’s only the creative effort that counts. And you can’t have that if you have some ulterior motive, like making money, pleasing people, enjoying yourself at a cocktail party that may lead to a bigger job. The great danger for actors is this success drive…

…Actors keep on driving for that big opportunity, selling everything in their past just for that one big opportunity. That opportunity comes again, but by that time they’ve sacrificed all the things in which they really believed and they feel like hypocrites. They get in a group of people that haven’t done quite as much, and they talk a creative game. They talk about ethics and creativity — but they’ve perjured themselves all through their careers. It’s not their fault. It’s just the society in which we live and the nature of the business and the nature of the need to express yourself.”

This will be the first film of the series in which we get to see Cassavetes himself act; he plays Myrtle Gordon’s co-star in the play-within-the-film. In addition, I hope you enjoy Ben Gazzara, with potentially the greatest baritone in the history of movies, and cameos at the end by actors we’ve seen along the way in our series here at The Metro: Seymour Cassel from Faces and Peter Falk from A Woman Under The Influence. Thank you again for being here. It’s been an absolute thrill for me to present these movies to you. I hope you’ve enjoyed them. Please send me an email —  dylan@truthfulworkfilms.com — if you have any thoughts you’d like to share at all. And now: it’s showtime!

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Once again: thank you to everyone who came to see these movies. I hope they’re still percolating in some way. I hope you feel a bit changed. I hope you come back to Metro Cinema many more times. I’ll see you there.

Until next time.

Dylan – Edmonton, AB

A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE AT METRO CINEMA

As part of the ongoing Cassavetes mini-retrospective at The Metro Cinema in Edmonton, I had the pleasure of introducing two screenings of A Woman Under The Influence. They were my third and fourth time seeing the film (although I only caught the end of the fourth screening on account of a camper van breakdown in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan that I will likely write about later). I had always considered Gena Rowlands’ performance in AWUTI to be one of the most incredible in the history of movies, but seeing it on the big screen introduced me to levels of nuance and commitment in her acting that I hadn’t had the chance to appreciate before. I think it’s perhaps the best movie acting that has ever been done, one of the most heartbreaking realizations of a character, a time, a place, a culture in recorded human history. Maybe this sounds hyperbolic. If it does, please watch the film again and tell me I’m wrong. I don’t think I am.

Here is my introduction. GLARING OMISSIONS: I can’t believe I didn’t mention that the actor who plays Nick’s mother in the film (ostensibly the villain) is Cassavetes’ mother herself, and the actor who plays Mabel’s mother in the film is Gena Rowlands’ real mother.

Shout out to Metro Cinema executive director David Cheoros for reading this intro on Wednesday night when I couldn’t make it back to town in time.

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Hello and thank you for being here. My name is Dylan Rhys Howard. I’m an independent filmmaker in town and I’m also on the Programming Committee here at Metro Cinema. Someone must’ve let the proverbial cat out of the bag at some point and let Pete, the head programmer here, know that I’m a Cassavetes enthusiast, so I’ve been happily tasked with curating this mini retrospective of his films.

First of all, I just want to thank you again for supporting Metro Cinema. I think you all probably know by now that the Metro Cinema Society is a not-for-profit organization. By being here, you’re helping us all preserve this uniquely wonderful experience of seeing a movie together with strangers in the dark, which is to my mind very important in this digital day and age.

A Woman Under The Influence. This film we’re about to watch was originally written as a play by John Cassavetes for his wife and frequent collaborator Gena Rowlands, who wanted a character she could really sink her teeth into, something she could really play. So Mabel Longhetti was born. It soon became clear, however, that the play was going to have to become a film. The character was simply so intense, so emotionally raw, that it would be impossible to perform up to 8 times per week. So after unsuccessfully trying to get a studio or other funder to back the film, they made plans to shoot independently yet again (for those of you who weren’t here for the Faces screening Cassavetes is notorious for being an intensely independent filmmaker who eschewed the Hollywood system in order to maintain complete creative control over the process), with Cassavetes putting up half the money by mortgaging their Los Angeles home and co-star Peter Falk putting up the other half with some of the money he was making on Columbo.

Cassavetes and Falk had worked together before on a film of John’s called Husbands (if anyone is a big Cassavetes’ fan I have to recommend the Dick Cavett show clip where Cassavetes, Peter Falk, and Ben Gazzara all come on to “promote” the film and they’re all completely hammered. It’s like a Cassavetes film in and of itself.). Peter absolutely hated the experience of working with Cassavetes as a director and vowed never to do it again. This is likely because Cassavetes was notorious for refusing to give his actors any information at all about their characters or how to play a scene. In Cassavetes on Cassavetes, biographer Ray Carney gives an example of how John’s directing style could be. An actor comes up and says: “How should I play this?” Cassavetes goes: “Look. You’re here. She’s there. You see?” followed by a long, intense look. But Cassavetes could be extremely convincing, and somehow Peter Falk ended up not only playing a lead in another Cassavetes film, but putting up half the money as well. This role as Nick Longhetti, a blue-collar man trying to find his conscience, under a lot of pressure and ultimately very unsure of what the right thing to do is, challenged Falk to go beyond playing the lovable detective Columbo, which was needed by him at the time. 

But the real story of this film is Gena Rowlands’ performance as Mabel Longhetti. Is she suffering from a mental illness, or does she simply love too much, too completely, to be safe in this brutal, materialistic, judgemental Judeo-Christian society? (apologize for obvious personal bias) Personally, when I look at this film, I see the rest of the world as sick and Mabel as healthier than the rest of us. So for that, of course, she must be locked up. I have this theory that it’s especially hard for us as Canadians to really enjoy these films, because we’re even more concerned with propriety than the Americans are. Here’s what John had to say:

“In real life, Gena is as calm and composed as Mabel is nervous and troubled. By comparison, I myself am half mad. It surfaces at the least expected moments…I think it comes from loneliness — our own dedication to what we’re doing — whether we’re labourers or whether we’re white collar workers or college students or whatever…This particular woman isn’t really mad but frustrated beyond imagination. She doesn’t know what to do and she is socially and emotionally inept. Everything she does is an expression of her individuality, but she doesn’t know how to interact with others. She is like me in this regard. Yet it is only by interacting, by engaging in some sort of competition with others, that she feels alive.”

In terms of technical style: you’ll notice again Cassavetes’ preference for lighting large, general areas so that actors could be free to move around the set. This means that his films are usually quite flat photographically, not the more dynamic, high-contrast style we’re used to seeing with romantic Hollywood cinema. You’ll also notice that the film goes out of focus quite a bit, likely due to the actors moving in a way that wasn’t predicted by the poor camera assistants who were struggling to follow them without having rehearsed.

I messaged my favourite film critic, A S Hamrah about A Woman Under The Influence (again, check out his book The Earth Dies Streaming, you’ll love it) and he asked: “How would the home of a similar family look today? What kind of mental health treatment would Mabel be able to get?” And I think I would ask in response, does Mabel really need mental health treatment, or do we?

John said about the film:

“Love fluctuates. Marriage, like any partnership, is a rather difficult thing. And it’s been taken rather lightly in the movies. Family life is so different than what has been fed into us through the tube and through radio and through the casual, inadvertent greed that surrounds us. Films today show only a dream world and have lost touch with the way people really are. For me the Longhetti family is the first real family I’ve ever seen on screen.”

Thank you again for spending part of your Saturday night with us. I really hope you enjoy the film. If anything about it speaks to you, please look me up and send me an email. I’d love to hear from you. Enjoy!

 

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If you’re in Edmonton, we’d love to see you at Metro for the final presentation of our Cassavetes series: Opening Night. Saturday, July 27th at 6:30 PM and again on Wednesday, July 31st at 9 PM. Another incredible Gena Rowlands performance, and Ben Gazzara with one of the greatest voices in film history. Not to mention Cassavetes himself acting alongside his wife! Hope to see you there.

Until next time.

Dylan – Edmonton, AB

 

A STUDY OF LOVE – CASSAVETES’ FACES AT METRO CINEMA

For the last year or so, I’ve sat on the Programming Committee at The Metro Cinema in Edmonton. This month, I had the opportunity to curate a mini-retrospective of the films of John Cassavetes, five of which are available in DCP for the first time. Of the five, we were ultimately able to screen three in July. I selected my three favourites: Faces (1968), A Woman Under The Influence (1974), and Opening Night (1977). It’s been a real thrill, a chance to express my enthusiasm for this pioneering director whose filmmaking and attitude towards art-making in general are a consistent source of inspiration for me.

At the recommendation of the head programmer at Metro, I’ve been introducing the screenings to give people a bit of context and expound my love for these unique movies. This is my introduction for Faces.

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Hello, I’m Dylan Rhys Howard. I’m an independent filmmaker here in Edmonton. I do a lot of commercials. The one where the little dog chases the covered wagon underneath the kitchen sink? That one was mine.

First of all, thank you all for coming out and supporting our local community cinema. The Metro Cinema Society is a not-for-profit organization that prides itself on offering a diverse array of films, from the best of Hollywood to what I guess we would call World Cinema (isn’t it all World Cinema?), back to Silent Cinema and everything in between. I hope you all agree that by coming out and sharing a movie together in a space like this, in open defiance of the on-demand culture of streaming everything, we create a unique artistic experience each and every time, an experience that is much less disposable and much more celebratory.   

“Art. Meaning we will enjoy ourselves and expresses ourselves freely.” This quotation, accompanied by a picture of John Cassavetes, was my desktop background for years while I was making my first films. It’s a definition of art you don’t hear very often, and it’s one that I keep coming back to: the idea that art should be about joy, especially, is perhaps more important than ever, because we tend to think about it as this grave and solemn responsibility — likely because we’ve so firmly entangled it with commerce —- and we need to remember art’s inherent ability to create connection and wonder. 

Probably best known as an actor in films like The Dirty Dozen or Rosemary’s Baby, John Cassavetes was also one of the most dynamically independent filmmakers in the history of American movies. Eschewing the Hollywood system and self-financing many of his films allowed Cassavetes to achieve complete creative control and ostensibly create a new kind of cinema that he explicitly stated over and over was not about entertainment. Not even about story, necessarily. So what was it about? Expression. A fanatical belief that film has the potential to record and preserve the beauty and tragedy of human emotional experience, and that indeed it is the responsibility of filmmakers to concern themselves with this endeavour above all else.

While it’s fairly common now, in the digital era, for people like me to pick up a DSLR for 1500 bucks and start making movies with my friends, I can’t stress enough how radical it was in the ‘60s for someone to shoot and edit an entire feature film on 16mm in their house. We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars, in 1960s dollars, just to create an image.  How dedicated you’d have to be…how fundamentally convinced that this craft, this record of human experience, was worth giving your whole life to.

The film we’re seeing tonight, Faces, is Cassavetes second feature length film. Shot on black and white 16mm film stock over a period of months mostly, as I alluded to, at the house where Cassavetes and his wife Gena Rowlands (who plays Jeanie) lived, the film plunges us into the malaise and ennui of a middle class Los Angeles couple who are reaching their breaking point. Simply put: this is a film about love, as all of JC’s films are films about love. The name of this series, A Study Of Love, comes from a documentary excerpt where John says:

I don’t think a person can live without a philosophy. Philos in Greek means “friend or love.” They’re synonymous. And any “ophy” is “the study of.” So it’s the study of love, and to have a philosophy is to know how to love, and to know where to put it… So I guess every picture we’ve ever done has been in a way to find some kind of a philosophy for the characters…and that’s why I have a need for the characters to analyze love, discuss it, kill it, destroy it, hurt each other, do all that stuff, in that war — in that word polemic and picture polemic of what life is…I have a one-track mind…all I’m interested in is love.

The dialogue in this film was not improvised, as is often misreported. The actors worked very faithfully from a script written by John. What is improvised is the blocking, the way the actors move within the frame. This, combined with the handheld camera work, gives the film a very loose style, like documentary yet somehow more impressionistic, that I think many people have tried to imitate but never quite matched; no one can push themselves quite as far outside the limits of the craft of conventional photography (the rule of thirds and so on). Fascinating how when one attempts to eschew the aesthetic conventions of traditional filmmaking, one ends up inevitably inventing a new set of conventions. A piece of technical trivia about this film that occasionally gives me nightmares (any editors in the house?): the location sound recorder they used during the shoot was really old, and the tape slowed down over time. So as they rolled these long long takes for these long long scenes, the sound would gradually fall out of sync with the film. Cassavetes went to every professional sound post-production house in LA and they all told him it was going to be impossible to sync the sound back up perfectly, that he’d have to reshoot the entire movie. But he wouldn’t accept that and instead spent months staying up late in his garage excruciatingly re-syncing the audio frame by frame. You can tell there are still a few moments, particularly in the parlour scenes with Jeanie and the two men, that are far from perfect. But I hope you’ll all join me in suspending my disbelief for these moments.

The film was nominated for three Oscars in 1968: Best Original Screenplay; Best Supporting Actress for Lynn Carlin, in her first ever acting role, as Maria Forst, the chain-smoking housewife; and Best Supporting Actor for Seymour Cassel for his role as “Chet,” the mischievous hustler.

Finally, I messaged my favourite film critic, A.S Hamrah (check out his book The Earth Dies Streaming, it is some terrific film writing) and asked what he would tell a room full of people about to watch Faces. He wrote back: “I’d clear up the idea that’s it’s all improvised [check!]. I’d emphasize that it’s in black-and-white [check?]. I’d relate it to the breakdown in society reflected in events in the US in 1968, a mood of violent confusion Cassavetes and his actors captured before the fact in the film’s portrayal of a seemingly successful middle-class American couple. [articulated by A S much better than I could!]”

My friend Aerlan Barrett , who introduced me to Cassavetes’ work, had this to say: “Faces doesn’t pander. It doesn’t exposit. Nobody says what they feel but they communicate everything that they are. It doesn’t try to BE something it IS something. It’s about failure. It’s about narcissism. It’s about delusion. It’s about lying to yourself most of all. It’s about youth. It’s about age. Most of all, it’s about letting go. It’s screaming at you. Let go. Please, Trust me. Just let go.”

Thank you all for being here, and I really hope you enjoy the film. If anything about the movie speaks to you, please send me an email about it. You can find everything about me at dylanrhyshoward.com. Thank you!

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If you’re in Edmonton, please consider coming to see A Woman Under The Influence on Saturday, July 20th at 6:30 PM and/or Wednesday, July 24th at 9 PM at The Metro Cinema.

Until next time.

Dylan – Edmonton, AB

KINO LEFTER INTERVIEW

I was recently hosted by some Edmonton-based podcasters who do a weekly film review from a critical left-wing viewpoint. We had a terrific conversation, mostly surrounding Peak Oil and my upcoming documentary project Digging In The Dirt, two films that engage peripherally or directly with the idea of the province-of Alberta-as-Petro-State.

I highly recommend checking out KINO LEFTER and supporting their work if it speaks to you! The interview we did is currently restricted to Patreon donors of $3 or more (support Edmonton-based media/the diversification of our sorry economy!), but it will be available for all in September to coincide with the release of Digging In The Dirt, which will air on CBC Television in Alberta on September 14th at 7 PM and launch on-demand on CBC’s steaming platform, CBC Gem, at the same time.

Find the interview here: https://www.patreon.com/kinolefter/posts

I will write more about Digging In The Dirt soon — I’ve neglected this blog for long enough.

I hope everyone is having an excellent day.

Until next time.

Dylan – Edmonton, AB

PEAK OIL WINS BEST FILM @ NSI ONLINE SHORT FILM FESTIVAL

Exciting news this week as Peak Oil received the A&E Short Filmmakers Award for Best Film at the National Screen Institute’s Online Short Film Festival.

The jury comments provided some of the best feedback I’ve ever received. It’s an incredible feeling to know that this film can resonate with people in exactly the ways I’d hoped.

You can read the press release and said jury comments here: https://www.nsi-canada.ca/2019/01/peak-oil-by-dylan-rhys-howard-wins-best-film-in-nsi-online-short-film-festival/

You can also watch the film from that link; it is now free to stream.

I continue to feel so proud of Andrew and Mary’s performances in this film. And so grateful that Tom was able to follow and capture those performances so skillfully. We’re lucky to have this little record of what we were feeling at that time, in this place.

My thanks, again, to the independent jury the NSI assembled for this. And to everyone who saw this film through.

Until next time.

Dylan – Edmonton, AB

SOME PHOTOS FROM OCTOBER 2018

Recently Lizzie and I went to New York to visit my aunt and uncle for about a week. I find it’s often hard to seamlessly segue back into one’s life in Edmonton after being somewhere so teeming with life. To combat these Edmonton blues, I usually start taking my camera around with me everywhere, treating my hometown like I were a tourist. Here are a few pictures from the past couple weeks.

 

 

More from me soon. Trying to write more, as always.

Be kind to one another.

Dylan – Edmonton, AB

 

EXCERPT FROM A SUCCESSFUL GRANT APPLICATION

I’m expressly interested in the anthropological implications of narrative filmmaking. I think fiction films often present a less alienating path to empathy and understanding than documentary because of the degree to which the director and actors allow themselves to be vulnerable, and the control they can exert over this vulnerability in a context where everyone is aware of the camera. Because of this ethnographic lens, when I think about making films, I’m rarely compelled by one specific, particular story. The compulsion I feel is to make a film that somehow represents an entire lifetime, or, as in this case, an entire region. It’s quite impossible to do, of course; there will always be times, places, and people left out. But for me, a screenplay like the one I am proposing is a start, enough of a cross-section to leave the viewer with at least SOME impression of the kaleidoscopic marvel that is simply walking down the street.

The title, PEAK OIL, refers to the direction I believe we are beginning to turn towards as a society: away from the alienating influences of industrialized productivity, consumption, and consumerism (exemplified by the oil industry) and towards a way of living that is more humanistic and compassionate.

When he was awarded his star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, Roger Ebert said: “Movies are the most powerful empathy machine in all arts. When I go to a great movie I can live somebody else’s life for a while. I can walk in somebody else’s shoes. I can see what it feels like to be a member of a different gender, a different race, a different economic class, to live in a different time, to have a different belief.” This is the best manifesto there is for defending why I want to make movies, or why movies deserve to be made. By juxtaposing five very different characters’ stories in PEAK OIL, I will create a script that will allow the reader (later the viewer) to experience an array of life experience in a condensed amount of time. As we seem to be mired in an especially vitriolic and reactionary discursive era, I think this kind of empathy is particularly important to propagate.

Until next time ❤

Dylan – Edmonton, AB

CASSAVETES ON BEING AN ARTIST VS. BEING A PROFESSIONAL

Whenever I’m feeling burned out with filmmaking, I go to the well of Cassavetes. Maybe he was a megalomaniac, maybe at some points he was a borderline compulsive liar. Certainly he alienated a lot of people, according to some of the anecdotes reported in  Ray Carney’s Cassavetes on Cassavetes. But whatever else he was, he was someone who believed in the power of art and self-expression with more passion, fire, and tenacity than most of us have the strength to muster in the face of propriety, economics, and social order. His movies have a cutting, inescapable honesty; he was always fighting very hard to achieve this, at the expense of film stock and some of his closest relationships. But the vitality of his films is unparalleled. His characters are often flawed and floundering, but you get the sense that all of them are truly living, feeling every emotion with a profundity and passion that sometimes seems as though it’s constitutionally outlawed in a staunchly polite, externally inoffensive seeming society like Canada’s.

Anyway, I finally got my hands on a copy of Cassavetes on Cassavetes and naturally within the first 50 pages he starts speaking to the exact issue that Lizzie and I have been emotionally hot-potatoing all year: how to make art while also having a career. He’s talking primarily about actors, because that was his experience, but you can apply what he’s saying to anything that gets lumped into that awfully over-simplified conglomeration we call ‘the creative industries.’

“Actors come into the business and have great enthusiasm because they think they’re going to make it. They think they’re going to be great. Then people tell them they’re not so great, and they feel they’re not so great. And the one thing they’ve always wanted in their lives — to be great — they realize they’re not going to be. Their own vision is crossed out and replaced by the vision of the way other people see them. They have no dream anymore; they only have a profession. They are businessmen. They are looking to make a dollar; looking to enjoy themselves the best way they can; looking not to make too many enemies in meeting people because then they won’t be working. They are looking to please the public, please the writer, the director, everybody — so that they are not concentrated, they’re not contained. Working for money and working under pressure they can no longer spin the dream for an audience…

…An actor must really believe what he’s doing, and he mustn’t care whether he’s good or bad at the moment, it’s only the creative effort that counts. And you can’t have that if you have some ulterior motive, like making money, pleasing people, enjoying yourself at a cocktail party that may lead to a bigger job. The great danger for actors is this success drive…

…Actors keep on driving for that big opportunity, selling everything in their past just for that one big opportunity. That opportunity comes again, but by that time they’ve sacrificed all the things in which they really believed and they feel like hypocrites. They get in a group of people that haven’t done quite as much, and they talk a creative game. They talk about ethics and creativity — but they’ve perjured themselves all through their careers. It’s not their fault. It’s just the society in which we live and the nature of the business and the nature of the need to express yourself.”

Lizzie and I have both been so focused on making money this year, trying to get out of the debt we’ve accumulated over the course of our twenties by affecting a middle-class lifestyle without a middle-class income. And we’ve done well, and it’s been exciting. But what happens is that it becomes impossible to see a choice as anything but a commercial choice. You cannot separate the joy of writing from the punishment of corresponding missed commercial opportunities, time spent in what could be labelled ‘self-indulgence’ when it could’ve been spent directly making money for yourself and other people. I believe in a balance of art and commerce. With filmmaking, often you don’t have a choice — the materials and labour are so cost-prohibitive, you need to reconcile the degree to which how you decide to spend money is going to influence the art that you make. But how easy it is to fall into a trap of understanding ‘success’ in purely commercial terms, the terms under which you tend to receive the most validation from your friends and family, and how pervasively this can corrupt your opinion of yourself and your art.

Feel free to take this opportunity to revisit the greatest rant in the history of filmmaking.

Be kind to each other out there.

Dylan – Edmonton, AB

From A Journal Entry, May 21st 2018

Theoretically there is the same amount of time in the day as when I was on Salt Spring in April, but the crackling energy of the city, even a small one like Edmonton, prompts you to squeeze so much juice out of the day, it’s hard to tell if the fruit was ripe to begin with. What do I mean by that…I guess I mean that since Lizzie and I have been back, we unmistakably do more, but does the quantity of tasks completed somehow reconcile with the quality of a day on Salt Spring? The kind of day when all you really have to show for your “work” is a couple of tired dogs and a few pages of screenplay that you will probably re-write later and a complete sense of harmony with your place in the world.

As with most things: there’s no use drawing comparisons. I suppose I’m just proud of the work I did out there, and it’s hard to see the path towards finishing it now that I’m back to this city-life so full of errands and projects. Writing sometimes requires moving at 1/2 or 1/4 the pace of the world around you. This is not easy to do. We are social creatures; we attune to the environment constructed by our peers. This is I guess why writers tend to view themselves as outcasts and freaks. It’s the necessary solipsism, often self-imposed, the removal from society to stow away off into a world of imaginary ideas. This sounds very absurd and grandiose, but on SSI I could convince myself that the world of the movie I was writing was every bit as “real” as Edmonton or New York or Paris — all existed equally as abstractions in my mind, and the quiet of the coast was such a proverbial tabula rasa that I felt safe in a kind of acceptance of the ephemerality and fluidity of our perception and understanding of the world around us.

I’ve always been comforted by the sound of traffic pulsing from a city street. The sounds of cars, marital disputes, and dogs barking always provided a pleasant reminder that I wasn’t ever truly alone. Now I feel the pull of those sounds dragging me back into a world of toxic materialism. Ironically, the internet, though inherently a space bred to service the exchange of ideas, has become a profanely materialistic reality-shaper, encouraging you to limit rather than expand your perception. How do we  free our minds and cast the spell of imagination so easily spun when we are children? How do we cultivate a healthy relationship with these imaginative spaces so they don’t become escapist fantasies that take us away from our loved ones? Or in the extreme: dissociative disorders? No wonder the greatest writers are so often riddled with suicide-provoking mental maladies. You cannot do your job without inviting the wolf at the door in for a drink.

Until next time.

DRH – Edmonton