Unknown unknowns. Not seeing the forest for the trees. I’ve traditionally been a very independent person, especially my creative side. This can be very effective for lone ranger pursuits – poetry, dramatic writing, painting. But I’ve learned (slowly!) that in Film the input of the people around you, their critical or emotive take on things should never, ever be blindly pushed aside in a blinkered pursuit of “My Vision” (the flip side of this is the chaos that grows when someone does not know what they want, so that their team has no guidance and the entire production devolves into a farce). You never know where someone else’s throwaway comment might lead you.
For me, the critical person who saves me from blundering down the path to creative tyranny is my girlfriend Maria.
I have no formal education in Film or TV, or professional experience in either, so the onus is on me to educate myself. I read online articles, blogs, film magazines (except for Total Film, that crappy rag), take out technical manuals from the library and scope out Chapters for promising items (which I later buy used on Amazon – I don’t have a money tree in the garden!). I try to watch a film a day, often rewatching a particular film again and again (and again…).
All this effort. All that cramming of detail into an overworked noggin. All that time and money and sticky fingerprints left on the display books in Chapters. It seems so worthy, so focussed.
Yet for all that every now and then my wonderful girlfriend Maria comes along and kicks all that ‘work’ to the kerb when she gives me a little present of some little book she happened to notice, which renders down everything I’ve been reading to a clear and concise summary, usually less than 200 pages.
I look at my evergrowing pile of magazines, over-due library books and crinkled print-outs.
I look at this small, unassuming perfect little book Maria has just given me. It is about editing, or writing, or directing or funding a short film. It is invariably the summary of its entire subject – the principles, the fundamentals that cannot be ignored and must be understood. You cannot condense the subject down to a smaller amount of words.
And who gave it to me? A non-film person (technically), working in a totally unrelated field, yet who has the perfect knack of picking out exactly the book I need, that I didn’t even know I needed.
I am the luckiest film maker in Canada.
Maria wasn’t kidding about not mixing coloureds into the white laundry…
By the way, “Murch, Mamet & Hauser’ is not a German sausage firm, as it may appear, but the authors of three of the best books Maria has given me: In the Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch, On Directing Film by David Mamet and Notes on Directing by Frank Hauser (& Russell Reich). Priceless gems.