I scrolled through the Academy Awards broadcast today, stopping for the categories that interested me. I always watch the short film and documentary awards, because, for me, they represent the best of moviemaking--the sacrifice and perseverence, the passion and patience to fully realize one's dream. Plus, the winners come onstage and they look like real people. Sure, they're dressed for the occasion, but they have self-styled hair, and flesh that actually conceals their bones.
I was particularly enamored of the short film winners from Northern Ireland. The father, Terry George, was the director of "The Shore," and his daughter, Oorlagh George, the producer. She wore plaits across her crown, pinned up like my mother's childhood hair. The dad was so proud that now he didn't have to wait until his daughter's wedding to extol her talent. She rested her head on his shoulder and giggled before dedicating her award to her mother. It was a charming example of the love and commitment required to bring a film to life.
Filmmaking is a collaborative process, and the shared experience is unifying. When I was first married, I worked on an independent film that shot primarily on the weekends. I had a paying job as an assistant to a young director during the week, and then rolled into twelve hour weekend days shooting around Manhattan. I was the script supervisor and the occasional boom operator. None of the crew was paid, but I dreamed of making films, perhaps as a line producer, so I considered it my big break. The Captain was very supportive, considering the fact that we were newlyweds and rarely saw one another.
The shoot took many months, most of which were miserable. The director was odd, the food was lousy, the hours excessive. By the end I wanted to kill myself just to be released, but I had fallen in love with the crew. I couldn't abandon them. The final day of shooting was a mix of joy and sorrow--true satisfaction in our accomplishment, tempered by the realization that I was saying good-bye to almost everyone in the room.
Writing is a solitary process. My book is a movie in my head, but I am the only one producing it. There is no help with the lighting or the costumes, no script supervisor to remind me what day it is in the narrative. I am the lone filmmaker who must take the images and transcribe them with enough detail to help you see the movie as well. It is not like a normal job where you interact with co-workers every day, and get feedback on your performance. There are no office parties or scandals.
There is no crew.
But, as with the Irish filmmakers, there is fervor and dedication. And there is family. The Captain is still supportive. If I ask, my friends read what I've written and offer their opinions. And, miraculously, I've met a whole slew of encouraging readers who are willing to slog along with me, sharing the highs and lows of my life.