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On The Workbench

Lately I've been stuck. Stuck on a detail that is no small thing and yet, is certainly less consequential than I probably think it is. How do I close the exit of my set from the inside? I'm trying to box myself in, to seal the set's doorless room from within while making sure that the illusion of a room with no egress is complete, I want no sign of the outside world seeping through possible cracks. This would be easy to accomplish from the outside or at least easier, but I need to be on the set, in the room to make this film.

I think I've figured it out. It seemed like a throwaway concern at the beginning and it would have never been a concern at all if the set was created in a more "normal" or traditional manner but that's now this project is going. I'm happy with my solution in theory and putting that theory to test has revealed something.

Tolerance is an important consideration but exact tolerances can sometimes lead to more harm than good. I've built this portion of the set, the alcove with some fairly tight tolerances. The slotting mechanism I've created to slide and pull the alcove walls into the rest of the set are tight enough to hold the walls firmly but not without struggle and now it seems to the impediment of bringing the parts together and even more so in taking them back out when it is time return to the "normal" world. So now I find myself considering how much is too much, how little it too little. I'm finding that if I had loosened my tolerance just a bit maybe it would have worked more smoothly from the beginning. Now I find myself trying to lessen wall thicknesses without removing too much - too much and it does not stay in place, Too little and it doesn't move easily enough. My walls have a Goldilocks problem. I'm trying to find the just right.

In the real world there isn't much that is just right. Life is more of a pendulum, with the sway from good to bad and easy to difficult. The funny thing is that these swings from one side to another are never evenly balanced. Often it feels like the stretch of momentum that moves towards or away from those negative experiences seems to be moving through a thick morass while those swings in the positive side of the arc seem to be aided by a slipstream moving us at unexpected speeds, and it is only when the pendulum begins to draw towards the middle are we even able to see what lies behind us and before us. Only then does the force of the swing lessen enough for us to truly see and appreciate all sides of the experience.

Lately I've had my share of the morass, we all have, but I've also had my fun in the slipstream as well. The old adage "it was so close I could almost reach out and touch it" comes to mind. I've been close on a lot of goals and desires recently. That joy while short lived always invigorates me. This project is another great example. There are times when I walk through the set everyday only because I have to do so to get to other things that need my attention. It is an in-my-face reminder of what still needs to be done, but there are other days where I'm riding the slipstream, where things are coming together where a skeleton of one-by's becomes an old plaster and lathe wall. Where a floor comes to life in its stillness below my feet. I hardly realize these moments and experiences though until I reach the center of the pendulum swing. It's at that point that I write. With perspective and insight. Much like today.

No pictures of the alcove in this post. No examinations of the too tight tolerances to share, but peace knowing that the pendulum will continue to swing between the extremes, and that where ever we find ourselves on the big arc we're still moving and there's always good that can come from that.

I had a conversation with students in one of my classes the other day where we talked about the act of creation and getting stuck, something I've been writing a lot about lately. In complete disclosure, the entire class is designed to provide a foundation for creating when things go bad, when we get stuck. It's about focusing on the little steps needed to move, and apparently, I've been channeling the wise philosopher Kris Kringle and his illuminations on making a change, Put One Foot In Front Of The Other.

In the class we explore ways to keep creating and kickstarting our actions, we tackle some new techniques that intentionally don't always produce visually pleasing results, and we find ways to exploit the potential energy sometimes hidden in a given cinematic

image. I enjoy teaching this class, mostly because it is a good personal reminder that being creative is not simply thinking about being creative and certainly not about feeling creative because I watch someone else be creative. This is the trap I was warning students (and myself) about the other day. Sometimes that threshold between research and creation or inspiration and creation may get too big that we can't cross over. How often have I found myself on some social media platform, looking at the art and creations of others under the guise of research? An example that I shared with my students was watching Adam Savage on his YouTube channel Tested. So much of what he shares I identify with. His curiosity and technical knowhow, his problem solving and his willingness to share what he is doing are all wonderful things that I appreciate. I enjoy seeing him tackle problems, whether he's building some film related prop, organizing his shop or explaining a new tool. I've certainly walked away inspired and often receive truly helpful information that I can use. It's easy to watch someone like Mr. Savage and learn something. It's also easy to watch someone like him and be thoroughly entertained but assuming you are someone who is driven to create, the problem is being aware of when you are entertained to the point where you abdicate your role as a creator.

That's what this project is for me. It is a big fat thank you very much, but I think I'll make my own work moment. It is a refocus on those bigger personal projects that yes, do require research and are aided by inspiration but ultimately require my action - a lot of it, to not just think about being creative, but to actively engage in the process. This project is a proof-of-concept or maybe a better way to describe it on a purely personal level is -challenge thrown down and challenge accepted. I just happen to be the one doing the challenging and the one being challenged. Can a project like this be realized in a pandemic? Spoiler: The quick answer is yes, There have been many films and other creative projects already done and completed during the last year. Just not this one being completed by me. How much can I do myself? How dependent am I on others is the challenge and question.

Dependency is tricky because to be dependent is not necessarily a bad thing. As social creatures we thrive on interdependency, and just because one chooses to collaborate with others doesn't make them any less creative. There is no way that collaboration could ever be framed as a less-creative practice. By its very nature it is a more creative process because there are more sources of the creative energy being combined and used for something beyond a single creative source. So I would never denigrate the collaborative process and as I've said before I enjoy that process and would like to be part of it more. This is just not what this particular projects is about.

I've reached some milestones in this slower than expected action sequence, but it's time to share some updates. This past couple of months I've made real strides in the set construction for the film. Wall construction was completed, or nearly so, ceilings are roughed in and I've recently, temporarily added the floor (the first constructed element of the set) to get a sense of where I am and what needs to be done. There is still much to do, but I can take a moment and reflect on the progress. I can see where I've come from, an empty space next to my basement office and now see what will ultimately be a constructed environment for this story to take place.

Finishing the construction on the walls, floors and ceilings, adding the architectural and industrial details, finalizing the lighting inserts and painting are the next steps. I'll be honest and say I'm excited about this project, and I'm looking forward to seeing where the next bit of action takes it.

After years of not creating a personal demo reel of my work, I've finally done so. It is a comprehensive reel covering the broad spectrum of my work and interests, and not necessarily focused on any specific cinematic job or style. Probably a bit long, still it was fun to put together. Progress on the bigger project continues with more posts expected soon.

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