*Editor’s Note: Ms. In The Biz is pleased to present the “Seed&Spark Spotlight”.
I made a science fiction feature called MOVEMENT AND LOCATION and the whole process has been an endless parade of humbling lessons. The title, for instance, is impossible for people to remember. People forget it while I’m still saying it, I watch it go in and right out. It’s the name of a Punch Brothers song that I listened to a lot while writing, which tonally matched how I wanted my film to feel. The phrase felt relatable to time travel and evocative in its own way.
Our very nice, very positive Village Voice review begins with Chuck Wilson calling the film “original and intelligent” but then going on (in the same sentence) to point out that the title is “so academic (and un-commercial) that you might want to give the filmmakers a firm talking-to.”
Making a film is a string of one million decisions that you will then be judged by forever. When someone watches it, it’s fresh to them, so the judgments stay current. This is surreal and frustrating and best embraced. Lessons learned this way really stick.
I started writing the script in late 2011 and it was ready to shoot in early 2013. I wrote it to act in (Chuck Wilson said my performance had “palpable carnality,” my favorite part of the review) and acting in it was a concrete enough goal that I could push through very bad early drafts. I shared them with a lot of people, and asked for notes and got them, and through a chipping away of what people hated, evolved a story people liked.
The trick to notes is in remembering that the critique is of a thing you did and not of you. Also try to wait two days and then reread whatever comments misunderstand you or hurt your feelings. A lot of times, they point to something you knew was a problem but hoped no one else would notice. Sometimes notes should be ignored, but there’s usually something in them worth knowing.
Once it was written, my husband Alexis and I jumped right in to making it. He shot and directed and we both did the bulk of producing. We were one of the first ten projects crowdfunded on Seed&Spark, but our credit cards bore most of the budget. During physical production, we’d been married for four years and together for nine.
What happened to our relationship on set was another major lesson. It’s hard to stay polite when you’re that close to someone and you’re spending thousands of dollars a day on your own credit cards to make an art project that is likely to fail in one or several ways. It’s easy to turn a burden that should be shared into a contest of who’s enduring more of it.
But now that I’m on the other side, it looks so different. The daily nightmare of production—we had to contend with two car accidents, a blizzard, a flood, a fire, a homeless man punching me—fades into a blur of adrenaline and the taste of pizza and how breathless I’d get dancing at lunch.
I remember now more vividly than I noticed at the time Alexis’s ease and competence on set. A recent re-watch of MOVEMENT AND LOCATION had me appreciating his elegance and thoughtfulness and style. The project asked so much of us but gave so much back, and it was an honor to share that with him. I can’t wait until we get to do it again.
But the biggest lesson, and one I learned over and over, was that if I worked hard at something, I’d get better at it. I saw it with writing the script, with managing situations on set, and with editing 112 scenes into a cohesive whole. At each point I wanted to stop but kept going instead.
What felt first impossible just took effort, a lot of it, but effort is a thing I can control. And in doing the work, I learned to love it. This made the work more fun.
And now anything feels possible, which is the most important lesson of all.
Movement + Location is playing at Arena Cinema in Hollywood, CA. For more info and tickets click HERE.