pWdumaNjA-6CEEBhRoD5euxNETs When All This Actual Life Played Out: Shooting into the sun

30 May 2015

Shooting into the sun

Balboa Island, Newport Beach, California
31 December 2014

I don't have brakes.

I really don't. I go and go until I drop, working with dogged determination, playing with equally dogged determination, though not nearly so often.

Last night was the last night the daughter will screen a film at her high school. The screenings are required for their production classes; every student screens twice per year. And basically, one of my jobs for the last two years has been to help to run the event, four nights a year. Which doesn't sound like much.

Until you do it.

We knew last night would sell out the 430-seat theater, and it did. And like my counterparts, I was running between the desk and the theater, counting seats, slowly releasing tickets, praying we would find the balance between "sold-out" and "we can get a few more in."

And we did.

Last night was the last night I will work the event, and I made sure that my presence was no longer needed out front so I could go take my seat inside. Usually, I sit out at the front, and deal with late comers, do other work, take photos of blimps.

But last night, the daughter was screening her senior project. And I'd already seen it hundreds of times, vetted cuts, looked at dailies, done shoots and reshoots. Figured out locations. Fed cast and crew. Was stunt driver, camera operator, boom operator, script supervisor. Transported hundreds of pounds of equipment in the back of my car.

(Which finally needed the struts replaced. No big surprise, really. It's 18 years old. And it's been transporting Arri light kits for 4 years. Cranes. Cast and crew.)

I also wrote the story the film was based upon. It had a very specific genesis, and filled a very specific need. The daughter and I had discussed every particular of the story in great detail: the motivations of the characters, the set dressing, the clues to what was occurring, the back story for certain props. Colors had meaning, placement of items had meaning, presence and absence had meaning. The two main actors had taken their characters and made them their own. One had brought such intuition to the role that it was almost breathtaking.

So, I wanted to see it on the big screen.

It had been decided by the person who decides these things that the daughter's film would close out the program and the year. The story is sad, but affirms the power of love--and does it a lot faster than Interstellar did. I teased that they'd better provide boxes of Kleenex. The daughter had already had nearly her entire class and some of the teachers in tears just watching the cuts.

There's a lot of talent in her class and it was fun to watch the films a lot of these kids had produced. I've known most of them for all four years. They've shot films in nearly every room of my house and my back garden, and I've supervised their shoots elsewhere. I've gone to see their bands perform. I take a proprietary interest in them and really want to see them succeed, and it's been fascinating to see them discover their niches and interests and run with what they love.

So the daughter's movie played and I listened to the audience. The silence was total until close to the very end of the film. There were gasps and murmurs at the final reveal, and I watched the people around me wipe their eyes as the film faded out.

Mission accomplished. Her story made the emotional connection with the audience that was intended. It was done with elegance and subtlety. It gave the audience something to think about.

I ran back out to the front, and helped with final clean up as the students and the audience gathered and talked about all they'd just watched. When I was done, I made my own rounds, and talked to some of the kids I knew best and whose films had impressed me the most and told them how much I'd enjoyed their work, wishing them the best in their future endeavors.

One said to me, "You wrote that story? Can I get your contact info? Because maybe you have some more stories? I want to do stuff over the summer..."

For a moment, I was too taken aback to even feel flattered. I do what I do, and I always do it. I've been doing it since before I started kindergarten. I do it for me, and this time, I did it for the daughter because she needed something, something that maybe only I could give to her.

But she's always been after me to do more with my writing. And mostly I recoil in shock and horror because I can't even imagine allowing people to read what I write. It's just not good enough in my view.

And when people said to me, about this film, "but you wrote the story," my response has been one of puzzlement. Of course I wrote the story. That's what I do. I write. And I always have.

Slowly, possibilities showed themselves, and then I did feel a little flattered, and I said, "Sure, ask L. She can give you what you need. We'll see what we can do."

When I woke up this morning, I realized for the very first time in this whole process that a story I wrote had been adapted into a film. It was such a weird and alien thought, but rather pleasing.

I do so much in my life that bucks every trend, breaks every rule, goes against the grain. And I'm not talking about things that are illegal or hurtful. I'm talking about filling needs, doing stuff that I like to do--traveling like a mad thing, going to concerts--and raising my children to be themselves. Writing a story for my daughter because it was the story she needed.

Every camera maker and camera manual will tell you not to shoot into the sun. But I do, carefully, because if done carefully, it can create a very artful photograph. And in some ways, it's really a metaphor for my life, the way that I raised my children. Don't do this, I was told, don't do that. And I watched and I listened and then I let them grow the way that seemed right, the way that looked most moral, and would give them the greatest chance at successfully being who they are. Carefully, I shot into the sun, and I shot for art, for good, for right. And because I did, last night, I let 430 people have one of my stories, for the first time ever, and I didn't even notice or have a moment to feel self-conscious about it.

Which may be a virtue of having no brakes.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6.

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