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What I needed to learn most

09.13.2018

From 2011 to 2014, I changed course to work in a new medium. Though nature still plays a large role in my film Becoming Made, the primary story is of my own creative journey and of what I needed to learn most.

 

The Journey

Ghost forest on South Manitou Island, Michigan

It all started in the spring of 2011, when I began experimenting with the video function on my digital camera. The process simply sucked me in and I felt compelled to explore it to a greater degree. I decided to devote whatever time it took (and the resources of my recent inheritance) into the making a documentary film. I began with what I knew and filmed the landscape. It didn’t take long, however, before I realized I needed a story.

What’s my story?

 
My quest continued with googling “how to make a documentary film” as well as going to workshops and film festivals. I read a lot of books and asked for a lot of advice from my friends. I progressed by filming the process of making a woodblock print and by interviewing other artists, a philosopher, and my Japanese sensei.

After a few months, the project became overwhelming.

Pulling print from block

I had some very good assistance along the way but, essentially, I was the cinematographer, editor, and lead character in the film. At one point, my craziest, I took an online Alzheimer’s disease test (turned out negative) because I couldn’t remember anything. When one of my friends made the off-the-cuff comment, “I wouldn’t spend my inheritance on this”, I cried.

Why was I doing this?

 
I was simply swept up by joy of process, and that can be a beautiful thing. But I had abandoned my bread and butter and suddenly, it felt like I had gone crazy – maybe not Alzheimer’s, but definitely crazy.

Beginning Again

I’ve shared the above because this is what creativity feels like sometimes. It’s not always easy and it’s not always sensible, or safe. But how do you know what you can accomplish, or how you might inspire others, if you are too afraid to try?

The most meaningful interview in my film was with poet and philosopher, Mark Nepo.

In Becoming Made, Nepo says there are three phases of creativity – exploration, mastery, and abandonment – and then it’s time to begin again, to learn something new. This insight helped me to understand my own path, and gave me a kind of permission to stick with it.

I made the film because I was drawn into the process of making it. I was also eager to share information about an art form that I love. But, most importantly, during this process I learned about myself and the creative journey we all may share. A good place to start, no matter what your medium, is to give yourself permission to discover something new.

In the end, the story turned out to be that learning, or beginning again, is essential to feeling most alive. 

Watch Becoming Made.

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