Acting & Directing, Collaboration & Production Tradition, digital Gigs & Late Capitalism & Endless Content

So I acted recently in a film, Retreat, by director Gary Mairs in a scene with Amy Seimetz.  My character is a writer who's taken a desperate last chance writing retreat, to combat the disillusionment and the psychically traumatic economic/political landscape that is now. The film's of course about more than that, but yeah, from my character's point of view, it was all painfully close to home. For all creatives trying to insert their personal vision into the commerce-driven steady flow of seemingly never-ending content while surviving the day-to-day grind, we all know (or don't know) that if we could just "get away and write" we might actually have a chance to finally get it done: to find that little patch of respite where we can actually think...and just maybe achieve some creative grace, to realize our voices and our training into the art we've long yearned for. I know. We're all terrible assholes with tremendous hubris, but in my experience that's the kind of morbid introspection it takes to actually make the things people consume.

 Click here to check out the CalArts premier of  Retreat .

Click here to check out the CalArts premier of Retreat.

Regarding the production, It was truly a pleasure working with Gary and Amy, collaborators who have solid respect for the traditional production/on-set protocols that get movies made but are also open to a more organic collaboration. "Organic" is art jargon tossed around by creative halfwits in all mediums but the word, as it's meant to describe our "process" really does mean something. Basically, we had the script and storyboards and shot-list set, but Gary had a confidence and faith in our stretching out and experimenting with the material that I really appreciated. For Amy, who's currently directing Steven Soderbergh's Starz series the Girlfriend Experience, this organic creative process means she gets to do things like...making narratively alternating episodes of TGE, cleaving the series into two parallel but unrelated (seemingly unrelated so far) storylines. She directs an episode and then another guy, Lodge Kerrigan, does the following week's episode (I like her episodes better. Don't tell anyone. Shhh!) and (here's the really cool part I'm jealous about) she cast Harmony Korine as an actor in a serial role, and holy shit! Harmony kills it. Of course he's a solid performer who can both honor and challenge the material at hand when given the collaborative opportunity. This is what I'm talking about: "organic process."       

As a longtime indie director & content hustler (Almost anything you can point a camera at I've done to pay the rent.), I'll admit it's taken a while to find the sweet spot between an experienced confidence and an openness to creative risks when the camera rolls. I started out with a fuck-all attitude for on-set traditions-n-protocol, but then I "learned" how to actually run a set, and I fell in love with production; with its nuts-n-bolts hierarchy, it's division of labor; its synthesis of disparate talents all serving a singular vision. It's been a long go at learning how to balance these tried-n-true traditions with the fuck-all experimentation that got me into this in the first place. Anyway, this post isn't about digging into the particulars of Retreat or any production. It's to honor the work and heartbreak required for creative professionals to just...work in our industry; what that actually means at a day-to-day level. To serve another's vision and your own in a time when art and its makers are increasingly devalued while people are more consistently "entertained" than ever before. Honestly, the topic is a whole other post but suffice it to say, my admiration for anyone at any level who strives to survive and do good work in the everything available all the time era grows stronger with each day's hustle. 

Retreat screened in LA this week. I couldn't make it because I had three deadlines looming: an edit for a nice-little-commercial I directed, the final rounds of edits for a series on homelessness I'm making with San Francisco's chapter of the Democratic Socialist of America, and then the fully, editorially immersive, roughcut stage of a comedy pilot I directed called Cheaper Than Therapy. It's gonna be good I think: funny and vérité performances that are real as hell but a deep dive to edit.

Among all this creative business...I find myself just...so proud of my fellow collaborators, all the creatives I've known and worked with who've long ago transcended adolescent aspirations of fame-n-glory to really just work and live for their craft. I can't wait to actually see Retreat because 1: I think it's gonna be good because the people I worked on it with were talented and inspiring, and 2: because I know what it takes to get this shit done. See Retreat when you get a chance. Okay. I gotta get back to editing now.