“The Triptych Heart” is now online to view. This one was a long time coming and has been through three different versions (with three different film shoots). It’s a companion piece to my video from 2007 called “Scheherazade”. In between working on bigger projects, I love to run out into the forest with my camera and film. It’s me alone and I can come up with shots on the spot, depending on all manner of things from the image in my head to the way the sun is shining through the branches, to surveying the landscape around me to see what it reveals. There’s a definite story I’m setting out to capture, but when I get there I let inspiration take over, and carry home a whole treasure trove of footage that I’ll string together in editing to tell my tale. On my larger shoots, time and organization are factors and I’m obsessive about my shot lists (to the point my cast and crew make fun of me) – not that there isn’t room for inspiration, it’s just a bit more controlled. But when I’m out on my own I enjoy the freedom to take in what I see, and let nature be my eyes. Almost all of my films are shot outdoors, despite its many challenges, I much prefer to shoot outside, and every film is a different interpretation of the forest.
Another freedom I enjoy with these smaller films is the freedom to fail, the freedom to scrap everything and start over until I get exactly what I want. Sometimes I don’t even write the “script” until I’ve shot the footage. I create it as it comes to me. There’s no answering to cast or crew or investors - or time or budget, or worrying about whether or not anyone will even see it. I learn so much from these videos, which are deeply personal, that I carry with me to my larger films.
On one of the panels at Faerie Escape recently, we discussed the inability of the independent filmmaker to fail or to rework the same theme until they are satisified. There’s tremendous pressure to produce a slick little box of fantasy without a lot of uniqueness. Fan films are a lot of fun, and I’ll go see any retelling of Snow White or Red Riding Hood. But I’d rather give that filmmaker the opportunity to create his or her own hero or heroine. Show me the Underworld like you see it, paint the sky whatever color you like, sing and dance in the middle of it – if that’s the best way to tell me your story. Take risks, twist the narrative – or shoot straight…as long as it’s your voice. A couple of eyars ago I went to the Tim Burton exhibit at MOMA. Hung all over the walls were his sketchbooks and paintings – and I saw the “Jack Skellington curled hill” over and over. That image was in his head for a long time before it found its proper place. Edward Scissorhands started out as an evil gardener. He reworked and reworked ideas in his head. And don’t we all…
Maya Deren says in her essay on Amatuer vs. Professional: “Improve your films not by adding more equipment and personnel but by using what you have to its fullest capacity. The most important part of your equipment is yourself: your mobile body, your imaginative mind, and your freedom to use both. Make sure you do use them.”
Film is a wonderful medium that can take on all shapes and sizes quite literally. I see it as sculptable as clay. And I don’t think missing the mark on occassion is a bad thing. And frankly, most of the elements that work best in my films were happy accidents, because I took a risk. In a way that’s the story of “The Triptych Heart” – she takes a risk and carries her heart into the forest. Though I’ll let the film speak for itself, I will say that it’s title has stayed while its form has changed. The triptych is still in there. Or maybe there will be two more of these. I don’t know…I’ll let my next walk into the forest tell me.