Monday, February 23, 2009

Passion and Story

What did you do this weekend?


Hats off to Brooks Museum and Indie Memphis for collaborating to bring Momma's Man to Memphis. This indie film was touted as well-received at Sundance in 2008.

Attended a lecture by Nobel Laureate Jody Williams ('97 Peace) at the University of Memphis.


Viewed the sell out screening by On Location Memphis of the 2009 Oscar-nominated Shorts and Animated Shorts.

These three events highlight for me two points:

1. Everyone likes a good story. Good stories were plentiful during these events.

2. Success can often be achieved from the outside by tapping into one's passion.

Momma's Man was made outside the realm of major Hollywood studio establishment. This unsettling film is about a man's return to his childhood home and his internal struggle to escape beyond the orbit of childhood and family that he finds himself drawn back to. While that is a thought provoking aspect of this film, the story that I found most fascinating was the actual story of the film's genesis. I like to watch films to see the locale which often becomes a character in itself. The locale for Momma's Man is a 40 year rent-controlled Tribeca loft that was very cluttered. That loft was the seed for this movie. The filmmaker wanted to film there to document this loft because it was his childhood home. Once into the project, he couldn't imagine anyone else living there other than his parents, so he got them to play the parents in the movie. Although fictional, Momma's Man is very autobiographical.

The audience at the Jody Williams lecture seemed as much interested in her story as in the facts or policy details of peace. She was a temp-worker making $13,000/year in 1985. Passion for antiwar movements that she developed in her youth led her down a path to the Nobel Peace Prize. Along the way, she found that she needed a change and was totally unclear about what that might in 1992. Five years later, she received the Nobel award for her efforts which resulted in an international treaty to ban land mines. She did this by working outside the normal governmental and diplomatic channels. While Ms. Williams is well educated, unlike other Nobel laureates that I have heard, the most dominant impression she made was not of her mind but of her heart.

Only one of the ten films nominated for an Oscar in the shorts categories was from the US. That alone illustrates that these films come from outside the Hollywood establishment. This cornucopia of short films by simply being short lack commercial potential. These filmmakers were advertised as the 'up and comers'. They are putting in the required time to master the skills of a trade for which they have passion. Could the ease of availability of the technology required to make a film be cracking the barriers to entry?

So my lessons of the weekend:

Put in lots of hours working on your chosen passion and learn to use the magic of story.

1 comment:

mambooks said...

Completely agree about the power of story and importance of passion. I would add, too, that you need to be willing to risk complete emotional honesty.

What do you mean by success can be achieved "on the outside"?