Category Archives: Pursuit of Happiness

Well, Now I’ve Done It…


I’m very good at dreaming, but I have to admit that I’m less good at putting those dreams out there. Significantly less good. Does that sound familiar to you? I hope not, but if you’re like most of my friends and just about everyone I’ve ever met, it probably does. So, I’m going to guess you know what I’m talking about.

tumblr_nniiv0HHpM1tigpiwo1_500

I think that deep down, or maybe not even so deep down, we all know that this is true. But we doubt anyway. Why? I could try to answer that, but I won’t, because right now I need to focus, not on the problem as I usually do, but on the solution. Because I find myself in the unusual position of having put something I care about out there in the public sphere, and now I have to see it through.

It happened the way these things usually do. An opportunity presented itself at just the time I was able to take advantage of it. That’s right. Opportunity knocked, and I answered.

It would have been so much easier to pretend that I wasn’t home. But the knocking this time was especially hard to ignore.

Axe scene from The Shining with Shelley Duvall.

The axe-weilding harbinger of opportunity splintering the calm of procrastination came in the form of the latest incarnation of the Telus StoryHive Competition. Telus is a Canadian national Telecommunications giant that has come up with a brilliant way to procure new media content while at the same time supporting content creators who don’t normally have easy access to traditional methods of funding (read independent artists). A couple of times year they invite digital creators in Western Canada to submit proposals for Music Videos, Web Series or, in this case, short films. If they like your project and if you can demonstrate strong internet support, they’ll write you a cheque for $10k to make it a reality, no strings attached. That, as they say, is one hell of an axe. Okay, no one’s ever said that, but you have to admit that it is.

And Telus just happened to put out the call for 10 minute short films right when I had just come up with what I thought was a great idea for a 10 minute short film. All I needed was the money. How could I turn this down? Quite easily, if personal history has taught me anything at all. I can’t tell you how many opportunities I’ve walked away from in my life, for one simple reason:

Doubt [dout]
noun
1. a feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction.
“There is considerable doubt that anyone will give two hoots about anything that Mark Kandborg thinks is worthwhile.”
synonyms: uncertainty, unsureness, indecision, hesitation, dubiousness, suspicion, confusion; More. MUCH more…

verb
1. feel uncertain about.
“I doubt my ability to do the job”

I’m sure you’ve heard of it. But this time, for whatever reason, doubt failed in it’s mission to cripple. It missed the tackle. It did it’s best, but I was still standing. And I went for it. They say, those wise people we like to ignore, that once you’ve made a decision, things tend to begin to move, almost of their own accord.

90974deb213095f4373e760aee95a601

Exactly. I mean, not literally, because the universe is a faceless and heartless collection of atoms that doesn’t care about the Andromeda galaxy’s imminent collision with our own, so it certainly doesn’t care about my little project. But figuratively, because once you’ve really made a decision, certain actions are bound to follow and those actions have consequences which tend to make things real, fast. And I had made a decision to submit a project which absolutely terrified me.

It terrifies me first because I really care about it, but mostly because I simply do not know if I can pull it off. See, I suffer from the common desire to seek the path of least resistance. I don’t like resistance. It makes me feel funny. But really, it makes me feel doubt. Because I forget that hard is usually better, that easy almost always leads nowhere, that taking the easy way is really just boarding a train at Okay and riding it mindlessly till you get off at Not Great.

The path of least resistance for me is doing something I know I can do. I know I can make a traditional film about guns or the mob or any of a number of traditional short film subjects, and I know that any of those choices will dictate every detail from approach to structure to tone. It’s a formula, and it’s one that I’m very comfortable with. So this time I said no to formula and yes to fear.

I want to make a live action film about a mouse, a cat and a bird where the characters are all played by grown ass men and women wearing animal costumes. There. I’ve said it.

I want to tell a story where irony sits atop irony to reveal even more irony. I want to challenge my audience by making something new, something even I haven’t seen. Because that’s what I admire in others: The willingness to stand alone, to build something without certainty. To have faith.

I want to tell the story of Munchie Mouse, a Candide-esque character who’s innocence allows him to see beauty and wonder in the most unlikely places. Which I believe means that he sees the world around us for what it really is, a fairy tale.

Munchie Mouse 1920x1080 title card

We’re so lucky to be alive, to be experiencing new things, to be able to see beyond the darkness (and the doubt) through to the possibilities, by “squinting real hard”, as Munchie would say. Because I truly believe that the only way forward for our civilization, in this confusing time of distrust, judgement and outright paranoia is not to lash out, nor to ignore what’s all around us… but to have the willingness to see the good in people, in life… to actively seek out what Lincoln so beautifully described as the better angels of our nature, both in ourselves and in others.challenge_accepted

But I can’t do it alone. StoryHive is a competition, after all, and as such will rely on Votes, Likes, Shares and Tweets to help determine if this little story deserves to be told.

I don’t like to ask for help. I mean, I’m Danish, after all, stoic to a fault. It’s like that old joke about a Dane’s last words: “I’m fine”.

But I need your help if I’m going to take this to the next step, which is to face my fears and actually make this thing.

If you want to help, for the sake of curiosity if nothing else, here’s how you can do it:

  1. Vote! You can vote for Munchie Mouse and the Land of Dreams once every day for the next week by going to the Munchie Mouse StoryHive Page (there’s a 60 second video for you to watch if you’d like). You can share the project from there, too.
  2. Like the Munchie Mouse Facebook Page (you can also invite others to like it).
  3. You can follow Munchie Mouse on Twitter and he will follow you back, I can almost guarantee it. He’s just that way.

There. That’s it. I’m going to do something really uncharacteristic now, and say that…

I care about this.

No turning back now.

Time to put my money where my mouse is.

Munchie

Tagged , , , , ,

Soul Murdering Question # 1: Am I Any Good?


jean-luc-picard

Before I get to the subject at hand, I’d like to send a shout out to all of those who read “One Minute Film School” and were moved to follow my little page because of it. The flood of comments it received was amazing, and the degree to which that post seems to have resonated with readers was as startling for me as it was  gratifying. All of this, as you can probably imagine, means a lot.

Thank you all.

*   *   *

There was one comment in particular, from fellow blogger Nichole Eck, which has really stuck with me. So much so that I’ve decided to devote this post to the question she posits. Her comment starts out innocuously enough:

I have the same inability to kill people’s dreams, no matter how unrealistic or misguided! Even if I sometimes think that the sooner they get over their dreams and move on, the better (lest they end up like Willy Loman). I especially liked this observation of yours: “If you’re any good, someone will notice, believe me. If you’re not, please stop.”

It’s this next part that haunts me:

Do you know of any guidelines that can help people realize if they’re not “any good” at something? Is it just the test of time? (i.e. It’s been three years, and no one’s noticed; it must be time to stop.”)

Now, I don’t know whether Nichole’s final line is merely a hypothetical example, or something more. But I can’t help wondering if she’s referring to herself here, that she’s at a crossroads, unsure of which blinker to switch on. For this reason, and because I believe her question is as central to the artistic pursuit as it is universal, I can’t in good conscience write another post without at least addressing it. Especially since I think I may have some answers.

*   *   *

“How will I know?” – Whitney Houston

The-gorilla_-the-thinker

So, how will you know? The simple answer is, you won’t. The slightly more complicated answer is, you just will. But the only useful answer is, it doesn’t matter.

Let me unpack these for you.

#1) You won’t. Why? Because you can’t. The quality you seek to identify in yourself is relative. It’s subjective. And it’s a moving target. Remember how you can’t know an electron’s position AND velocity at the same time? It’s like that. It’s also a lot like another potentially soul crushing question, this one asked by far too many women throughout their lives: Am I pretty? Like talent, “prettiness” is something you can spot and even, horribly, quantify in someone else. But, not in yourself. Ever. You’re too close. You’ve got too much at stake. Objectivity flies out the window.

This is why we turn to outside indicators, usually in the form of human beings, for answers. In theory this can be of some help. If a girl is constantly being hit on by strangers and told that she’s amazing, for instance, she can be fairly sure where she stands on the ‘attractiveness’ scale. In much the same way, an artist who is praised, critically acclaimed and, well, hit on and told that they’re amazing can be fairly sure where they stand on the ‘any good’ scale. But there are problems with this ‘external indicator’ approach which have probably already occurred to you.

First of all, very few people are enough of a knockout or a genius to generate such a powerful response to their looks or their talent so, statistically speaking, you’re probably not one of them. Don’t worry, neither am I. Also, you can never be sure what’s motivating a human to do or say anything, and they’re as likely as not to change their minds up or down in ways you can never predict. And we all know there will never be a true consensus. Some people hate Shakespeare. Even the Dalai Lama has enemies.

Consider people who are famous for being famous. It probably feels for those basking inside that fame bubble that there can be no question about their looks and/or talent. They’re famous! And they’re almost certainly wrong. Compare that situation to Van Gogh’s, who was tremendously undervalued as an artist in his own time. In short, trying to gauge something by another’s opinion, no matter how tempting, is as futile as trying to get a handle on that electron. You’ll simply never know.

#2) You just will. Well, thats interesting. Seems like I’m completely contradicting everything I just said, doesn’t it? Not exactly. I’m just approaching the question from another angle, in another way. What would you say if a close friend asked you “How do I know if I’m really in love?” I’ll tell you what I’d say. “You’ll just know. If you’re not sure, if you even have to ask the question, you’re not”. Harsh, isn’t it? But I think it’s the truth. You’re not stupid. Trust your gut.

The problem with this approach, as easy as it may sound (it’s not) is that for your answer to have any validity, you have to apply some rigorous introspection, soul searching and, worst of all, you have to be completely honest with yourself. Yikes. It takes courage to get under your own hood and really look around, and it takes even more to be willing to accept what you find.

Some people are in love with the idea of being in love. Similarly, a lot of artists are in love with the idea of being an artist. But as philosopher and Starship Captain Jean-Luc Picard once observed, “Wishing for a thing does not make it so”.

35781610Look, maybe your desire for talent outstrips the degree to which you actually have it. There’s no shame in that. But someone in love with love who spends their life with the wrong person is wasting much. Spending your life pursuing something you blindly hope you’re good at is equally tragic. And there’s probably something you’d be far better off pursuing, something you really do have a talent for.

#3) It doesn’t matter. I can almost hear how pissed off you are at me right now. If it doesn’t matter, why even bother talking about it? Because you’re going to think about it anyway, that’s why. So I thought we could explore some ways to think about it together. But, ultimately, it just doesn’t matter. This is good news!

tumblr_m4pbbjvRt71rvzvq4o1_500What I’m really saying here isn’t just that the question is meaningless, which it is, I’m saying that even if an omniscient deity or a post-singularity supercomputer could tell you definitively if you were any good or not, it wouldn’t make much difference. Why? Because you are not your art.

Your art is your art. It is outside of you. You create it, and either it is valuable and interesting or it isn’t, but whether you’re ‘any good’, especially at this one moment of all possible future moments, is not what matters. Who cares whether you’re a good car maker, that’s just ego. Do you build good cars? You make your art, your art doesn’t make you. Remember that. And the most important word in that truism isn’t ‘you’, it isn’t even ‘art’. It’s ‘make’.

“Is the art that I make any good?” Now there’s a question.

And I’ll try to answer it in my next post.

Aloha

Tagged , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: