September 20th 2004 Artistic Merit

I’ve started writing more lately. Some of you may know that once upon a time, I was actually a fairly good writer. I even won a couple of prestigious awards for my writing when I was in eighth and ninth grade. Evidently, it was about that time that I started to suck at writing, because I haven’t won anything since. Well, maybe that is a bit harsh. Partly my problem is that I haven’t written much lately—and you have to write something to win something. Of course, it’s not all about winning something—I just have a million ideas floating around my head that seem conducive to putting on paper. Unfortunately, often times I am too lazy to actually write, but hopefully that is changing.

I’m at work on a couple of screenplays. I always have a couple projects in motion at a time. Maybe it’s my undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder at play, but I can never seem to focus on one thing at a time. That is, undoubtedly, why I never finish anything. However, it’s nice to have several different projects to occupy my time. Right now I am seriously at work one on short film, and two longer ones (I hesitate to call them “feature length” but they will probably end up being about that long, should I ever finish them). The short film (aka the one I am most likely to actually finish and film) came to me in my foundation seminar the other day. It’s about advertising. Now, I realize that probably sounds fairly boring, but I think it’s actually kind of interesting. Have you ever examined the utter ridiculousness of advertising? The impossible ideals it holds people to, makes people aspire to be? The utter hilarity of the claims about the products? We see advertising on a daily basis, but it was only recently that I thought of an intriguing way to expose the craziness of today’s advertising.

I often wonder why I devote so much energy towards writing—especially given the fact that I never really produce anything worthy of note. I suppose it is because, like many idealistic teenagers, I’m often dismayed by the superficiality of those around me. Many people seem so worried about themselves and things that directly affect them that they forget that there’s a world out there with bigger problems. Of course, I am guilty of worrying a bit too much about myself many times—who isn’t?—but I can’t forget that there are bad things going on in the world that I wish I could do something about. I guess I see writing, film, as a way to reach people and address those problems, even in some sort of insignificant way. Of course, this is the purely idealistic side of me speaking—the side of me that believes that, with help and effort, human civilization can achieve a glorious golden age. Of course, it’s not necessarily in human nature to love one another, help one another, and live in harmony. Still, I think it’s worth it to try—to leave the world a bit better than when I entered it. But I digress.

I guess I also have a somewhat more selfish reason for wanting to write, to film. It’s long been a goal of mine to produce something, anything, of artistic merit. I suppose I see this as the path to immortality in a way. We all know that we’re all going to die someday, and that’s something we can’t avoid. However, immortality doesn’t necessarily mean living forever. I look at immortality more as remembering—not being forgotten when you have died. Of course, to not be forgotten, one must do something memorable.

Besides…it would be cool to actually produce a film. Of course, I’m nowhere close to that yet. My entire film career, so far, has been as a production assistant for Flexible Frame. Of course, I’m at least intelligent enough to know that you have to start somewhere, and that somewhere is generally at the bottom. Yes, someday, if all goes well, I’ll command a salary of $10 million per movie, but right now, I’m satisfied to work for free, especially for an independent film company that remembers that film is about art, not profits. Truth be told, I’d be satisfied not making millions of dollars in the film industry; as long as I had enough to live (comfortably), I’d be content just writing and filming. Perhaps that is why it is nice to start out in independent film—the productions are not so commercial, not so geared towards making a huge profit. Art is not about profit. Art is about sending a message. Yes, an artist needs to make some money to survive, but there is no need to necessarily become rich off of it.

Perhaps that’s a problem with the world today—everything is geared towards greed, towards the consumption of money. Status, success, is often based primarily on a person’s material wealth, irregardless of their relationships with their friends or family, or their other accomplishments, however intangible they might be. Art is now based on how much money one can make. Publishers won’t publish an unsellable book. Poetry is a perfect example of this. When done well, poetry is perhaps the most artistic of the literary arts, the quintessence of literature; but how many modern books of poetry are bestsellers? I recall reading an article in Newsweek about a year or so ago that ruminated on the fact that poets can hardly make a living off of their work.

Film is another great example of how greed can corrupt art. Some might contest this statement, but film can be very artistic. Of course, most of the films that come out of Hollywood are trash, hardly worthy of a place on my bookshelf. The art from film is gone. Certainly some directors, producers, and writers inject a healthy dose of “art” into their productions, but for the most part, the film industry is just that—an industry geared towards the pursuit of the almighty dollar.

Art, of course, is not the only thing corrupted by money. It’s not even worth noting how it has corrupted politics, as that is a dead horse, but it is worth noting that even science has felt the sting of greed. Science, once upon a time, seemed to rise above greed. It was a pure pursuit of knowledge, without the lust for money or the specter of fame. But it, too, has come under the power of greed.

It’s sad, in a way, and undoubtedly the cause of many problems in the world today. As an American, I, too, am materialistic, even greedy, at times, but I like to think that I at least try to transcend those human constructs. Unfortunately, our society seems so lost in the pursuit of more wealth that we’ve forgotten about the things in life that really matter: relationships with people, finding ourselves, learning about the world around us, cherishing the environment so that we may pass it on to our children, and tolerating others in spite of our differences. I suppose it is idealistic of me to be disappointed at times by the nature of humans, and it’s probably even more idealistic of me to use writing and film as a way to combat these uniquely human tendencies, but I like to think that someday I might make a difference and make the world a better place.