08 July 2005

the film on suffering

ok, time to get the brainstorming in full gear.

i've gotta do a 10 minute film on the broad theme of suffering, and while it might be interesting to make a narrative film about a guy who gets dumped, i really don't want to and i'm pretty sure no one wants to see that.

so here's what i'm thinking: something completely unscripted w/ no actors of any kind but not technically a documentary. i've been kicking around the idea of a film that feels like an episode of 'this american life' or a similar npr-ish program about how poverty affects people in the richest country in the world (i.e. this one), and not so much homeless people or crack whores or whatever, but people who are fighting windmills trying to keep their heads above water. the types that are working 3 jobs to feed their kids, but i don't want this to feel like preaching at all. i may actually shoot on black and white digital 8 to give it a really grainy feel and i'd kinda like it to feel like a film version of found art w/ all sorts of different stuff weaved together to form some sort of cohesive thread.

thoughts?

18 comments:

mattreed said...

Have you considered doing it entirely without humans?

d press productions said...

uh, no...how do you mean?

billiam said...

you know, like the lion king. ha.

Janet said...

Looks like you guys need some graphic pieces done for your website.

www.twixmixy.com

d press productions said...

Janet,

we encourage and attempt to foster collaboration from anyone who is willing to collaborate with us (even if they don't have any good ideas). in fact, we consider it to be a vital part of what little success we are able to achieve. that being said, trolling for business without attempting to contribute is in direct opposition to our core values.

feel free to participate in the discussion, but leave your business card home.

- lucas

mattreed said...

what i mean is maybe you could try to show the environments of suffering without showing the suffering people themselves...

d press productions said...

but aren't the images of the suffering people going to inherently be the most powerful parts? it seems like we're really limiting our potential effectiveness.

mattreed said...

yes, and that's the good part

johanna said...

well, i just got pulled over by a cop for the second time in a month to get another ticket i can't afford to pay and then got home to find out Nate and I are getting evicted from our apartment; aside from that, I have trouble even holding onto valued friendships because I find the nature of humanity too confusing sometimes, and all I want to do is quit my job and move to Alaska, which of course, wouldn't make me happy at all. It might not be a good idea, but it wouldn't be the first news of suffering that's made headlines. and while I realize there are much worse things, the worst part about it is it makes the ordeal I've just finished going through feel so...?

johanna said...

I think what I'm trying to say is that you don't need to go turning over some ancient rock to find a well of suffering: just look around you and try and find something you may have never noticed before. If I could send you a Polaroid of my face right now...

On a lighter note: does George Peters know that his face graces your blog page, and if so, what are the chances of getting him on for a chat? Now, that would be interesting...

johanna said...

the windmill thing caught my attention b/c, well, see:

girl has lousy job. job gets better, but girl still has to deal w/ lots of annoying stuff. soon, job gets very much better, but home life still sucks and answering machine messages and awful prank calls finally make girl pull out phone cords and the result? eviction in two weeks. so some small victory at work is ousted, yet again, by the man, at home. the caveat here is the sudden irony: job is actually more inviting than home. at least, that is, until girl gets fired. and although everything will be alright (such a costly faith is a plentiful faith), in the meantime, it's the hammer and the anvil. and over what? windmills, indeed. and then of course there's my room mate's thinly veiled wrath that i could allow this to happen, never mind that he didn't get the extension on the lease...

sorry to chime in on this so late. someone please tell me if i'm being too verbose over this.

mickrect said...

my (drunk) COMMENT I this: people make for themselves a suffering worse than physical or institutinal--depression, drugs, suicide, tatoos, peircing. Why look for it in the sense that ,"Boy is't it a shame what happend to him or her as a result of XYZ?"--make it a result of his or her own hands.

See Dostoevsky's "Notes from Underground" and "Crime and Punishment" for refernce--I think this is what these works are all about: self-brought-about-suffering.

mattreed said...

I agree with Mike (drunk or not).

mickrect said...

Well I'm sober now and I suppose I could elaborate. The theme of suffering has been on the fore of my mind for some time. I assume it comes from countless hours of feeling guilty after I have created a "hell of heaven." I wonder if in our contemporary place and time if the absence of suffering leads one to self-loathing, immorality, what have you.

Everyday one is presented with suffering--a sense that we are victims, etc. We dispise our jobs, we don't make enough money, we hate our mother-in-law. We feel that if things were better we would not suffer: more money, better job, etc.

Oftentimes when I find myself automatically feeling that I am suffering through existence (this usually happens just after the alarm clock goes off in the wee hours of the morning), I think of the Jews in the cattle cars; or, if I were living in the previous century would I have to "shower" with cold water, shit in a can, and then fight the cows for breakfast? All of this retrospective thinking somehow is enough to get my arse in the warm shower, get my freshly ground coffee, cold milk, warm oatmeal, etc. I don't even have to catch a bus, stall the horse, etc., yet I still complain.

We have no idea what it is like to suffer. What if this day I was captured by a neighboring tribe, tortured and eaten alive: would I complain? Or if I had to endure torture at the hands of Chinese rebels who poke pins through your eye-lids as a lesson in "seeing" the truth of their ideology? (This scenario was completely fashioned one day when the Jew anecdote was not getting my arse up and in the shower.)

I suppose the question I am posing is: should we fantacize about suffering (as I have demonstrated, and as Lucas is undertaking)? What, then, is the goal? To make one feel even more glad that we haven't suffered like that? I would like to know what a survivor of Auchwitz thinks is really important after having lived through hell: family? the luxury of reading? love?

Or can we perhaps show that suffering is necessary to life--without it, we create a life of suffering--extreme examples exist in our own lives. I cannot stop myself from the addiction of self-loathing and feeling the victim. I guess I'm stating that it is possible to approach the subject on a very small (budget) scale without merely being a voyeur to those who REALLY suffer. We secretly identify with them: we adore watching others suffer not because we feel bad for them, but because something in us WANTS to suffer that way.

For some strange reason we desire to be a martyr, to be amongst those injured in the train/bus bombings, to feel a bullet peirce our armor, to have my wife leave me for another man. The closest we can come is the combination of all artforms: film.

d press productions said...

as usual, i agree w/ mike 100%.

however, what i'm looking for is a different type of suffering--a suffering inflicted on a person by a society, or by an economic system destined to fail the marginal characters in our society.

and before people think i'm talking about my own poor self, i'm not. i pay my bills just fine and i'm poor by choice. there's no reason to believe i couldn't go get a $30k job and be just fine financially. so i don't count as 'suffering' in this scenario.

what i'm looking to explore is those people who have high school diplomas (or GED's) and work 40+ hours a week and are just barely getting by on the minimum wage (or just a bit more) and walk that razor edge of paying the rent or not, buying groceries or not, having medical insurance or not. and while it's true that someone making min wage in cleveland is doing a lot better than someone in africa living in a shack, there's no reason that in the richest country in the world someone with a HS diploma who works 40+ hours a week doesn't have basic medical insurance. these are the people who are fueling our rampant economy where the dow jones is over 10,000, but we as a society can't ensure their basic well being?

maybe it's just me, but that seems immoral.

johanna said...

you've raised many good points as usual, mike. mind if i re-direct?

1) On the absence of suffering: i have had a few opportunities to live in an environment where the only suffering to be had was byob: for these, i am grateful. We're talking straight-up honest day's work for an honest day's peace of mind. Like any utopia, though, it never lasts. Something always upsets the balance. [1] We could probably get into a lengthy discourse on how culture, by first creating and then destroying, is entropic and whether we start out as wanting to be martyrs or not, we get pulled sideways somehow.

2) Pretty much everybody hates their job, unless they find it somehow personally rewarding. Our society, though, is not based on individuality, especially where development and fulfillment of a person's real talents and qualities are concerned, which is not only immoral (because it twists many human beings) but also unethical (a bigger word in the eyes of the world, unfortunately) as no society can avoid hypocrisy based on such a severe conflict of interest between human needs and societal demands. [2] It is interesting to note that because of this giant-scale hypocrisy, i usually find little to complain about in day-to-day life. I don't know if this is healthy or not, but the good thing about it is that when I start hearing myself complain about anything, I know it is time for a change. Like not eating until you're stomach's growling.

3) You forgot about the peoples in Africa who were split down the middle on giant skewers for over a century by people who looked an awfully lot like us. When I think back on worst-case scenarios, that one usually weighs pretty heavily on my mind. [3] I am, like many, not immune to "white guilt." And I hate being called white. This is, of course, where the largest call for healing on this planet lies. Until all the races are able to breathe the free air w/o blame or need for retaliation, see Debs. Or Christ. [4]

4) Personally, I find watching others suffer extremely distasteful, especially if I can't do anything about it; conversely, I do not enjoy letting others watch me suffer. I do, however, hear you on the film thing, and am quite aware that a "weepie" is sometimes the only balm in Gilead. Lucas had touched on this idea earlier, regarding the role of tv in society, but I am too tired just now to search the thread.

5) So, is this the key point of your idea, Lucas? That medical insurance and not having to worry about where the next meal comes from constitutes "basic well being" in the richest country in the world? And how it is immoral that hard-working citizens can't expect that? And, if so, where do you plan to start?

Dunno if this is relevant or not, but [5] I'm not entirely sure that the U.S. is the richest in the world these days. I think that's becoming sarcasm. Maybe a Qatar or a Kuwait. I suppose it depends upon how you are measuring wealth.

[1] For some people, coping with the sharp contrast between their own idyllic world and "the real world" is suffering enough for a lifetime. Pick an artist. Just about any artist.

[2] This might not be the most apt example of how hypocritical, but it certainly is an embarrassing one: in Hotel Rwanda, the scene where over 40,000 Africans have been slaughtered, and Condoleeza Rice can be heard on the radio, trying to get her syntax correct as she addresses "the issue".

[3] Ever notice how we tend to romanticize certain atrocities? For some, it is the genocide of Native Americans; for others, the Spanish Inquisition; the Holacaust for many. What a survivor of any of these would find important is of importance to any of us, but you have to ask yourself why, don't you think? Leftism? Or is it simply that if we can't repair the damage, we feel we must do what we can to alleviate it by trying to dredge the wound? And we pick the one that touches us best?

[4] Should we put that to a vote, or maybe just go with whichever one can be reached first? Perhaps depending upon the nation and/or atrocity of current focus? (Pardon my sarcasm; it's general, and not directed at any blogger.)

[5] I felt the need to tighten up earlier remarks. Hope it helps. Too often, I feel like I am not being helpful at all.

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johanna said...

it's now March 9th, 2006, and the more things change, the more they stay the same. i see my own self-righteousness up there, my own desperate effort to get through to you on some level (any level would have done at that point) and that fine, fine sarcasm. (footnote #4) i was so sick of having my presence on the web being taken for granted and often just ignored.

your film came off as funny rather than indicative of real suffering. you should've dug deeper.