Friday, January 6, 2017

Lost in the Movies: Past & Future - a status update (sort of)


These were my concluding thoughts in the previous post, which was also a grabbag of links and announcements. I realized they probably deserved their own space. See that entry if you want to know what I'm up to this year and much of next. This "status update" is about what's further along the horizon.

"Movies" have been my primary interest and endeavor for a quarter-century now, since I was an eager first-grader in the fall of 1990, captivated by a combination of new releases at the cinema, my cousin's video collection, and movie books from the local library. At the heart of this was always the notion that I myself would become a filmmaker. That's a much more complicated story that perhaps I'll get into later - not that it's particularly interesting - but as I approach my mid-thirties, the idea of making a living from film is pretty much out the window and even pursuing it as a passion may be fading. That could be the necessary relaxation of pressure before a windfall...or it could simply be the turning of a page, one I've been stuck on for far too long. For the moment, I have other distractions to keep me active on the margins of the film world but they too will pass, eventually.

As I recently noted on Twitter, if it wasn't for Twin Peaks and video essays, I'm not sure what role - if any - film would have in my life anymore. I virtually never go to the movie theater and when I do it's primarily a social event, not an aesthetic pursuit. I don't keep up with new releases on DVD or streaming either, and I barely even watch classic movies these days. By coincidence, I have been reading film books in the past few weeks, but that's more sporadic than it used to be, and I don't keep track of film news at all. Any engagement I have is with particular titles - usually a TV series I'm writing about or a film that I can cover for Fandor or a personal video essay - not the bigger picture of "the cinema." My cinephilia has always waxed and waned, with lean years in which I focused on other subjects - the Civil War, politics and history, music - only for the pendulum to violently swing back as I devoted myself to my core interest once again. What may be different this time is that, if the dream of filmmaking really does disappear, I don't have a real reason to go back again.

For me, the axis of my passion for cinema has always been the faith that one way or another, I am or would be involved in creating it. If I'm not, I don't think I would want to indulge my enthusiasm as a viewer or commentator; it would feel too one-sided. Video essays can bridge that gap somewhat, but not permanently...unless they evolve into something else. Likewise if a cultural moment emerges where movies - or much more likely, a new form of "movies" (probably online, fragmented, and far more homemade) - become relevant again I could experience a renewed passion and inspiration. However, it feels like my own personal disenchantment with the magic of movies has been accompanied by a more generalized pop culture shift away from that form. So we'll see. (Incidentally, I also suspect that even if I do manage to burst my creative drought, it won't be accompanied by a renewed cinephilia; going forward, obsessing over movie culture may only be a distraction from attempting to contribute directly to it - creation and appreciation don't go hand-in-hand as often as presumed.)

Recently, I've been watching (and re-watching, but mostly for the first time) Kevin B. Lee's video essays. Dubbed "the godfather of the video essay," he pretty much invented its online incarnation nearly ten years ago in the spring of 2007. I plan to keep doing this, a little bit each day, not only with Kevin's work but other figures in the video essay world, immersing myself in the history of the still-developing form. It's been just long enough that revisiting these roots evokes a sense of nostalgia (even though in many cases I never watched the actual videos at the time). Devotion to movies, engagement with this exciting idea that they were bigger than individual titles, that we were only brushing a part of the elephant, carried me through some frustrating times and helped me focus and develop myself and allowed me to create a body of work I'm proud of. But it isn't really something I want to return to - it served its purpose. It can either become something new in the near future or it can settle into its place as an artifact of the past, something you enjoy lingering over when you discover it in a dusty attic but leave there after a few hours to return to the life you live now.

In mid-2018, Lost in the Movies will celebrate its 10th anniversary. At that point I will have created a pretty sizable backlog of TV viewing diaries so even if I wanted to throw in the towel on blogging at that point, I would probably have years of material to keep auto-publishing. However, the second (and I'd wager, truly final) season of Twin Peaks will probably have just ended. Maybe I'll even have had enough time to create concluding chapters for Journey Through Twin Peaks. Any other projects will have been caught up with. And by then I'll have experienced a year and a half (beginning this month) of penciling in time every week to attempt creative writing. In other words, I should know where I'm headed that summer, and I will let you know too. Until then, I have enough work to keep me busy, whether it ends up being a last burst or a first full flowering. Here's to 2017.

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