07 June 2009

Happiness is a warm puppy

For the last couple of days, I've had the idea of filmmaking as it relates to happiness stuck in my head. Blame, if you will, David Lowery's post, which was itself a reaction to a great post by Ted Hope that runs the gamut of what challenges currently face the indie filmmaker. There's more there than I can digest in one sitting and you'd be a damned fool not to go read it right now. Go on, I'll wait.

[imagine your favorite hold music here]

Anyway, this is the part that hit me. From Ted Hope:

I know that back in my early days -- when I gave up trying to be happy and instead decided to pursue an interesting life -- I found as a result: things got better and I got a lot happier.
To which David replies:
That sentiment seems to trickle down through the rest of Ted's discourse, and it's one I subscribe to entirely, both in terms of my life and in filmmaking. Which isn't to say there's much separation between the two; for myself, and for many of my friends, there's come a point when the two become more than intrinsically linked, more than symbiotically bound. Filmmaking ceases to be a career and becomes a lifestyle, and just as in one's life one must achieve a balance between comfort and integrity, similar choices must be made regarding filmmaking - choices which aren't always the most immediately careerist options (and which can, indeed, entail turning away from it entirely), and certainly don't lead to the happy ending to which we've all, at one point or another, prescribed.
Filmmaking ceases to be a career and becomes a lifestyle. What I haven't been able to get out of my head lately is that right now, I couldn't say with certainty that either is true. My checkbook will gladly inform you that filmmaking isn't a career (hell, it isn't even an extra income), and in the process of getting older, I don't know that it's even a lifestyle anymore. And I'm not sure how I feel about that.

The other day I turned 30, and while it wasn't fun, it wasn't the soul-crushing event I suspected it might be. My hair didn't all turn instantly gray. The world didn't stop spinning. Really, other than a deluge of messages on Facebook and the yearly reminders of how old Orson Welles was when he made Citizen Kane, nothing happened. (Although a friend did point out that if 30 is indeed the new 20, I have plenty of time to become Orson Welles, for whatever that's worth) Thing is, if five years ago today you would have asked me where I'd be at 30, this is a pretty far cry from it. And maybe that's a good thing, maybe not. There's certainly a lot less on my IMDb page than I would have predicted.

But the question of the hour isn't career ambitions, but the contrary. Can happiness replace it (and ultimately prove richer)? Of course it can. Am I happier than I was at 25? Sometimes.

Part of the problem for me is that I struggle with depression, a fact that should surprise no one, so things maybe tend to look worse than they really are. That can be helpful at times, but at other points it's crippling. And in the aftermath of a high-energy, high-stress event (like, say, shooting and editing a feature-length film in 2 weeks), it can sometimes get real bad. Maybe that's why I haven't gotten this topic out of my head ever since I read it on the way to work this past week.

Maybe I just need a puppy.

Or maybe I need to work harder, to immerse myself more in film, to make it more of a lifestyle. I've never been depressed sitting in a cinema.

More from Ted Hope:
Your work is your life. You aren’t striving for any one thing other than to improve and to change. Don’t think about that ONE movie you want to make; focus on the long term and what you need to feel as excited, as engaged in fifteen years as you are today. Use your resources. Use your audience. Grow it. Sustain it.
Your work is your life. Amen.