MCN Blogs
Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

Adventures in Filmmaking: Something Resembling Forward Motion

The other day I was grumping to my colleague Ray Pride about how I needed something to stir a fire in me to write about. Usually a stroll through my Twitter and Facebook feeds and my routine pit stops through my morning bookmarks is good way to shift my writing mode into gear, but I had this wicked post-Sundance head cold and my head felt all stuffed with cotton and I couldn’t think straight. I had a ton I needed to be working on, so my inability to churn through said fog-headedness and just get stuff done was stressing me out and making me anxious. And then I started obsessing about whether this was just a cold-induced writing block, or a gods-honest writing block that would mentally cripple me, rendering me unable to finish anything ever again, including this screenplay I’m eyeballs-deep in. When I’m anxious, I want a cigarette, but too bad for me — I quit smoking three weeks ago, so I couldn’t lean on a nicotine crutch, either. In short, I probably wasn’t a lot of fun to be around for a few days there. Sorry, family.

Anyhow, Ray sometimes feels sorry for me when I’m being neurotic, so he tossed out something about the end of 35mm coming speeding down the pike at us, and how there are issues with digital files corroding over time. And apparently everyone’s at least vaguely aware this is an issue but no one’s really doing anything about it, so a generation or two hence most of the films being made right now, particularly in the realm of independent film, will simply fade from existence. Seriously. That means that all the hard work all you indie filmmakers are out there doing, all those months or years of scriptwriting, those weeks and weeks of exhausting shoots, those nerve-wracking months of post, all that love and care and nurturing you’re putting into all these films … is all for something that will, if someone doesn’t figure out a reliable way to prevent it from happening, cease to exist for continued appreciation by future generations. Blip.

Frankly, I found that depressing as hell. It made me want to go home and snuggle with my dogs under a warm blanket with a cup of hot tea and a good, non-depressing book. So I did that, but then I felt guilty because obviously Ray thought this was something that would interest me for a reason, and he’d sent me this very lengthy document, so I sucked it up and read it while I was snuggled up with my dogs and my blanket and my tea. And he was right, it did interest me, because it’s such a pertinent issue to the history of cinema, to the archival of the interesting, compelling work so many filmmakers are doing right now, that it needs to be a foremost topic of conversation in the indie film community, right up there with collaboration and community-building. The reality that our work will disappear if we don’t preserve is something we have to find a way to deal with.

So yes, interesting reading, but thinking about all the poor, lost films disintegrating into the ether or whatever got me even more depressed, so I took a nap when I should have been working on that script. Then of course when I woke up I felt guilty for napping, and then I felt grumpy because I felt guilty, so none of it really worked out well. I should have just gotten some writing done instead.

In between bouts of cold-induced napping, I’ve been pretty heads-down hammering away on this script, which for me involves also starting to think abstractly about the visuals and the music and how all the pieces will relate to each other dramatically. I love this part of the process, when I start to really feel a seed of an idea coming together around the story and the characters. I’m less enamored of the part where I also have to sit down and hammer out a reasonable idea of a business proposal and budget at some point, but I’m trying to find a way to frame that bit as “fun.”

I kind of wish I was the kind of person who could just focus on the creative parts, and let other people handle the practical business-y side of things, but the reality is that I’m not. The producing side of things, the learning how everything works and trying not to screw anything up too badly, is actually pretty interesting, but in many respects I’m way outside my comfort zone. There are days when I feel confidently, “I’ve got this.” And more often there are days of anxiety and uncertainty, when I feel like I can’t learn fast enough to get ahead of myself. On the plus side, I’m making mistakes almost daily, which should by extension mean that I’m learning a lot along the way, and that eventually I’ll run out of mistakes to make, or at least deplete the supply somewhat. Taking risks means you’re risking making mistakes, it means risking looking stupid in front of people you’d rather impress. False bravado doesn’t really fool anyone, and hubris only works once you’ve actually made it to the top of your game. So what else is there, really, but honesty? I’m not in a pissing contest with anyone, and the hardest person I could ever have to impress is myself.

I’m learning new things and challenging myself every day, and that’s a cool thing to be doing at this point in my life. But it’s also a huge personal risk, stepping out of the relative safe zone of critiquing film and into the realm of having to create them. It’s exhilarating, but it’s also scary as hell. When I write a review, I invest maybe a few hours of my time into it. I try to write well, to hone the words, to convey my thoughts in a clear way. Sometimes people agree with what I say, sometimes they don’t. Occasionally they’re abusive, but not all that often.

But making a film is months, years of work just to tell a story, to put something out there for others to judge. If you’ve written it well, somewhere in there your story reflects some truth about you or how you see the world. It’s so much exhausting, often frustrating work, and so much easier from the critical side of things to be dismissive of that. I recall Charlie Kaufman talking once about how it felt to spend so many years of his life working on Synecdoche, NY and have critics smugly dismissing all that work and passion in 140-character tweets and hastily written blog posts as soon as they walked out of the theater at Cannes. It’s daunting, facing that level of giving it your all and having it brutally rejected. This is maybe the hardest thing I’ve tackled in my life. But if it was easy, it wouldn’t be quite so rewarding to make it happen.

That’s what I keep telling myself, anyhow.

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“We don’t have any idea what the universe is. Wise people have always told us that this is proof you shouldn’t think, because thinking leads you nowhere. You just build over this huge construction of misunderstanding, which is culture. The history of culture is the history of the misunderstandings of great thinkers. So we always have to go back to zero and begin differently. And maybe in that way you have a chance not to understand but at least not to have further misunderstandings. Because this is the other side of this question—Am I really so brave to cancel all human culture? To stop admiring the beauty in human production? It’s very difficult to say no.”
~ László Krasznahorkai

“I have a license to carry in New York. Can you believe that? Nobody knows that, [Applause] somebody attacks, somebody attacks me, oh, they’re gonna be shot. Can you imagine? Somebody says, oh, it is Trump, he’s easy pickings what do you say? Right? Oh, boy. What was the famous movie? No. Remember, no remember where he went around and he sort of after his wife was hurt so badly and kill. What?  I — Honestly, Yeah, right, it’s true, but you have many of them. Famous movie. Somebody. You have many of them. Charles Bronson right the late great Charles Bronson name of the movie come on.  , remember that? Ah, we’re gonna cut you up, sir, we’re gonna cut you up, uh-huh.


One of the great movies. Charles Bronson, great, Charles Bronson. Great movies. Today you can’t make that movie because it’s not politically correct, right? It’s not politically correct. But could you imagine with Trump? Somebody says, oh, all these big monsters aren’t around he’s easy pickings and then shoot.”
~ Donald Trump