I really enjoy my Fridays — especially since I’ve started going to IFP Chicago’s Filmmaker Friday event on the lot of Cinespace. That’s the place where all of the big television shows are shot in Chicago, and going there always gets me amped about shooting a film. As the kids would say: “It’s lit!”
There’s a feeling I get right before I get on the lot, though. I think “wow, my people that live right outside this huge entertainment hub are struggling. As I was making the right on 26th St., I had to drive around a stalled car. A black man was trying to start the car and an older black man was going to try and push it. I felt I should help but I was going to the event and I wanted to meet the director that was going to be speaking and I didn’t want to have to push an ’84 Beretta down Roosevelt when it’s 88 degrees. So with that bearing down on me like white guilt, I decided to stop at a Walgreens to pick up some stuff. There was a lady lying on the ground asking for money and I told her I didn’t have any cash on me as I walked into the store. I stood in line for what seemed like an hour (there was only one cashier), and I was thinking all this time: I could have helped my brothers push that car. So I decided when I made my purchase I would give $5 to that woman outside. And it would make me feel good to help someone out, it’s a win-win.
Outside I see the woman standing by a bike and I give her the money. She thanked me. She was talking to a fellow who was a bit older and had a cane; saying something to the effect of “See—I got this money because I’m a good person” with a few expletives thrown in. So as I’m walking to the car they begin to square up on each other and I’m thinking I’m going to have to jump on this man for fighting a woman. So I watch them and I brace for the moment I have to subdue this man—an older gentleman with a cane. As they argue, I realize that the man isn’t a woman beater, although he did say he would “whip her ass.” She was actually about to steal the bike. I gave my money to a bike thief! When the man went inside to warn the people in the store their bike might “get got,” the woman yells at him and calls him the f-word. Wow, she’s clearly not constrained by the social mores of the post-woke generation. Instead of scolding her about her homophobic slur and her attempt to steal a child’s bike, I just thanked God I didn’t jump a crippled good Samaritan and get hauled off to jail. So I zipped off to the event.
The speaker at the Filmmaker Friday event was Lori Felker; she makes experimental films. She talked about two of her films—one is a doc called FUTURE LANGUAGE: The Dimensions of VON LMO, it’s about a kinda obscure rock artist from the 80s. She showed the opening and he’s pretty out there. He’s a cross between Ozzy Osborne (during the reality show) and Charles Manson sans the murdering part. Before watching her films I thought experimental films were just films that didn’t obey the rules of cinema, but it’s much more. It’s about knowing the rules and choosing which ones to break. So in the doc, she recorded for eight years. Felker said that other documentarians told her she should close the film with a concert that she could help put on. She said no because she wanted to capture the truth, and I agree with her. The truth is more powerful and obviously more real.
The next film was called Discontinuity, a very funny film about a couple that’s lived together for six years and the girlfriend, Tabitha, comes home from a funeral to a house full of cats. What Felker was playing with is—you guessed it—continuity. It plays hilariously because of the cats. It’s not new, because Jean Luc Goddard does this in Breathless, but to use jump cuts in a comedy is really funny. In Breathless the jump cuts are more drastic, but I really love how Felker used them in her film. If you have Fandor you can see it.
What I got from this talk is that we need to make work from things we love. Felker loves music and she’s made a doc about one of her favorite artists. As filmmakers, we should do the same thing. Just make something that you would like and don’t worry about the reception, because if you don’t make that film about that artist that you love and no one else makes that film, then the world loses. The more time goes by, those artists will be forgotten—and you as a filmmaker are in an important position to document what that artist was like. I think it’s important for all filmmakers, but especially for minority filmmakers. We have to make sure our vision is seen by the future generations.
WHAT I LEARNED
• Make work about things you love.
• Learn more about film genres you haven’t seen and so you can grow your knowledge base.
• Help the first person you see, so guilt doesn’t make you give money to a bicycle thief.