Six Months Mulling
Back last autumn, 2014, I hit the road in new-old 96 Ford Aerostar van, having lined up a sequence of screenings, motivated a bit by good old money concerns, and a bit by whatever it is that drives artists to want people to see their work. So I had stops in Salt Lake City (the SLFilm Society), Phoenix/Tempe (classroom presentation and workshop at AZ State U), Santa Fe Film Society, Lincoln NE – 5 days at Ross Cinema, Iowa City, and Chicago (Film Center). At the end of this journey, with some 12 screenings of Coming to Terms having been made, I tallied up the headcount of spectators and figured it hovered around 100, max. I then headed to Europe where I managed to get robbed in the Barcelona train station (slick job I didn’t even notice until it was long over), had a few more screenings, and then went to NYC where there was a screening at the Museum of the Moving Image – to 20 people in the heart of our nation’s cultural vortex.
Naturally this prompted me to a belated mid-life crisis (at nearly 72 I am under no delusions that this time is the middle of my life – rather very near end-game). Surveying the slim audiences and the collapse of the tiny institutional base of cinemas that show my work and that of others working vaguely in the same realm – owing to the reality that it is not only my “difficult” work which fails to draw, but cinema itself – I naturally find myself questioning what I am doing and why. Visiting with older friends during this journey, this late-life perspective appears pretty common.
While I have never been driven by a desire for popular acclaim, or its usual partner – wealth – I do, I suppose, share the desire most artists have – at whatever level, successful or not – to have their work seen, if only by little specialized groups and audiences. To spend half a year on the road, doing screenings to virtually no one (as seen from the larger scheme of things, that film is a “mass media” form, or that this is in a country of 300 million people), is, to put it politely, rather dismaying. This is compounded by the view, shared by others and confirmed by the overwhelmingly positive response to the film – Coming to Terms – of those that have seen it, that I am doing my best work now. But, it is done in a world which could care less. The irony is duly chastening – less about my work, than about the world and our brief little passage through it.
That said, in another month we travel to Korea, there to screen yet another new film – They Had It Coming – at the Jeonju festival, and to then return to the USA for a few more screenings of Coming to Terms. All the while pondering just WTF?
Upcoming screenings of Coming to Terms:
Houston Texas, April 23, 7 pm, Blaffer Art Museum.
Austin Texas, May 18 and 19th (Last Chants for a Slow Dance 18th; Coming to Terms 19th), Austin Film Society.
And then, at the Jeonju Film Festival, screenings of They Had It Coming will be
5/3 (Sun) 1:30 P.M.
5/5 (Tue) 2:30 P.M.
Maybe it really is “the end.”