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Losing Control in Film 101

For the past few weeks, I've been on hiatus from leading a weekly mindfulness meditation group so that I can complete a Super-8 filmmaking class with the Brooklyn-based filmmaking and teaching collective Mono No Aware. I have a fear of using technical equipment, or rather I should say that I have a fear of using it incorrectly. Writing and comedy have always appealed to me because all I need is a pen, a notebook, and my mouth, which I've always (possibly delusionally) felt like I have a certain amount of control over. I decided that it  might be time to investigate that need for control, and give some of it over to the camera. 

My feeling going into the class was that if the film ended up looking cool, that would be a bonus. This was really about be confronting my fear of learning how to use technical equipment, and my attachment to control. I had been talking in my mindfulness group about the idea of engaging with objects, so why not learn to engage with a camera and the very tactile film that is used to create the images we see on screen?

Author and philosopher Rebecca Solnit spoke once about the human need to engage with objects, and the way our engagement is shifting. We will fixate on a mobile device, and might spend the entire day navigating a digital environment that is very detached from the world of objects. Solnit advocates taking pleasure in solid objects, which includes the act of reading an actual book. So, I wanted to engage with the camera. I've always loved film, and have done some screenwriting, and I felt like learning the ins and outs of the process might help me appreciate it more. 

The Super-8 camera was created for amateur usage, and is fairly simple to use. Still, having to consider focus, zoom, light, and speed was daunting for me. On our shoot day, I went out into the park near my house and just sought to explore the textures of the park. Doing so ended up being a very meditative experience. To be totally externally focused was an experience of selflessness. My typical discursive self-referentiality fell away and I felt like I was granted new eyes. 

We're now in the midst of the editing process. It's a very tactile process that includes literally cutting the film apart and taping it together. It reminds me of the way we are constantly editing our experience to create stories in our mind about what's happening 'out there.' IDP founder and teacher Ethan Nichtern talks about how our mind is actually like a projector, projecting this film we've edited in our head out onto the world. So we think that's how it is 'out there,' but really we're projecting our created narrative and taking it to be 'real.'

In a few weeks I'll have a finished product to show you. Hopefully all these words and all this process will add up to something visually interesting, though I'm learning to let go of the hope for a specific fruition. 

Below is a beautiful film by director Jonas Mekas, someone I looked to for inspiration while taking this class. 

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