On the road I caught up with friends, sought out delightful locations to record, and networked with people to find more places to stay. It was a dynamic existence: recording, editing, posting, getting feedback about Vying, giving feedback to musicians and other filmmakers, dealing with technical issues with my phone and car and website, and imagining what I was going to do when I returned to LA. 

 

To keep my head up when I hit long stretches of straight roads (The Great Plains!) I listened to dozens of Marc Maron's podcast WTF, downloaded music recommendations, put in several hours on a War and Peace audiobook, and pulled over regularly to take pictures, set up GoPro recordings and journal on my laptop.

VIE is a feature film built around an idea I started with the short Vying.  In this case I'm collecting stories for the whole course of a relationship - from meeting to dating to breaking up to getting back together again - and then asking people "What's happily ever after? How does this story end?" And while Vying was done during an artist residency at Development Arts in Auckland, New Zealand, the interviews for VIE are being recorded in a dozen cities around North America.

 

I started them in Oakland, California, just outside the Grand Lake Theater at the weekly farmer's market, with my friend David Abernathy. Since then I've recorded them in Mesa, Santa Fe, Denver, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Washington DC, New York, Boston, Montreal, Toronto,  Detroit, Chicago, Madison and Boise. Now I'm back in Los Angeles, collecting stories in the place where they will ultimately take place.

A film about dating in America.

A film about dating in America.

On the road I caught up with friends, sought out delightful locations to record, and networked with people to find more places to stay. It was a dynamic existence: recording, editing, posting, getting feedback about Vying, giving feedback to musicians and other filmmakers, dealing with technical issues with my phone and car and website, and imagining what I was going to do when I returned to LA. 

 

To keep my head up when I hit long stretches of straight roads (The Great Plains!) I listened to dozens of Marc Maron's podcast WTF, downloaded music recommendations, put in several hours on a War and Peace audiobook, and pulled over regularly to take pictures, set up GoPro recordings and journal on my laptop.

After years of temping and working at art schools, producing shorts and writing screenplays in my spare time, it was very liberating to spend nine months basing my schedule on the unpredictable weather of life - buying and replacing a toilet seat in the house of a 91 year old whose 63 year old son had just gotten out of the hospital; being welcomed in the middle of a date my friend was on, because he was playing hard to get; camping out by a lake just as the sun was setting when I knew I wasn't going to make it all the way to Kansas City; even being delayed a week while my car's suspension got repaired after skidding in the rain into a curb.

 

Fortunately my hosts were patient and flexible, as my arrival and departure dates shifted. As for me, the surprises kept me absorbed in my days, rather than trying to control the distant future like a puppeteer, with the rigid, outstretched arms of my mind. It is a habit that I maintain to this day as much as possible.

I had originally imagined traveling to cities in the South -especially Austin, where my favorite film maker, Richard Linklater, lives, and also New Orleans, which sounds like the most interesting city in America when people struggle to describe it to me. But I don't know almost anyone in the South, and neither does anyone I know.

 

Visiting these other cities, sitting outside with my camera and the sandwich board with the VIE logo on it, getting to know my hosts, and catching up with friends I haven't seen in years, got me feeling more connected to the rest of the U.S. The way the Media feeds our delight with sensationalism created a strong alienation in me for most of the rest of the country, and I felt it dissolving with firsthand experience. I'll have to get to the South some day, too.

The first question people ask me when I describe the film to them is the meaning of the title, VIE: it's the name of the lead female character's band, "Vixen In Extasy." To her the name of the band describes the dramatic transformation from being a woman in a powerful, manipulative state to one liberated by love to enjoy life - one who releases herself. And she prefers using the "ex" the French use in spelling it, not only because it looks more like "sex" but because it refers to an ex-boyfriend she was madly (and badly) in love with.

 

The acronym also suggests that to live, as the word appears in French, is to compete and struggle, as it appears in English. The singer believes the ecstasy she seeks would come from finally winning the struggle, something she both yearns for and believes is childish. For how does one "win" at life? Measured by career success or intimate relationships it seems to her to be momentary and fleeting. But the yearning for it has not yet left her, and she fears it may be intrinsic to life...

The first question people ask me when I describe the film to them is the meaning of the title, VIE: it's the name of the lead female character's band, Vixen In Extasy. To her the name of the band describes the dramatic transformation from being a woman in a powerful, manipulative state to one liberated by love to enjoy life - one who releases herself. And she prefers using the "ex" the French use in spelling it, not only because it looks more like "sex" but because it refers to an ex-boyfriend she was madly (and badly) in love with.

 

The acronym also suggests that to live, as the word appears in French, is to compete and struggle, as it appears in English. The singer believes the ecstasy she seeks would come from finally winning the struggle, something she both yearns for and believes is childish. For how does one "win" at life? Measured by career success or intimate relationships it seems to her to be momentary and fleeting. But the yearning for it has not yet left her, and she fears it may be intrinsic to life...

Another question people keep asking me is how I'm able to afford to do this. I always want to know how others are able to follow their dreams, too, when I interview them for my web-series Callings. The simple answer is that when my grandfather passed away a few years ago, my family shared some of their inheritance with me. I've also stayed away from the responsibilities of marriage, children and a mortgage. I sought out connections to host me on my travels, so I didn't have to pay for hotels. And I looked for ways I could help others with my skills. My uncle covered my travel costs abroad in exchange for featuring a couple of his friends in Callings, I produced a promotional video for Development Arts in exchange for the residency there, and I produced a video for a friend's company, Heartwood Creations, in Rockford, Illinois.

 

Furthermore VIE is affordable. It's a scalable feature that builds on the skills I already have and gives me a reasonable challenge to develop some more. When it's done I expect a third to half of the film will be comprised of clips from these stories, so I won't need as much money for the production. And I expect most of the scenes in the film will be limited to the two main characters in single locations, so we can focus on getting the performances and set design right.

That said, I'm not sure how it is going to come out. I have not started recording more interviews in LA, opting to spend my time developing my commercial production company, so I can pay my bills; and also to promote From One to All and Vying.

 

I think finding a role in society is based on giving joy to others. I reassure myself with all of the expressive faces on this page and the daily increase in the number of views I get on YouTube that something should come of this. I'm experimenting, learning, sharing. Surely this goes somewhere eventually as long as I keep moving forward.

Drum loops provided by Looperman.

© 2016 Ragcha Media