A podcast about movie making and the scifi featurette, Daughter of God, with Director Shri Fugi Spilt, (Dan Kelly). What's our Mission?
Welcome, hello, hi, hi there! This is Episode 021 of the Daughter of Godcast, that crazy little podcast coming to you each week for no apparent reason except perhaps to reveal the mysteries of the universe via a deep delving into the making of an obscure and as yet practically unknown movie, the Daughter of God. Did you ever imagine you'd be on the cutting edge, a brave innovator? Years from now, when DOG takes it's rightful place in the cult movie hall of fame, you will be able to tell your grand clones, Avalon and Bobalicious, I was there. I was one of the first 1000, perhaps even the first hundred. Which is why I encourage you to sign up for the email list if you haven't already because those first 1000 names are epic. Still a few slots left.
Episode 021 Mission
In episode 020 I talked about the dissolution of the all the fun stuff that 2007 was about. Drama and struggle revealing a flawed premise. The edge of epiphany. Trouble helping me to learn about myself, to learn what I wanted.
There's two components to my amazing life. To know what I want and to trust that I can have what I want - in full Technicolor, Panavision, Sensurround, Dolby, THX reality. I mean touchable, taste-able, kissable.
I talk to people and I ask them, hey, what's your dream? They might not know, or they think they have to choose one thing from the two or three things that really matter to them, so they're stuck. I want to be a nurse AND an astronaut.
I love feeling fully alive and present. I enjoy diverse experience and insight. Feeling phenomenal through and through. Deep connections with curious, courageous people. These are my fundamental desires, ever expanding and clarifying. I know what I want, I've answered the first question.
Way back before 2009, trusting that I can have what I want had two challenges. Was what I wanted too outrageous and was I worthy of having what I wanted?
I could imagine resolving the outrageous question. I know from experience that the universe is magical, miraculous.
Recall Arthur C Clarkes 3rd law from episode 004.1.
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
So if UFOs were real, and we saw them zip around in ways that our airplanes can't, that would seem like magic to us, but if we then learn how UFOs zip around, perhaps by grasping a weirder version of physics, then that's not magic anymore, that's science.
We don't have to wait for a UFO to crash. As human beings, we already are the magic, these bodies of ours are the most advanced technology. Everyone gets a body, included in theme park Earth package, along with oxygen for breathing and so much more.
The entire Earth, our global life support system is a inter-dependent advanced technology way beyond human ken. I suspect some conceptual revisions will be needed before we can begin to appreciate her fullness. Why are you able to take a breath right now? Are you aware of the complex processes that keep just the right amount of O2 in the atmosphere? Are you even appreciating the experience of breathing?
When I want to grok the whole thing intuitively, I appreciate my breathe. Every wonder why you can stop breathing, but not stop your heart from beating? How come we have so much control over our breathing?
Then there are the phenomenal capabilities of the body that aren't easy to document. Forms of knowing that are not bound by apparent causality.
I felt that the potential of my body was likely vast, I'd had a few glimpses of what I might be capable of and I could imagine being able to do whatever. Challenge two was tougher. Was I worthy of having what I want? That's the theme that keeps coming up in this podcast, from episode 001 on.
In 2008 my various Rube Goldberg worthiness strategies self destructed. I didn't know how to feel worthy. I attempted to have my collaborators' gratitude be the measure of my value, external evidence of my worthiness. But no matter how generous I was, no one could ever be grateful enough to satisfy my yearning for confidence, for the freedom to be myself. Self doubt was a infinite vacuum into which I poured generosity.
If other people can't help me feel worthy and valued, how does this happen? Maybe through accomplishments, by finishing my movie?
Daughter of God
With Gerry and Christina's ADR dialogue blended into the working cut, I moved onto foley and sound effects, with the objective of completing the audio and preparing for a final mix.
St Marks Ave had commercial traffic during the day, the quietest recording times were during the evening and early morning, but doing anything loud-ish then was problematic as I'd be disturbing Fabrice in the apartment below.
I shopped for low rent recording studios, and found one not far away in a guy's basement. I didn't vet his place adequately, and after bringing all my foley gear I realized the reek of cat piss and mild subway vibrations were problematic. After an hour I bailed and arranged for a refund.
The final foley recording solution was to be found by traveling back to Michigan, where I borrowed my brother's new rental property on a very quiet street in Traverse City. Foley works much like ADR, where the foley artist (me) watches a scene and performs the required sound effects in front of a high quality mic. I did a lot of foot steps and creaking doors.
In March I tried keeping a daily list of accomplishments, so I could look back over what I achieved and feel inspired. Just a hint of post-production fatigue creeping in. In July I started doing weekly email progress reports for 40 or so friends. In August I launched a project website based on the emails.
I wanted my inner circle to be involved with the project, to stay engaged with my epic quest. I wanted the world to be able to find Daughter of God. I was also attempting to leverage my email list for an encouragement and motivation boost. If I imagined people looking forward to this movie, then I could get fired up. Focusing on external conditions, yet again. That's all I knew how to do back then. Also, after having some key friendships implode, I was keen not to loose any one else.
Here's some excerpts from the progress reports.
Invitation to join the mailing list 7/22/08
Brooklyn, New York Many of you know I've been working on a short movie for the past couple of years - DOG or Daughter of God. Many of you are part of this project. Director's friend: "So, how's the movie?" Director: "It's great, shut up!" This question is basically a horror show for someone who hasn't camped in over a year. It creates an immediate impulse to return to the dark cave of my studio and light the cold fire of flat screens once more, to summon and commune with the characters that populate the only reality that matters. Over the past 3 months I've been setting and missing deadlines for finishing. It's not only doing the work required but discovering what that work might be. Along with the daily stack of creative decisions, I've got to identify, acquire and implement resources like gear, software, techniques and workflow. Simultaneously I've got to maintain a positive attitude and avoid distractions like friends and family. "It's great, shut up!" is no longer satisfying to me, it lacks a certain detail and depth. I'm into documenting the birth of DOG to share the discovery and to enhance my focus. This process is fascinating and highly weird to me. If you have no idea what the heck I'm talking about but are curious, this is for you!
July 21, 2008
Brooklyn, New York Ok so this week I'm diving into rotoscoping. That means isolating moving things from the background so that they can be independently manipulated. There are about 18 scenes that include the hall - 8 that need heavy frame by frame roto work, 6 that need a simple doorframe mask and 4 that need an animated mask to cover the grid of a screen door.
Here's c meeting j at the door. Notice the colored lines, those are masks defining which part of the image is transparent.As the characters move, the masks have to move too, sometimes frame by frame (24 frames for each second of video).
As I was laying out roto splines in After Effects sunday, I started thinking about color correction and how to get my 3 way color correctors from [Final Cut Pro] FCP into AE. I have completely color corrected the entire movie in FCP, but the motion graphic work requires that I bring clips into AE and handle the color correction there. Yesterday I cranked on research and discovered a couple of things. FCP 3 way color correctors can't be translated to AE. So I am going to have to redo some color correction (perhaps all of it - yikes!) There's a well reviewed corrector that works in AE and FCP, called Colorista from Red Giant ($200). Apple's color is also an option, but the learning curve is not one I am willing to deal with at the moment. One thing also seems apparent, before I go to any farther with color correction, I had better get an accurate monitor solution. Last spring I was thinking about Matrox's MXO which allows an Apple Cinema Display to display HD accurately ($900). I already own two ACDs, and the new Panasonic monitor that I like is around $5k, a budget breaker in these low income times. The Matrox has great reviews, so that's what I picked up yesterday at BH. I also stopped off at Barnes and Noble and picked up a copy of Stu Maschwitz's hilarious DV Rebel Guide. I burst out laughing a couple times reading Stu's book while waiting for the author of Shock Doctrine Naomi Klein to speak, but by 7:30 I realized that I had the date wrong and she had already been there a week prior. Anyway a good day of discovery all in all. Stu's book rocks but his movie "Last Birthday Card" which is included on a DVD with the book is awful - except for the amazing homebrew special effects. No matter, his ideas are sharp and techniques super useful, he even has another option for my color correction dilemma. I fired up the Matrox box this morning and it seems to be working. Not a moment to soon... If I set this sucker up correctly, then my earlier color treatments are way dark. So it's all good! Betterer and betterer.
Fuzzy shot of the new gear. The MXO is the box on the table with the blue light.
August 15, 2008
Brooklyn, New York Hello friends, Mid August and time for an inventory of the motion graphics tasks, though with surprises around every corner there's really no way to compile a comprehensive list. At least I can document what's obvious, estimate the amount of time each task will take and project an ETA for the finished product. Of course I am still climbing the learning curve of After Effects and the myriad of supporting applications, so time estimates are highly dubious. What the hell, let's give it a go. So here's a spreadsheet detailing about 95% of what's left to do for motion graphics. On the right is the time in hours. Tasks that don't have an hour estimate are either part of another task or are not a priority. The total is 297 hours. [snip] So 297 hours seems like a lot right? It is! That's 24 twelve hour days - another month of full on focus. 5% of the tasks on this list are completed, that's what I've been writing about the last few updates. So perhaps it won't take so long. There's also the possibility that as I get more experienced, my speed will increase. Again, time estimates are highly dubious. [snip] I'll be on the road in September for two weeks doing weddings and river trips, so that puts me at the end of October for the big finish. Then there's the web site, legal approval, dvd duplication... So maybe snow will fly before these updates are complete. November 15, 2008 is our new (secret) release date. That's only one month short of 2009
In support of expanding post apocalyptic context, I took two flights out west, the first to Dave and Darcy's cowboy / cowgirl wedding in Wyoming where I coaxed Dave into helping me hike into a raging forest fire for some epic apocalypse in progress footage and then for a raft trip on the San Juan river in September with my brother Mike and my nephews, Luke and Patrick, for canyon vistas and red flake slabs that were an uncanny match to the brick beaches I shot near Ann and Gary's in upstate New York.
In 2007, my nephew Jonathan had created a 3D cruise ship model. In 2008, we discussed developing some 3D cars to populate an abandoned highway timelapse Patrick and I had taken on the Pennsylvania turnpike. Building 3D models and rendering photo-realistic images from those models are different skill sets, and over the next couple of months Jonathan taught himself how to get better rendering results.
An early test render of the cars with snow. Notice the temporary 3D trees Jonathan placed along the road to create appropriate reflections on the cars.
Mission of the Masters
I am now going to tell you about something that won't sense to most listeners. At this point there's just no turning back. You're getting the fullness.
There's the old idea of a teacher, a guru and their students or devotees. The devotees gives the guru permission to send them on wild goose chases, spiritual adventures. An excellent game to play or in the words of that old Gershwin song, nice work if you can get it. A guru was a person you trusted to prod you in just the right way. If he or she says, do this, well you just go ahead and do whatever that was, knowing you would certainly emerge on the other side enhanced.
Now this probably seems alien and even sinister to most folks, to slavishly obey the dictates of another, but if you choose your teacher wisely, oh what fun you can have, sychronicity and mind blowings. And of course, we are responsible for manifesting our teacher in the first place.
Which I have, twice in my life. Swami Bua was the first. Let me tell you a story.
Cookies for Orphans
Around 1995, I had decided to go to India. I had already been studying with Swami for a few years. When I told him he asked me, "Can you bring some cookies to the orphans?" I said, of course Swamji. He said, "I will get the cookies, and you will take them." OK, Swamiji. I was living in Michigan at the time and coming to see him every month. My friend Dirk was living in Manhattan and I asked him to pick up the cookies and ship them to me.
Dirk called one day. He was laughing. "I went to Swami's to pick up the cookies. I have three suitcases full of cookies."
"Wow, ok. I know this is weird, but could you just pack them up and ship them here, I'll pay for everything."
A week or so later, massive boxes showed up, full of second hand naugahyde 70's suitcases. They in turn were packed full of Keebler saltines and various crackers in large square shiny green tins. I was like, holy shit. The tins were lettered in both english and chinese, someone had obviously picked them up at a discount store in Chinatown.
The trip I was taking was actually a 3 month around the world jaunt. I would be back packing in Europe for a month before heading to India. There was no way I could handle all these suitcases. I repacked almost all the tins except one into two massive cardboard boxes. Fortunately I had a friend in Paris who I could leave the boxes with.
After eurailing around Germany, the Netherlands, Hungary and Italy, I returned to Paris, picked up the boxes and went to the airport. As I checked in for my flight to Bombay, the agent said, you're more then 50 kilos overweight, there will be an additional charge. I explained. "I know this sounds whacky, but these are cookies for Indian orphans, my teacher has asked me to deliver. So, you see, this is a sacred obligation and I am happy to pay the added expense. He smiled and said to me, "Ok, then today they are free." I thanked him and we both laughed. Those fucking cookies.
When I arrived in India, and found my tiny tiny Bombay hotel room, I contacted the people Swami had given information for. They told me to check out of my hotel, they were coming to pick me up. When they showed up we carted everything down to the street. As the husband went off to get his car, his wife and I stood by the curb. She turned to me and said, "By the way, I am Swamiji's daughter." I had no idea Swami had any relatives, much less a daughter.
My stay in India turned into a pilgrimage from one daughter to the next, 3 in all. I next went to meet the Bangalore daughter and her family and then to the daughter in Delhi. She had a son Ravi who was about my age. He was a car mechanic and perplexed at the whole cookie scheme. He had gotten the cookies a week or two before my arrival and given them out on the street.
"What I don't understand is why would my grandfather send these cookies all the way from America? They are not very high quality and for the money and time spent in transport we could have had many more cookies made here."
"Ravi, I think the point was for me to bring them and for you to give them away. Many hands touched these cookies, they were probably made in China to begin with, and so these cookies have circumnavigated the Earth before coming to the Indian orphans. I don't think the mundane principles of accounting are in effect here."
When I returned to the states and visited Swami, he had a big grin for me. "You delivered the cookies?" "Yes Swamiji, I did."
So that's the sort of wild goose chases teachers set you to. Now I come to my 2008 goose chase.
I have another teacher, Ru. One day, he told me that he thought I should spend more time with one of his patients, a model. I'd seen her in class and at dinners but she always seemed kind of remote. Ru told me she had a bad boyfriend experience, and that my energy would help her. I said ok, and arranged to visit.
Well, to make a long story short we spent a couple of hours hanging out and ended up fooling around. Then she told me a story about her ex-boyfriend being a covert operator and that she thought he had bugged her apartment. She told me she had also found stuff that didn't belong to her, that she didn't recognize. Now, I had read The Men Who Stare at Goats, I knew something about MK-Ultra and black ops. About LSD mind control experiments. I immediately went on high alert.
She delved deeper into his controlling behaviors, how she felt vulnerable and exposed. I started sweeping the room for bugs, wondering what the hell Ru, I mean what I had gotten myself into. Then her story started to become, slightly hard to believe, even for a conspiracy buff like me. I suddenly realized that she was mildly confused. Then everything fell into place. As I rummaged through her apartment I found the liquor, the scripts. She needed detox. Her ex might have had a hand in deepening her addiction, he might have told her stories but they were just a way to play with her head, to control her.
Perhaps Ru had helped him make the choice to clear out, but she was far from stable. She needed help. She needed to eat. I went to the store, cooked us dinner, put the yummy leftovers in her fridge and then slipped out. Why had Ru put me in that position? I called him from the street and told him what had happened. I asked him why he wanted me to be with her, "She has a lot of trouble Master Ru!", he said "Not girlfriend, just friend. I wanted you to be her friend."
"Well Master Ru, she's not my girlfriend and I will be her friend, but I wish you had been more clear."
"Not girlfriend, just friend."
I visited her a few more times, I was just a good friend from then on, making sure she ate something, keeping her company. Eventually she did get herself into detox and rebuilt her life.
Right after all this, Ru spilled the story to the other Tai Chi students, (there's no privacy in Ru's class) and another student Gigi teased me about hooking up with her in front of the class.
The other students certainly didn't have the whole story, what this woman had been through and I just couldn't see the humor in the situation, and was suddenly seething with suppressed anger. I'd been trying different herbal approaches to easing my lower back pain, but suddenly the ache flared up, almost incapacitating me. The intensity had amped up the day before during a traumatic meeting in the Prospect Heights Community Garden, where the Ceasar stabbing knives were starting to come out.
I was mad at Gigi for poking fun at me, mad at Ru for setting me up, for telling the other students, mad at myself for not seeing sooner what the situation was. So much anger. And an intense ache in lower back.
Nothing was wrong, yet I felt out of control. The wild goose chase was over and there was my golden egg, awareness.
Why all this anger?
In episode 020, I described the reocurring theme of feeling unappreciated in early 2008. Hard to classify so many similar experiences as just freaky coincidence, because they all had me in common. This was not about what my collaborators did or didn't do, they were just reflecting, my radiant and perfect mirrors.
If I thought they were setting their happiness bars higher than I wanted to vault, I must have also made an impossible request.
I had asked my women friends to stand in for my own power. I was trying to turn my collaborators into external circumstances that I could celebrate. People are not conditions but autonomous free flowing energy, impossible to fix into some arbitrary shape. We all gotta flow.
The key to self worth is that first world, self. Feeling valued and worthy cannot be based on the words or actions of others, or even my own accomplishments. This was the hard lesson of 2008, my clever manipulations to prove worthiness failed repeatedly and catastrophically. A wild goose chase revealed a painful core of despair and anguish.
Life experience is rarely homogeneous. The hard lessons were softened by epiphanies and new blooming friendships. Sweet and gentle lovers showed up, I had many inspiring moments with Daughter of God and the journey into totality precipitated by the fall from Laura and Jon's window would become significant many years later.
In August 6, 2008, I updated The Daughter of God planning document, with a new category metavision - why make movies?
This is important stuff. Actions in the world, to make an effective move, what does that look like? something that will be decisive. in an illusory ocean, learn to swim. what is the meta concept? the movie as magic spell, as ritual, as participatory prayer. making a movie can be a sacred practice. by making the movie, writing the plot, am i discovering the truth or creating it? is this why gerry puts his body on ice, because he knows that he is not going to die, that he'd like to have the body available for some later date. Gerry is not giving up, he is vacationing in the hyper-dimensions, the mythic digital ether, where anything is possible. Geeks might say it isn't so, but artists know. Those who think the truth is something you figure out, don't know much about the truth. the truth is something one creates. One has to believe it's true, otherwise it ain't. If I don't believe g bush was elected twice, then he ain't my president. if i do beleive that he was, then I got to go along with the damn system, unless i don't believe in democracy or i don't give a damn period. if i don't care, g bush is just the weather. i think that by making a movie, we are discovering something. it's a kind of therapy certainly - excercising the courage to be vulnerable... but for a wizard, it's a kind of making, of bringing into being. it's not just that we bring characters or stories to life for a moment in the theater, or that we ignite the imagination of the audience. Those things happen, but that's not all. it's that we restructure the consensual reality, we shape the very fabric of space time. A movie seems an ephermeral wisp of insight, a flickering of light, ripples of air washing up against our eardrums, but making it is akin to forging a magic sword. why do we make movies? to try on another's skin? hell no, we want to resonate with alternate versions of ourselves. what i mean by this is that it's not pretending to be someone else, it's bringing out the others waiting within us, welcoming it out into the light, giving it the steering wheel of our senses and body, releasing it. ah yes movie making is a form of discovery it's a way to learn what's really going on this is how we identify and grok the situation, strategically and spiritually. movie making is an act of creation we create concepts that are useful we organize the world into a shape that is interesting and fun we design a new way we weave a spell that spools out into the universe and changes everything movie making is training we train our dicipline, fortitude and intelligence we excercise and strengthen our power of belief we edify and prepare the unknown allies in the audience movies are an energy lens contracts establish an architecture for the energy forging a magic sword movie making is right action an expression of the warrior code of effective response to the adversary
My last jet flight was to Marion and Jung Woong's December of 2008 wedding in Puerto Rico and ecstatic ocean swims. In the airport on the way back, I talked to Jeff Gibbs who harangued me about causal flying.
I wrote to him about an idea for a future project.
12/28 i've been thinking about a demonstration project incorporating both sustainable travel and fostering a personal connection to the wilds - did you ever see my little movie "Almonds"? I am thinking about a series of those, like walden's pond but taking it on the road. if we want folks to fight for the planet, they've got to feel personal connection to it and the best way to create that is for them to come into genuine contact with it. When i go to north manitou, i take a ferry boat. i could also illegally swim there if I were very fit or sail there and illegally beach my boat. why isn't there an option for beaching sailboats, or anchoring them near to shore? screw the sailboats - they are resource intensive - maybe i shouldn't go anywhere i can't swim to or walk. but if those were my only options, I'd still get to north manitou somehow because it FEEDS MY VISION as an artist. it inspires me to be an evolved human.
Here's except from my journal the next day.
12/29 Couple of weeks back I heard on the radio that global warming is 15 years ahead of schedule. This came right after learning that we have about a decade before many species are extinct. My little movie seems pretty pointless in the face of that. Isn't there a more decisive contribution to make? Why bother putting more time and effort into this project when the frigging planet is in such dire shape, when human awareness so desperately needs a hand up? When it comes right down to it, that's what my little movie intends. How can DOG shove it's skinny shoulder to the wheel? It's about the healing power of the earth, about humor and inevitable love. It's a post future fairy tale. It's my first project for heavens sake, must find the shine.
In March I had attended a Morrie Warshawski fundraising workshop where he talked about magnetizing my field and attracting my ideal collaborators by clearly articulating my mission. Then including the mission on every outgoing communication, and being able to rattle it off from memory.
I'd since thought lot about this, what my mission might be. After a year of trauma and ineffective strategies, I began to get a glimmer. I wondered if Daughter of God would be included.
You've been listening to the Daughter of Godcast episode 021, Mission. We've wrapped up the most excellent year of 2008, full of useful woe and awakening. I've dropped some hints in this episode about what happens next for Daughter of God, can you guess? Email your ideas for a chance to win a vegan and wheat free pancake breakfast for two.
Once again, I thank you for listening, not that I can tell whether you did or not. I changed into this groovy jacket that Laura gave me way back when. As a tribute to her, and all my cosmic allies and collaborators who have helped me be more than I was before. As I helped them, surely. Maybe were all more now than we when this podcast started. For 21 weeks I've been setting up this microphone and camera for my own enhancement, selfish to the bone. I love the idea you might be thriving a little more too. I thrill at the thought. Now I can take a bath and smile a thousand smiles. see you next week!