Stuck in Mobile

Currently shooting Illusion Travels by Boxcar

We arrived in Mobile, Alabama, this evening and immediately met with Darrell, Patty’s son, and girlfriend Debra, who has a trailer out in the middle of the country. They took us to a honky-tonk on a country road that had loud Karaoke. They argued a lot. Debra has her own ideas about how Darrell should treat Patty.

Jeff Spencer, my old friend and colleague, sent me this concerned e-mail. He thinks I’m getting off track:

Obliged to say “End It Now”——verging dangerously into Bathosville and, frankly, soap opera. You already have all you need to make a scarifying film about the demonic—-Patty is a bitch goddess, old erk—- she’ll drag you down into her hell eventually. Do the film. Quit this passe French shit of a film about a film with the subject matter being your impressions of Patty and your filming the film and your increasingly appalling ruminations on your interventions. REMEMBER ELIOT’S “NEW CRITICISM”—-THE ARTIST SHOULD BE INVISIBLE. Confine your presence to faceless interrogation. LET THE MONSTER TELL HER OWN STORY. You have enough to do a Zola on any audience. Social Realism: here is the face of unregenerate depravity. Get the hell away from that son—- he is a keg of dynamite. THE MOST HEROIC ACT AS AN ARTIST IS TO “CUT!” The last thing you need is a family from HELL. Cut your ties and make a film about THE LIFE DEPRAVED. Scuttle “Illusion Travels by Boxcar”—-it is becoming a painfully maudlin artifice about What a Decent Chap JTD Is. Remember von Stroheim: FILM DIRECTORS ARE NOT DECENT CHAPS, THEY ARE SHITS WHO USE PEOPLE IN ORDER TO GIVE LIFE TO THEIR IMAGINATION. PEOPLE ARE MERE PROPS FOR THEIR GREAT VISION. FILM DIRECTORS ARE THR MORAL EQUIVALENTS OF JOSEPH STALIN. TEN MILLION KULAKS TO FULFILL MY VISION? GLADLY!!!!

My reply:

Thanks for the New Crit heads up. I hate precious films about the ruminations of the artist too. My associate producer told me to “cut” too when I told her Patty added two Coronas to the lunch bill that I’d paid for. But you must be responding to my web postings. They are NOT the film. Repeat. They are NOT the film. They’re for my friends or anyone else to see my “process” only.

Believe me, I’ve got plenty of damning stuff on Patty, enough to blow the bathos out of the way. I have court records of charges and arrest records for child endangerment and things much worse. (But that’s for the movie.) My presence is as STAND-IN for the viewer. Give me an ounce of credit. I won’t pull a Woody Allen and agonize in the film about the how I’m affecting her. I’m definitely affecting her, but I’ll make sure I keep the reality of my influence very small part of the documentary.

I must say, though, that there’s a fine line between voyeurism and exploitation on the one hand, and true experiential documentary. If I lose sight of my original impulse of charity and friendship, then I’m afraid I’ll be producing uninteresting, swinish entertainment like Jerry Springer, Cops, or reality TV.

You are right that the best artists hold your eyeball to the blade with an unflinching look at the human condition, but without a measure of identification or compassion, they’re just serial killers with cameras.

Interior of Debra’s trailer: “Don’t placate me. I know this place is a dump.”

“You and Darrell are going to bond whether you like it or not.”

Posted at 5am on 05/11/2005 |

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