Crit group feedback March 26, 2017
Had valuable, lively discussion with group. A recurrent thread of feedback to my work was that, with my attention to structure, this may create an overly literal experience for user/viewer/reader that could better invite ‘heart connection’ to the work. Connected to this there was the suggestion that there was opportunity for me to better integrate my own personal and academic "history" with larger dramatic dramatic intent.
Thinking about the narrative, there were valuable suggestions about being attentive to the ways in which memories of childhood (perhaps particularly dramatic or scary ones) can be transformed in remembering them through adult mind, i.e., a particularly terrifying moment from a film seen as a child may be almost laughable when revisited years later from adult mind: inviting one to ask, this is what I was so afraid of?
There were other valuable suggestions about making tarot cards explicit in formal narrative strategies/structure. I mentioned how I had initially excised this aspect —which is an organizing idea of the novel—from my adaptation of it. At this moment, I am planning to frame sequences/chapters with the title of a particular card that evokes the central events of that sequence, and by framing it with that particular card name, perhaps also inviting a certain kind of reception of that particular portion of the film (and the film more generally).
Connected to attending more to inviting more potential emotive connection with audience—in addition to the attention to visual and auditory experience—the idea of being attentive to a ‘third space’ of connection was suggested. There was also the valuable insight about this perhaps being connected with the bulk of the events of the work taking place in the day, clearly visible, And that it may be fruitful to explore the ambiguity and unseen nature suggested by events taking place at night/twilight at greater length.
Additional observations included that, at times, there appeared to be language used inconsistent with particular characters (it may be fruitful for me to follow-up to inquire about specifics on this—which character(s)?) There was also a recognition that some of the names lend a certain amount of humor to the piece, for example Dr. Will’s name.
I noted how in my research I felt a certain disconnect with many portrayals of mental illness from what I had experienced within the family, portrayals that appeared to protect their narrative from the non-logic of their "mentally ill" character and conveniently bracket off the depiction from the sanctity of the overall narrative momentum. In other words that the character might be "crazy" but the narrative stays sane. (writing this it occurs to me that, with my intense focus right now on the structure, that I believe the work for the most part could be seen doing something very similar itself—at least in present iteration.)
David Cronenberg's film Naked Lunch (1991) was suggested as a work that breaks from this. The film clearly uses a certain hallucinogenic logic that, once “understood"/Experienced by audience, “infects" their reception of the rest of the film and makes them question all that they had seen in the film previously, Leading them to ask if this isn't real, what was?
In responding to some of the observations about what appeared to be a head versus heart approach to present construction of the work, I noted how the screenplay doesn’t necessarily provide entire picture of the work as much of the intent is also to move through different aesthetic forms that will be used/applied to filming, and that some of this ‘heartwork’ might be seen as taking place especially in the act of filming. I noted that in many ways I model the approach I am taking to that of my good friend and mentor Tom Nakano’s artistic practice: he would wander along the seashore until he encountered a piece of driftwood that resonated with him, perhaps something was suggestive of a female form. He would then take that wood home and, using Gray's anatomy, sculpt it intricately to bring an almost photographic realness to the piece of wood. Then he would sand the wood down so that it then seemed like some miraculously impossible natural form someone had stumbled upon. In a similar way, I think of the novel as the initial object found that resonated with me. I am now in the process of making it as explicit as possible––through attention to formal screenplay structure and form. Then I wish to ‘sand’ it down to invite something magical to occur. How exactly this will take place methodologically I'm not yet certain, perhaps through abstract visuals, displacement/shuffling of scenes or sequences? Something else?
Some provocative questions from the session included how one might portray ‘happiness’, an important consideration for end state of film? And, perhaps most interestingly, what the central character Arkin might wish to say (and that perhaps this was a question best asked of the character directly).
Suggestions of works to see:
Holy Mountain (1973)
Revisit Naked Lunch (1991)