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artist's journey

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From Fear to Here

To my Precious Fearful Little Artist-Self, as you think about embarking on The Work,

My boat, Golden Eye, in preparation for getting to the water (2014)

My boat, Golden Eye, in preparation for getting to the water (2014)

I had written you a lovely letter this morning, congratulating you on your recent success in getting out of the Fear of The Work, and into actually doing it. And it was really a nice post, but then I accidentally deleted it. Hmmm, this publishing directly to a blog thing may not be a good idea. Perhaps to save myself from having a mini-coronary every time the internet kicks off and I lose an hour of work, I'll write in another format before publishing here. Lesson learned. 

Anyway, to stick with my "write every day" rule, I'll summarize my process from Fear to Here: 

  1. I was afraid to attempt The Work for a very very long time.
  2. I thought I was No Good, and a Terrible Editor, and besides, I had an outdated editing system. 
  3. I had no one to help me and felt very alone. 
  4. I practiced my mantras: "I have no money!" "I need help!" "I can't do this!" "I suck at editing!"
  5. To keep myself busy so I didn't have time for The Work, I saved some horses and did what I felt I was good at, for a very very long time.
  6. I made a few plans to attempt accountability to engage with The Work. I wrote them down in a journal. They were such a spectacular failure that the journal up and walked away in protest, along with my other 8 journals, to-do lists and diaries. I think they are hiding out in a bar in the Bermuda triangle. 
  7. I was inspired briefly by a legendary local artist's death, and made it my mission to "go out and make art like you're going to paint the shed" every day. 
  8. That lasted for 3 days, before I realized again how actually impossible and monumental my task was - SO MUCH BIGGER THAN ANYTHING ANYONE ELSE HAS EVER ATTEMPTED - and gave up.
  9. I got drunk a lot and watched Netflix a lot and was very lazy. 
  10. I decided I didn't want to be a documentary filmmaker, after all. I would be a community organizer!
  11. I didn't do pills or smoke weed, but I did my other coping things, which is to build up a series of urgent tasks (Tiny House workshop series, horse rescue, house-sitting, moving, downsizing stuff) and a list of people depending on me for things, to avoid the fact that I was avoiding The Work.
  12. One day, probably because I was delirious and over-tired because I kept dreaming about The Work I wasn't doing instead of sleeping, I got sick of the fear.
  13. I made a new plan: do bits of The Work every day, do it in the morning, don't do anything else, however urgent, until I did it. 
  14. I tried this for a week and got so high on exhilaration that I was actually laying some track, that I even began tackling other work that I had also procrastinated on. 
  15. The more worked, the more I wanted to work. The more progress I made, the more I wanted to see progress.
  16. I became obsessed with finishing rough cuts and fine cuts and getting them to clients, even if they were half done. I loved seeing progress, any progress, being made. 
  17. I got good feedback from my clients and discovered, "hey! I don't suck at this as much as I thought I did!"
  18. I bought some new software, sat down with my new laptop, and figured shit out that I had been afraid would be too daunting for me. I watched Youtube videos, the university of every other Millennial, Baby Boomer and Human on the planet. It was method I had eschewed as lazy and a sign of incompetance a few months ago, preferring blind ignorance and fear to actual knowledge.
  19. My new plan, surprisingly, worked! 2 months later, I had my very first rough sequence of footage for my documentary "Between Wood and Water".
  20. I wrote a letter to you about it and then deleted it. Wait, now we're getting a bit meta.
  21. Despite knowing that it's not good enough, I will publish this rough cut, because it features a man who is currently in his last few months of life, and he might never get to see the finished film (although I definitely hope he does!) I want him to know that his voice and his story will contribute toward this film about a boat that he loved and worked hard to save.  
  22. I am proud of myself, not because I produced something, but because I got over my fear and found I actually enjoy The Work. Especially when the alternative is dying of cancer-induced stress and getting ulcers and becoming an alcoholic trying to avoid The Work. 
  23. I also discovered I like my story, and it's going to be a pretty damn good documentary if I continue to just show up at the desk and work a little bit every day. 

So that is a summary of what my process, and likely a much funnier version than this morning's drivel. You're welcome, my now-Shining Star of Productivity. Congratulations on getting to The Work.

Love, Tobi

IMG_1439.jpg

Sekiu under sail at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat festival (2015). 

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Welcome

Journal: Letters to the Artist is a collection of personal writings from my journey to becoming an artist and independent female filmmaker. It's a raw, honest account of the internal and external resistance and obstacles I encounter, the heartaches and setbacks, the lessons I'm learning and the anticipated, dreamed of achievement of actually, this year, maybe getting some work done. That's my only goal. Just get the work done and let the cards fall where they may. 

So this blog is not a promotional vehicle. I'm not going to sell you my stories or ideas. Just sharing as I work to become a healthy artist with a vibrant, balanced life, one who is not martyred or obsessed with the work, but who produces art in harmony with my life.

The threads of my art and life are inextricably entwined. I've found as a documentary filmmaker that I become so caught up in my subject and what I'm learning, I become either part of the story, or the story becomes part of my life, or both. In "Between Wood and Water", I document the restoration of the oldest functioning wooden sailboat in Canada, Dorothy. I also fell in love with her shipwright, had a tumultuous relationship with him over 3 years, and am emerging on the other side with some more wisdom, a 15-foot wooden sailboat of my own called Golden Eye, and some emotional bruises I'm still healing from. In "Wild Horses" I document the journey of one of Europe's premiere natural horsewomen as she leaves her professional career to teach a bunch of orphaned and neglected boys in Brazil the secrets of the horse. Over the 7 years I've been documenting the story, I've become wedded to the family and stayed on the fazenda not just as a filmmaker, but as house momma and friend. And I've acquired two horses of my own by rescuing them from neglect and potentially death in winter 2016. 

So this Journal is not just the story of my Stories, but the Story of us as we all weave a tapestry of beauty from the many colourful threads of our lives. 

It's going to be personal, raw, unfiltered and unprofessional. You will not find tips and tricks for shooting in certain kinds of light, because honestly I have no idea how to get the sometimes magical images I come away with. Almost nothing in my shooting career is pre-planned and thought out, I just launch the boat from whatever shore I'm standing on, and we go from there. Sometimes I have partners, mostly I work alone. Most of the people I've partnered with along the way have gone their own ways for various reasons - the one main reason being is that I can be demanding, exhausting and challenging to deal with. I keep my own pace, and race against my own clock. It's part of the magic parcel. But I'm hoping one day I'll find a tribe I can work with so I don't die alone. Ha! The existential fear that I'll no doubt keep coming back to explore. 

So I don't know what this will be like. Sometimes I will write to myself, letters to my own artist. Sometimes I'll write to someone else, as if I know you and what you're going through. Sometimes I'll have advice, mostly I'll have questions. I make no promises. I simply want to make art with integrity, and to live life in a way that supports my body, mind and heart. And maybe you want to do that too so perhaps this series of letters will be a medium of communication. Feel free to comment, post your own stories and share your journey. 

My one rule is that I be real, not fake/professional/cutesy or overly smartass. Though I will allow myself to cop an attitude on occasion. I will endeavour not to use exclamation points as I feel I used up my quota in my twenties. 

This is just me. Period.

Welcome. 

 

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