A Personal Message #1:

I make films for a few selfish reasons. One is, I simply have to. Some part of me goes nuts inside when I don’t have something to work on, and will find ways to wreak havoc upon myself if I don’t. The second is because I want to explore something that I feel needs attention at that moment in time, and no amount of talking about it, writing about it, or quietly thinking about it can fully serve the purpose. These questions or these events deserve the creation of a story told visually, and for me that makes the process of making a film is a sacred practice, not one to be heavily influenced by any other exterior factors other than the essence and the intention of the story itself. The third comes from the fact that, as good as some people may think I am with words (I go back and forth on this), movies are my most effective form of being able to communicate with others. They say a picture contains a thousand words, and if a film is 24 frames per second, 24 pictures per second, then one can only imagine the amount of words being contained in a single movie. The last selfish reason would be it’s the only place I can unabashedly express myself. In many ways I believe my films show my best self, the self I am constantly struggling to be on a day to day basis. As one of my best friends told me (and I’m paraphrasing here) “I thought you were an asshole when I would see you in class, but then I saw SOL and I understood you.” 

 

We launched our Seed & Spark campaign, and I wanted to celebrate this occasion not by making a fun little video (though there may be those in the future), but by writing some deep and reflective thoughts.  

 

“This is what I’ve presented to you all these years as my long and noisy prayer,” - Bruce Springsteen

 

There’s been this reccurring perspective on what art can be for me recently. I volunteer at Alex Grey’s Chapel of Sacred Mirrors in Wappinger Falls, New York once a month. My own personal takeaway from the experience being up there is how any form of art (film, music, painting, photography, etc.) can act as a prayer. I then heard Bruce Springsteen re-state this idea on a live performance of a song of his called “The Wall,” dedicated to two former friends and one former bandmate, two of whom died after being drafted in the Vietnam war. “What this is basically is I guess is, this is a short prayer for my country,” says Springsteen. Once again the idea of art being used as a form of prayer appeared in my life. You can check out Springsteen’s moving performance below.

A still from a high school short film Outpatient (2011)

However, filmmaking would mean nothing to me if you weren’t able to experience the films that I make. I left out the word “enjoy,” because I don’t necessarily want you to enjoy my films. I want you to be moved by them. I want you to sit down and put on one of my films and be shaken to your very core, but in the best way possible. I want you to come into the film as one person, and come out another. I want you to be changed by them in some way. I say this because this is what movies have done for me almost all my life. One night when I was in high school, I hung a belt around a clothing rack and put my neck through a noose I had made with it. I had decided at that moment that the emotional suffering I was experiencing at the time was too great, so why not just off myself. As I began gagging on the belt, I had a thought: Just think about where you are now, how low you are, and how good it’ll feel when people are sitting down in a theater and seeing your films. When you’ve achieved your dreams. I let go of the belt. I can’t remember what happened after. Movies have taught me how to empathize and to always have hope. They’ve changed me, for better or for worse (depends on your viewpoint on me as a person). I believe in the personal healing power of film. It’s a medium that has done more for me than any medication, doctor, intoxicant, or anything else outside of my dad in this regard. In short, this film isn’t just for me. It’s not a personal therapeutic exercise. From the very first moment I came up with this film by asking myself “What story could I tell that’s going on in my life that people could relate to?” I made this film for YOU. Everything I endured during the making of this film has been for YOU, because I feel the film has a message that needs to be shared, especially during these times. I also made it because I hope you could see yourself, your family, or someone you know in this film and help create just a little more empathy in this world. I’ve written this before, but I feel the need to repeat the great Roger Ebert’s words anytime they come up in my head:

 

“For me, the movies are like a machine that generates empathy. If it’s a great movie, it lets you understand a little bit more about what it’s like to be a different gender, a different race, a different age, a different economic class, a different nationality, a different profession, different hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us. And that, to me, is the most noble thing that good movies can do and it’s a reason to encourage them and to support them and to go to them.”  

You can view Roger sharing these sentiments with an inspired AFI class in the video below.

During the editing of this film I went through a lot. That’s all to be told at another time, whether in a post, but most likely another film, albeit not a documentary. One of the things that I discovered about myself was a side of myself I never knew existed. This side of me lead me to consider the question after volunteering at the Chapel of Sacred Mirror’s, hearing Bruce’s words, and reflecting on my own experience with art (film and music especially for me): What is my film a prayer for? 

 

My film is a prayer that those who have been pained from the effects of divorce can find healing and peace from their situation, no matter how long ago the separation occurred. It’s a prayer for the children whose parents didn’t understand how what they put their kids through affected them. It’s a prayer for the children of divorce to possibly see their parents not as just parents, but as human beings. It’s a prayer for families who have been torn apart, whether through divorce or just by life itself, but remain together, to come together and forgive one another. It’s a prayer for those who have emotional difficulties to find solace in their own experience, and create something from that that can help uplift others and/or provide deep insight for themselves and those around them. It’s a prayer for those who have been fortunate enough to never have experienced anything mentioned above to be able to step into the shoes of people who have been, and relate to them. It’s a prayer for the ability of people to be able to be vulnerable with one another and freely express who they are, flaws and all. This film is my fifty minute long, raw, moving, conflicted, painful, loving prayer for people to forgive each other and to come together.

 

Two days ago we launched our Seed&Spark campaign, and I just want to say thank you to those who have been with me on this journey, and those who are about to join. I made this film for you and I will do my best to make the best film I can for you. I hope you’ll be able to support our crowdfunding campaign, so you can experience this film on the largest screen possible, with the best sound possible, with the best picture possible, with the most amount of people possible.

From the bottom of my heart, with a lump in my throat, and a tear in my eye (as Bruce Springsteen rages in the background), thank you.

 

Much love,

AJ