some thoughts on “directing”

12Jul15

Awake in the pink light of dawn, having feelings about the video shoot we are attempting today – a music video for Mizz June’s song “Light the Way.” This morning I am struggling with the word “director” within a process that – from the start – has attempted to collapse traditional hierarchies within the filmmaking process.

The song was originally written by Star Amerasu, chosen by Mizz June to be sung by the character she created for our movie, and recorded this winter and spring with Princess Tiny. From day one June and Ky’iera and all of the main performers have controlled the narratives of their characters and how they choose to represent themselves in the immortal language of film.

We move slowly in this process. We think a lot about what messages we send, what values we represent. We have lots of dinners where we talk about ideas and tell stories and only get through part of the agenda. The “we” is constantly shifting – which complicates things and adds to the magic. The ideas need to hold up through many different filters and changes. We keep re-writing the script and we accept this as part of our process.

Sometime this winter, as Light the Way was in the works, June and I invited somethKristen Parker, Angel Favorite, Dominika Ksel and Jack Jackson into our imaginations, along with Carlo Maria, Emmersun Lunarbow, and others involved in the movie dreaming process. Ultimately it’s Angel who had the capacity to make this shoot happen quickly enough to coincide with Miss Major’s visit to NYC, and many friends from the Werrrqshop like Danielle Rye and Ka Sue Jeong and Qing Xzavier are working on makeup, accessories, costumes…. friends like Lucretia John and Willow T C Rosenberg and Tilly McGill DeWolfe are stepping up on food and costumes, dancers we’ve met through Sylvia’s Place Ma’at Black St. Jamesand Dawn Kimberly Cole, and my roommates Carlo Maria and Chris Roberts who have been with us every step of the way along with so many other friends and helpers.

Angel officially plays the role of “director” in today’s shoot, as the creator of the storyboard and the shot list and the person whose wisdom guides the lights and cameras. And yet – is the real director Mizz June and Kristen, whose ideas and imaginations guided Angel’s visions? Or Star, whose lyrics have moved us emotionally through this journey? Is it all of us combined? What words fit my role as person with a certain aesthetic who finds and redistributes resources and moves the process along? How do we properly honor the work contributed by all the people who are giving to the best of their ability and imaginations?

Why do we have words in the first place? Whose language are we even speaking?

I feel extra sensitive about this because of considerations of race, gender and ability as they relate to the filmmaking process, even in our all-queer-and-trans by-us-for-us production. From day one I accepted that being a white person with power “directing” friends of color could be perceived as problematic, and yet, I refused to use my power as a producer to perpetuate white supremacy in film. I am anxious about how outsiders will perceive our filmmaking process, how it looks when reduced to certain words, vs. how it actually plays out for us, what it feels like to collaborate on nearly every decision in a deeply engaged collaborative process that prioritizes relationship-building and difficult conversations.

And I worry about patterns of patriarchy and colonialism and how they play out in our process, even as we try to hunt down the beast and create a wild pony from its carcass.

I worry about how they play out in me.

It is both a miracle and an act of resistance to be queer and trans and in charge of the telling of our own stories. Miss Major is participating in today’s shoot is an honor I am grateful to live through. Working collaboratively on a collective effort that involves the talents and imaginations of so many amazing people is richly rewarding and the thing I am loving the most about filmmaking. I am grateful for the knowledge in Angel’s head that will help the performers look great and well lit and keep the shoot moving forward. Grateful to be part of a community that questions itself, even while we stumble forward, making mistakes and learning from them and moving forward always.

As June sings — “someday, we’ll laugh the pain away….. someday.”

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