Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Director vs. Producer

Most of us spend most of our lives trying to find a voice. Naturally this process is nurtured more in some than in others – people who go to Waldorf schools, are raised by art therapists and play only with wooden toys have better odds than the rest. I’ve literally lost my voice just once before, and it was at a time when I was striving quite vigilantly to develop one that mattered. That was in film school. Since then, I have been developing my musical voice – and being sort of a verbal person, being able to express myself in words has been consistently important. In the last week, I’ve encountered a few obstacles to expression – including losing my voice – but I’m happy to report that I have triumphed in the face of absentee/non-functioning communication implements, both organic and forged by the hands of industry.

Yesterday – having a moment of solitude in a café in Oxford – I discovered that somehow in my ten pounds of essential baggage, I had managed to leave my brother’s apartment without a pen. There was a time when this would have been easy enough to remedy. The girl at the counter of Café Nero had to ask me twice what I was looking for. ‘A pen?’ She said as she rummaged around the computer register. ‘Or a pencil. . . anything that writes,’ I answered, as if a creature from some remote point in space and time. With a look of uncertainty, she handed me a dull pencil, which I couldn’t bear to refuse. I returned to my table and my blank pages. The pencil was miserable to write with, unfortunately, and I returned for another attempt – and this time she searched further and ultimately delivered a pen, although I was chagrined to find that it didn’t write for shit. So off I went into the winding alleyways of Oxford -- with all its rich history of writers and thinkers -- in search of what remains perhaps one of mankind’s greatest inventions.

While not terribly profound, this experience and the quest that followed seemed significant coming at the heels of my two-day confinement to whispers. I also watched “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” the other night, which offered some perspective on the subject of obstacles to communication and expression.

My friend Nupu and I had our annual summit in Paris last week. I must say, either the French just get friendlier each year or I am caring less, finding it easier to transcend all forms of challenging attitudes. We communed with the well-rested and sun-kissed Parisians to enjoy their skincare, shoes, art, rose, and snails, all which fueled lots of walking and talking and daydreaming. We allowed our inner directors to take the reigns and our producers to stand off on the sidelines and watch us spend our weak currency and indulge in moderate decadence. We returned in the evenings to a humble garret room at one of what seemed to be dozens of Comfort Inns, a franchise which appears to have taken over a large number of hotels in Paris in the last year. We climbed the rainbow carpeting six flights to the attic of the hotel, complete with slanted ceilings, and were reminded of our professional and personal stakes in things like budgets and schedules -- and practicality, for whatever it may occasionally be worth. I’m pretty sure practicality is worth something if you’re paying your rent by making Neosporin commercials. That said, sometimes the producer gets in the way of expression and creativity rather than facilitating them, and simply needs to go on vacation to let the director eat chocolate for dinner and brainstorm a few impossible plans.

Today I saw some shrunken heads while enjoying a rainy afternoon with my brother and two nephews at the natural history museum in Oxford. I’m not sure if our more common association with ‘head shrinking’ comes from this practice, or elsewhere, but it gave me pause. Shrinking the head of the enemy and then wearing it was believed by many people to imbue the wearer with the power to harness and utilize the spirit of the enemy. It definitely gives new significance to the common imperative, ‘don’t psychoanalyze me.’

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