Oh, how horrible it is to edit! So horrible that it's easier to write the newsletter I've been procrastinating about for the past few weeks than it is to tackle any of the handful of projects sitting on my desk that really just need to be honed down from their raw material into something good....
Last night I was chuffed to find out that my short film, "Ruido Sobre Los 40," was accepted into the Bogota Music Video Festival. It's a weird little project, my first attempt at editing something in Adobe Premiere, and my first attempt at putting a video project out into the world. I made it as an exercise for a filmmaking course I took through Producciones Lux Somnia in the spring as something I could spin up in less than a week out of material I already had, leaving time to learn how to use an editing program I had never tried before.
The material was previously destined for the trash, a pile of 35mm photos that I had cried over when I picked them up from the photo studio. I traveled to Colombia in February with a dozen rolls of film, and I had held out some hope that some good images would make up for how frustrating and isolating the trip had been. What I saw when I had them developed was nothing like what I had hoped. Everything looked out of focus, or scratched, or smeared with light from a faulty shutter, or just incoherent. I put the prints in a box in my studio and dragged the digital scans straight to the trash can. I couldn't even bring myself to open the audio and video files I had recorded at an underground music festival up on a hill in the jungle outside of Santa Marta, the brightest and most interesting moment in the trip. My travel companion had teased me for dragging the old camera around and doubly so for my budget audio recorder and off-brand action camera. My first glance at the photos confirmed they were right - that I had wasted my time, that I had wasted my money, that I was deeply uncool for thinking I would create something out of the trip instead of just chilling out.
But here I was with a few days to make something on the theme of "a story told in photos" and with no time or desire to shoot anything new. It had been a few months since the trip, and maybe there would be something to scrape together, at least as practice for figuring out Premiere. I pulled out the physical stack of photos in my studio and flipped through them. They weren't all bad. Some of them were better than bad, maybe even good.
I rooted around in my email for the digital scans from the photo shop, and pulled a few dozen images that I thought I might be able to arrange into a story. I wouldn't bother with the action camera footage, but in the hours of audio recordings of the festival there were little moments of something that I thought I could stitch together. I hunkered down and did my best to clean up the audio and the photos and collage them into something that might capture how strange and special the festival was. And then I thought fuck it, and looked for festivals.
I sent out the video to any festival that seemed at all relevant and that had an entry fee of less than $20. Really I only had my eyes on 2 festivals, the Bogota one next week, and Berlin's Punkfilmfest. Last month it also screened at the 10th edition of the festival and won an audience choice award, but the real validation was when a few people I had met in Colombia shared my post about Berlin and the music festival's organizers saw it somehow in the infinite slurry of Instagram. They messaged me to tell me how happy they were to find it and to ask if they could use the video or the photos in their promotions for next year's festival. Of course! It was only going to be thrown away anyway.
So much of my own procrastination, I have come to realize, is just a petty fear that everything I make is really just trash. I don't want to work on the unfinished projects on my plate because when I open up the files or dig in deep on the sketches, there might be nothing of substance at all. The truth is that most of it is trash! Of the hundreds of photos I took in Colombia, only 30 or 40 ended up in the film. The videos I took all looked like shit. Most of the audio was blown out and unusable. But there was enough of a ratio of the good amid the shit to be worth making something out of it.
Maybe this is all still tied to the weirdness of tech work, the extra weirdness of Silicon Valley tech work, where every moment has to be 10x optimized. I don't think I've had the freedom to just throw ideas and designs in the trash in the working world since my early 20s, when I worked in a type of design department that doesn't seem to exist anymore. In those rooms, everyone had gone to art school, and everyone had something better to do with their time, but everyone wanted to pay rent and live in New York, so there we were, throwing shit at the wall until something looked good enough to pass up the approval ladder to print. More often I've been in design critiques that feel like firing squads, where a startup CEO with no background in design expects an unarticulated perfection on the first try.
I want to go back to making more trash, to filling up sketchbooks with trash, to filling up hard drives with trash, to keeping 10% of it and joyfully throwing out the rest, to divorcing my ego from what I make because most of it is, frankly, hot garbage and not because I need to disassociate from what my deranged boss says about me to my face in order to function. Oh, if we only mostly made trash and then threw not quite all of it away!
And with that, there's no excuse not to get back to work!
fresh beats of the week
a mix to make any task feel like you're a halfling at the start of a great adventure