Sorting Through the Chaos: Notes on New York Film Festival & Jaeger LeCoultre FILMMAKER in RESIDENCE

The four accomplished screenwriters who made up Story Creation and the Artistic Process, a panel presented as part of the 51st New York Film Festival in partnership with Jaeger LeCoultre and held at The Film Society of Lincoln Center, were brought together by the prestigious international celebration of cinema as part of a first-ever Filmmaker in Residence series discussing subjective insights in the creative process geared toward the benefit of the emerging writer.  As the inaugural Filmmaker in Residence of NYFF, London-based Writer/Director/Actress Andrea Arnold (‘Fish Tank‘, ‘Wuthering Heights‘) was joined on stage by a trio of established American based scribes, each representing their own unique interpretation on the creation process, as well as some very open feelings on the nature of the industry as a whole.

As this has been IndieWood/Hollywoodn’t first time at covering this particularly diverse and expansive film festival we strive to cover/attend/analyze/critique as many events as possible but, in reality, the larger the festival the more we accept certain activities must/will be sacrificed (or, at least, true for non-corporate, independent entities like us; holding limited funds and, therefore, limited manpower).  That being said, Arnold’s gritty, South London urban tale of muliebrous maturation ‘Fish Tank‘ stands as a personal favorite of the past decade, with some of the INDEPENDENT-minded tenets most powerful representations in its performances, themes and imagery. Andrea Arnold is an admirable selection for NYFF‘s inaugural Filmmaker in Residence.  Joined by Henry Bean (‘The Believer‘, ‘Internal Affairs‘), Naomi Foner (‘Very Good Girls‘, ‘Running on Empty‘) and Larry Gross (‘True Crime‘, ‘48 Hours’), on a panel moderated by the Film Society‘s Eugene Hernandez, Arnold spent little time (rightfully so) delving into the specifics of her own work, rather pontificating on creativity as process, sacrifice and selflessness with a non-conformist attitude SINCERELY lacking throughout modern society.

NYFF PaneWithout going through an extended laundry list of the topics discussed and their respective panelist responses/reactions, “Story Creation and the Artistic Process” was just that: a discussion between a group of individuals who have found success crafting careers from passion, speaking to it with over 30 years of experiences from specifics regarding personal preferences in the physical place of creation (Bean prefers the desk, while Foner prefers the bed or sofa) to each’s construction techniques (Arnold’s being an ending first, then beginning, followed by filling in the rest approach).  What struck me most, however, was the general unapologetic tone and tambour by which each panelist spoke of their respective approaches, as well as their unflinching interpretations of the nature of art in general. Everything from political confusion to religious interpretations, from embracements of new technologies to exasperation with said technologies were discussed and, in many cases, as adamantly expressed as any I have encountered.  For example, Arnold’s feelings on society as being generally chaotic results in her impressions towards the act of storytelling; being merely to control the external chaos by way of an artistically stationed internalized catharsis. Gross shared an example dealing with an early career mini series project on St Paul the Apostle and how a deep immersion into the subject matter ultimately swayed certain engrained viewpoints on the nature of Abrahamic faith’s detriment to true Christianity and the rise of Anti-Semitism he had possessed prior. Foner, probably the panels most outwardly direct member, expressed the idea of feminist self-worth and how it may (or may not) influence decisions within a male dominated industry, providing highly personal examples rooted in her own marriage, family and career trajectory.

NYFF_PanelThough the specifics of the conversation differentiated with each panelist, it was their convictions to independence and art as expression that united them with (hopefully) the eagerly enthusiastic audience.  adamant were the stories of dignity perseverance in the face of the less-than-knowledgable corporate based funding methods forced down the throat of the creatively minded successful.  Also, there was a uniform consensus regarding ultimately reaped career “success” (as artist) tending to be those individuals not even aware of the linearity of vision brought on by the likes of film school study.  I find a particular interest in this discussion as it is a topic I have looked at as being reality for quite some time; a (de) evolution of expression, permeating through to social order of all descriptions.  To use a personal example, a new BBQ centric watering hole has quickly become my go to destination for quality brisket and strong bourbon recently (mostly a result of geographic convenience).  As I sit at the horseshoe shaped bar reading the sleeveless “Living After Midnight” t-Shirts adorning the perfectly figured torsos of multi-tattooed female bartenders, I wonder why is it such a vast number of establishments in my NYFF_Panelneighborhood (one which only now is experiencing the culture crushing migration of over privileged gentrification) has to be designed as “destination” establishment.  There is the recreated Mexican Cantina, the “authentic” French bakery, a Shinto temple doubled as sushi house (representing only a smattering of examples).  Do not get me wrong, all provide quality product, yet also undeniably inorganic ambiance.  Perhaps this is a somewhat superficial argument/criticism, but it cannot be denied that in an age where maintenance is paramount, the detriment of this falls at the feet of creativity, as well as the accepted risks associated with it. Gross, summed this feeling up well when advising those emerging artists of the audience to not recreate Goddard, Truffaut or Buñuel but, instead, to become them while becoming oneself.  We could not agree more.

The 51st New York Fim Festival runs through October 13 at The Film Society of Lincoln Center

– Steve Rickinson

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