Cinema has always held a special place in my heart as I am not only able to find pieces of the filmmaker’s soul in their work, but sometimes bits of my own as well. And while being able to identify with a film has driven me to want to devote my life to cinema, actually being able to put a piece of myself into the art form is the main driving force behind me wanting to become a filmmaker.
Although I am at the very beginning of my career, each short film I post online is an attempt to explain myself and where I am from. As I move closer to being able to call myself a filmmaker, the need to leave a piece of myself in everything I do grows stronger.
I am far from alone in feeling this way, as most great filmmakers leave pieces of themselves in each project they work on. Films like Michel Gondry’s The Science of Sleep inspire me for this very reason.
The Science of Sleep is a film so personal that it alienates much of the audience. In a way, the film is incredibly selfish. Gondry made a film entirely for himself, as a way to help him deal with past regrets and emotions that still lingered from his youth.
The film is soulful, and heartbreaking. Never has a film felt so personal to me as The Science of Sleep, and while I do not see myself making similar films in terms of style, what and how he tells me about himself inspires me greatly. In a way then, the film is also incredibly generous, through it, we learn more about Gondry and the way he sees the world than any book or interview could ever tell us.
When I was in elementary school, faking sick so that I could watch Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line on VHS was a common occurrence. Looking back now, I realize just how strange that was for a 10-year old. However, it may have been the first time I realized that cinema does not need to be cookie cutter or formulaic. I may not have understood the film entirely, but something about it stirred something in me.
The Thin Red Line was an unpretentious film, made in the only way the filmmaker could tell his story. Unlike Gondry’s The Science of Sleep, Malick’s film is far from autobiographical, and yet the film still tells us something about the filmmaker. It shows us a small glimpse at his soul. It tells us how he sees the world, and the way he best sees fit to tell such a story.
It remains to this day an incredibly important film in my cinematic development, and has informed the way I view the world in general. I realize how pretentious this may sound, but seeing the world through Malick’s eyes made me look at nature differently. It made me appreciate films and filmmakers that are able to capture the beauty of nature in similar ways.
I realize the chances of me making a film as important as The Thin Red Line are more than remote. However, knowing that I may be able to put a piece of myself into a film and let others discover that fraction of my soul informs the films I want to make.
I know it is a selfish and somewhat self-absorbed way to look at film, but in many ways, much of the greatest pieces of cinema are entirely selfish. Truffaut told his own story when he made his first film, The 400 Blows, and yet millions of people connect with that film and recognize parts of themselves in Antoine Doinel. This is what makes such films ring true.
No matter where my career takes me, I want to be able to make films that tell people about who I am.
It drives me in a way that makes it impossible to consider any future where I am not involved in film. It is all I have ever wanted to do, and it is something that I am not willing to give up for an easier life.
While the path to becoming a filmmaker is muddy, over the next couple years I will need to figure the best way to navigate it and achieve my dream of one day making films in which others can discover pieces of both my soul, and maybe even their own.