Originally posted July 4, 2013 at jenleeproductions.com.
A strange thing happened when the feedback from my early screeners came back. I realized the film was really close. That, beyond a few small changes, it was working. A kind of shock set in as I realized I was actually pulling this off.
And I had no contingency plan for success.
I remembered Annie and Jimmy, and it wasn't just a simple, Oh, wow, I haven't thought of them for 20 years--I mean, I was haunted by their memory for days or weeks.
Annie and Jimmy were in my film studies class in High School, a class I just happened by chance to take. But it was there that I first saw Citizen Kane and Bonnie and Clyde and The Godfather. Oh my, The Godfather. That was where I learned to watch films as one who loves films.
One day, Annie and Jimmy brought in a short film of their own to share, and I was blown away. It was clever and funny and I couldn't believe it had even occurred to them to make it. To me, movie-making was something the creative elite did in an Oz-like land called Hollywood. No one in my family had so much as a home movie camera. It never occurred to me that it could be a tool of expression as democratic as paper and pen.
But these two came by their creativity honestly. Annie was the daughter of the only artist I knew of in our town. Her mother had a gallery downtown (aka the short stretch of Main Street) and they lived in an apartment above one of the shops there. To me it might as well have been a penthouse and them, creative royalty, for as foreign and glamorous a world theirs seemed to me.
Jimmy's family seemed pretty "normal"--his parents were psychoanalysts or something. The first time I saw his bedroom, he led me there through a well-decorated suburban home and then turned on the light.
The walls were covered with his artwork--some drawn on paper and some drawn directly onto the painted walls. He said, Wait, check this out, and he turned out the light and turned on a black light and a whole other set of artwork popped out.
I don't remember anything that came after that moment. That kind of freedom was something I'd never known.
I remember I once had a choice about my bedroom decor. I was in, maybe 3rd grade and my parents took me to Sherwin Williams to pick out my own wallpaper. I loved a print with small purple flowers, but my mom didn't like it. She talked me into a pattern she chose instead.
I used to think a certain kind of creativity could be your birthright, like Annie's, or the result of an upbringing that nurtured it, like Jimmy's. And everything I'd done up to this point in the world of creating was all well and good, but this time I'd crossed some invisible line.
My friend Eddie says it's like I stayed on the bull after the buzzer sounded.
I thought Annie and Jimmy represented a past I missed out on having, that disqualified me from certain dreams.
And this film goes far beyond anything I ever dared to dream as a girl.
But now I think they were omens of a future yet to come.
I'm the artist mom now, with a studio in our funky urban flat. My girls and I talk about the grand adventure we will have on tour this summer when I tuck them in at night.
I linger at their door and look at their walls, covered with their artwork. Some drawn on paper, some directly on the painted wall. And then I turn out the light.