Friday, December 9, 2011

Radvent Day 9: Influence

Who–or what–are five of your greatest influences?

1. Agnès Varda and Virginia Woolf
I lump these two women together because they taught young Brittan about being a woman, a real woman who is an individual person, not a picture or object or archetype. When I think about them, I feel love and gratitude and wish they could know the impact they've had on me. They are the first two in a long line of women that I don't know but look up to, which is an odd concept. I think Varda's impact on me is greater because I admire her life as much as her work, and she continues to tell stories and create art. It's one of my biggest dreams in life to meet her.

2. Mothers
My grandma for her selflessness (she's like a one woman charity), Taso's mom for her intelligence and the way she supports her family 100% and always has their backs, Mama Jones (who has six kids of her own and basically adopted all of their friends, self included) for her warmth and ability to make a house a home. I love watching my friends become mothers and seeing how it changes them and how they take on the role. I have a 9-year-old but I still don't know what I'm doing. I constantly learn from other mothers, whether they're old pros or first timers with newborns.

3. Baz Luhrmann and Oscar Wilde
Two people who find substance in style and depth in beauty. They helped me understand my aesthetic inclinations and seek out truth and beauty in every aspect of life. I fell in love with film for its ability to make us feel things by looking at beautiful pictures, and for the ability of a great filmmaker or cinematographer to find beauty in the least likely places. Again, Baz and Oscar Wilde came first in my exploration of art and beauty. There are films that have both more substance and style than Baz's, sure, but I desperately love his unabashed approach -- gratuitous long takes of pretty faces, overdone costumes, swirling cameras, glitter, great music. He sucks you in and suddenly you realize that what you're seeing is a commentary on the original story, its teller and its audience.
 
4. My friends
Friends are the family you choose. Justin taught me about being classy, Gregg taught me how to laugh at myself and Wendy taught me what it means to be a good friend. Katie taught me about letting things roll off my back, Ashley taught me to always be my complicated, weird, authentic self, Sam taught me to do what makes me feel free and Missy taught me that a little friendliness goes a long way. Taso teaches me stuff all the time but, most importantly, that you should hold on to your best friendships tightly and not lose them. Sometimes you have to go above and beyond for your best friends... and sometimes, when you find one you really can't live without, you have to marry them.

5. independent/grassroots/entrepreneurial movements
I started my career and met Taso working for film festivals, and will always be inspired by what they're designed to do. Sundance is now working to support art house theaters, which are incredibly influential in their own right. In my grad program I met people who were working hard for little to no money to preserve cultural heritage. Aside from film and preservation, I find the willingness of people to sacrifice of themselves for their dream or a good cause, especially when they have to compete with a corporate system, incredibly inspiring and something I want to emulate.

What kind of influence do you want to be on the world?
I want people to still be able to shoot and project film in 100 years. 
I want to bring classic and art house film to communities that don't have it. 
I want to nurture a family that stays together and is made up of happy, well-rounded individuals.
One day I want to help a teenage girl, who is lost like I was, find her way.
I want to leave things prettier than I found them.

How do you feel about the power you have to influence people?
A positive influence isn't made by force, manipulation, coercion or other unfair tactics.

I often -- I mean often -- feel like I'll never be able to make a difference. At AMIA I went back and forth feeling really let down that one person can't make a difference in a world that's dominated by studios with lots of money, and then that they can if they find enough people to help them (just look at what film festivals have done)... I've written about that a lot lately. When I get down about how much or little I can do, it usually comes back to how much work there is to do. I just have to remind myself that no influence is made without a lot of time, effort and sacrifice. I'll never make a difference if I don't take the first step, buckle down and start working, and then don't give up when it gets hard or discouraging.

Also, while I do think there is power within me to influence people, I have to keep perspective. I have to be open minded and willing to compromise, and I have to remember that I'm not ending world hunger, I'm just trying to make what I believe to be a positive difference in an artistic medium.

In my personal life, I think that my responsibility is to lead by example, be good to people and be firm in my convictions. If I have life-long, healthy, meaningful relationships with good people, I will consider that a positive influence on the world. 

Does anything have too much influence on you?
Oh, absolutely. I think people are always working to not let one thing or another have too much influence in their lives. Right now it's probably money (or the desire to have money) that's influencing my mood too much, and I tend to be bad about letting pretty things influence me to not appreciate what I have right now. For example, I love pretty clothes so I always want to be thinner. I love throwing parties so I want to have a house and money to spend on pretty parties. Sometimes it's more complicated than just coveting things. Sometimes I let my relationships, particularly with my family, influence me to be too hard on myself, or to not feel comfortable being my authentic self. 

Coincidentally (since I'm talking about art house theaters and Sundance), I found these pictures that I'm in on the Art House Convergence Flickr stream today, so I'll share them. I don't know why I look so bored in them. I was having the time of my life!

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