Art is a strange beast. It lumbers along, then lies down, not shifting no matter how hard you prod it. Our practice has been like that for a while - stuck and mired in something so that we could not quite get back up again. But, quitting is not an option so we look for new inspiration. Trying to see the potential in the smallest things. It is not easy, and requires an enormous amount of effort as change is one of the hardest things to do, but it is where we are now, in a process of reflection and reinvention.
For the last week or so the media has been filled with a sense of gloating satisfaction that its fearful warnings of the threat of hoards of refugees was correct. And we - as society - are now cowed back into submission, viewing with suspicion anyone who differs from us. Of course, this narrative is not new. In the 1930s Europe and the US complained bitterly about Jewish refugees fleeing from Nazi Germany. Going back further we have the Narrenschiff of literary composition, drifting from town to two with its cargo of the insane, wanted nowhere but with nowhere to go. The idea of "them" against "us" runs deep in human nature; we are tribal beings after all.
OK, so the blog got overlooked in all the confusion but I’m here to assure you it is still alive and kicking. Since the last entry man has learned to walk upright, just kidding but a lot has happened and now I can fill you in.
THE SWAN MAIDENS is closer now than ever before to finalizing a shooting schedule. Our team has considered the pros and cons of filming in Lebanon and we are seriously considering moving the location to Istanbul for logistical and economic reasons but in either case we have a storyline that fits both locations well. In October we went to Istanbul to meet with Periferi Films and tour studios and outside locations, we were treated very well. As we get closer to the start of filming we will make the final call and you’ll hear it first here.
We have added Fady Farran from Beirut as DOP, he comes from Arab television work, several documentaries and numerous commercials. He has also worked on feature films for the region. Mike Jackson works for Paramount Studios and is senior editor on ABC’s “Secrets and Lies” in it’s second season, he has also committed his talent to us as head of post productions. He was a friend of mine from childhood I knew worked in the industry so I shared the script with him and not long after he joined us in this endeavour.
So we have a director, a producer, a line producer, a director of photography, an experienced post production magician and a production company in Istanbul and Beirut, not bad in a few months. The excitement is starting to build up as we see the goal in sight…...just a few dollars away….well more than a few but still it’s in sight. Stay tuned and watch the swans take to flight.
For the last two years I, along with my husband, have been researching migrants for our ongoing project The Book of Journeys. We started with economic migrants from Africa to Europe in 2013 and, for the last year and half, have been looking at Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The current developments are therefore not a surprise to me. What we in the West have to accept is our part in the original conflict which caused this. Our constant meddling, in pursuit of the exalted black gold - oil - has destabilized the Middle East for decades and now the results of this are flooding our shores. We often take a superior attitude in Europe; we have our nice lives, where even the poorest of us have the luxury of a state safety net to ensure the basics but we sneer at those who are desperately trying to find a life with a semblance of security.
As a migrant who has not lived in my homeland for over a decade, I am an advocate for open borders. Contrary to the arguments, a balance is found. Wealthy countries are not flooded, as they are often too expensive and do not offer enough work to provide the basics for many migrants.
Being immersed in this subject for the last few years has opened my eyes. The people I have talked to, the stories I have heard, have made me realize that we all as humans need to develop empathy and compassion and tear down the borders which separates us from each other. Nationalism, racism, religionism, are all constructs which divide and reinforce prejudice and hatred. The world can only evolve into a better, more empathic place if we start to see people as purely people and not “the other” or a threat to our own cosy existence. We cannot solve the Syrian crisis overnight, nor is there an easy solution, but we can start ti understand that we in the West are part of the cause and must therefore be part of the solution.
Well, not literally dying for, but working so hard that you are physically and mentally exhausted. We are that point and we haven't even started filming yet! The pre-production stage is so arduous and draining - we had no idea! Yet, and I guess we are truly gluttons for punishment, we seem to thrive on this - until we collapse in exhaustion ha ha. Ok, I should probably be honest and admit that Dan has no problem taking a time out when he feels overwhelmed; I'm the idiot who keeps going. I should take a leaf out of his book here.
On the plus side the project is coming together well and we seem to be keeping on track in terms of creative vision. We have done some test filming, just waiting for the D810 to clear customs so we can begin shooting properly.
We have been in Beirut just two weeks now. We have experienced internet glitches and run out of water. The noise from the street outside can be crazy and it is hot and humid. BUT...we are in love. Last weekend we participated in the Beirut 48 Hour Film Project. We arrived with no team, or basically no team - we had an eager helper (crucial). By Saturday morning we had a crew of 14 including ourselves, and not any crew but a crew of talented, hard working and selfless people. We can't imagine that happening anywhere else. We made a drama short without any drama! It was so amazing to work with likeminded people after so long of struggling on seemingly alone.
The places that draw us, the spaces that connect with us on a deep, primal level cannot be be explained in easy terms. The "why" is often not obvious to anyone, least of all ourselves. But here, in this place at this time, we feel like we are at "home". The next few months will be spent delving deeper into this city, its people, and its psyche. It fascinates us and its energy drives us. It was pure fate that led us to Lebanon but we are so glad that it did.
Thank you again to all the crew!
The hardest thing in an artist's working life seems to be getting others - galleries, critics, etc. - to pay attention to you and your work. I have sent out a ton of emails these past couple of weeks and it has been *crickets* - so frustrating and dispiriting. I understand that everyone is busy and unsolicited proposals may be ignored but maybe, just maybe, it would be nice to have a standard form email that comes back explaining that they are not accepted, or the gallery/person is very busy etc. Instead you are left wondering if all the little voices in your head telling you how untalented you are and what a waste of time this all is are actually telling the truth.
That's my little rant, such as it is, off my chest.
I guess we have been so absorbed by project itself that we have forgotten to really give a face to our collective identity.
Tomorrow we submit an application for a big grant: it comes up only every few years and would help enormously. Of course, the whole process is a roller coaster of emotions and self-doubt but all part of the process. We watch the news religiously to see if the conflict in Syrian will spill over into Lebanon on a large scale. We're not feeling tremendously hopeful but we are committed and the project goes on. Despite kvetching about how expensive everything was etc. etc while we actually in Beirut, since we've come back we have sort of missed it and are looking forward to returning. So, we keep our fingers crossed that Lebanon does not get drawn into this too deeply.