Monday, January 26, 2015

This Gun For Hire - Part 1 - My 19th Nervous Breakdown

"The dark night of the soul is not restricted to holy people. It can happen to anyone. I believe that in some ways it happens to everyone." Thomas Moore, Dark Nights of the Soul

While Stan and I often joked about how we went into retirement after every film - another gold watch -  it was also sometimes true that a particular project would be so emotionally draining as to leave my faith in film in taters.

My overwhelming disappointment on how Town Diary turned out and the loss of my dear friend JR left me in such a place.

To call it disillusionment suggests almost a morose state of ennui. This was not the case. This was full on anxiety and burning doubt.

"This is not what I do.  This is who I am," I would sometimes share with women in my life who were important to me, including my (now ex and) future wife. 

If this were true; if harnessing the various creative forces was the core of my being,  what would it say if I now thought all of it for naught?

Moore again:

“During the dark night there is no choice but to surrender control, give in to unknowing, and stop and listen to whatever signals of wisdom might come along. It’s a time of enforced retreat and perhaps unwilling withdrawal. The dark night is more than a learning experience; it’s a profound initiation into a realm that nothing in the culture, so preoccupied with external concerns and material success, prepares you for.” 

What happens when life shatters the great "what if"? 'What if' I got to see my screenplay done, and not these inferior screenplays I have worked on? 'What if' the director was a friend and someone I respected, and someone who respected me? 'What if' I was able to surround myself with the crew people I most respected?

'What if' I did all that and it didn't work? 

As with a more recent experience, the darkest part of this place was that I found myself adrift in windless waters, motionless sails, the middle of the metaphysical ocean; mourning the safe shores of what was the heartbeat of my life for so long, unwilling to head towards the safer shores of a "normal" job.

So it was that I came upon a tiny but magical island, one whose flora and fauna were comfortably familiar, but whose landscape seemed so much more hopeful, more settled. Yes, I could use my knowledge of my fading land here, while maybe planting fresh and wonderful seeds that could grow with stability, without the insanity of long, pressure-filled days. Here, there would be the comforts of security and normal work hours and nothing but happy people who could help art be made but not be burdened by all the hang-ups I found on set.

Behold, this beautiful land, this blessed place - Shooting Gallery, or, more precisely, it's operation division, Gun for Hire.

The opening was for a Director of Operations for Gun For Hire, which helped managed two facilities in the Lower Manhattan at 110 Leroy Street and 609 Greenwich Street. In many ways, the position was less film production and more chief maintenance person, keeping track of day-to-day operations assisting VP and Head of Operations for Shooting Gallery and designer of Gun for Hire, Dave Tuttle, one of the smartest and most forward-thinking production people I have been honored to meet in my life.

As I mentioned in the linked article, meeting with Dave for this position was such a great experience. Dave had been a line producer himself, and understood that I was burned out. I was going to love it there, Dave told me, and, for the most part, he was right. There were many good things about my time there.

But I wasn't looking for good. If I were to let go of one dream, I wanted it replaced by another.

Xanadu. Shangri-La. Narnia. The Garden of Eden. No matter how old and jaded we get, deep somewhere in us is a happy child that wants to believe. As we get older, it becomes Camelot, where all that is good and true can exist.

Students of history and literature know that these shining places have a shelf-life. As it turned out, I landed after the apple had been eaten, the final battle of Salisbury Plain was already underway.
In the following posts, I will describe my brief but important time at Shooting Gallery and Gun For Hire, and my personal view of the Misfire.

At the beginning, though, I was sure I had arrived. After all, I was at the home of Slingblade and You Can Count On Me. For sure, I had come out the other end of Moore's Dark Night:

"It is precisely because we resist the darkness in ourselves that we miss the depths of the loveliness, beauty, brilliance, creativity, and joy that lie at our core.

1 comment:

Kangas said...

Looking forward to it! Sounds like you dealt with a lot of stuff I'm dealing with now. Hopefully I do it as gracefully as you! Keep up the good stories!