Thursday, 4 September 2014

Sometimes life happens

I have been off the radar for quite a while, and I apologize for the silence. Truth is, I needed to be silent. The past year brought new perspectives and priorities to my life, that made me put all projects on pause. 

This is what happened: 

Last autumn I moved out of the city and into an old country cottage in Sweden; a long lived dream that finally came true. This event would not only change my lifestyle dramatically, but also my perception of almost everything. 
From having led a busy life in the city, chasing some level of professional recognition, suddenly I found myself spending the days stacking firewood, building a chicken coop, growing vegetables, listening to the wind in the tree tops and watching the rain. I found myself in the middle of building the lifestyle that for so long had been a deep longing in my body. It was like an existential hammer in the head, that I wasn't fully prepared for: 
It demanded my undivided presence and made me question what the different aspects of my life was motivated by. What was most important?

This reflection included Mothlands as well. A project, which timing collided head-on with this new change. Mothlands took off with a burst of energy, but stranded prematurely. During winter and early spring, I went through a confusing process of trying to figure out why Mothlands seemingly had lost it's meaning for me. I had never deserted a project before, what was wrong with me?

Now I see, that Mothlands most of all was a reaction against stagnation. But as I moved away from stagnation, by moving myself physically away from the threadmill, I didn't realise that the project would loose it's necessity for me on a personal level. Although I still find an interesting ressonance in my original intensions, I simply didn't have the artistic motivation, that was needed to fullfill those intentions. The powerful slogan of "Go, liberate!" had alrady happened on a different level. 

So this is where I am now: Autumn is coming with it's cool magical scents and all it's vibrant colours. Our homestead is establishing steadily, the rhytms of the seasons starts to integrate with my being. My first child is growing and kicking in my belly, and I am completely in awe, that something so miraculous happens all the time on an ordinary basis. 
My artistic practice is gradually awakening again, but this time, I am not rushing into any specific projects or aiming for a certain output. Instead, I am softly approaching art from a freer perspective, much less burdened by the idea of having to live up to an artistic identity. 

What this last year has given me, and the realisation that Mothlands has brought on as well, is that I need art to be a curious and humble companion to the life I lead. Art is an outlook that makes our world richer, more nuanced, more profound. But it needs to be an earnest projection of life experience. And therefore, sometimes, life needs to come first.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Rough cut

More than a month has passed since my last update. Winter came, and I've have gone through a period of worries and doubts about the project. There are a lot of practical circumstances that seem to take centerstage, and demand my full attention, when it really should be the creative exploration in focus. It has been frustating and deeply confusing at times; the feeling of stagnation is always suffocating and some practical obstabcles are too heavy to ignore.  

However. In the beginning of this month, I started to assemble a rough cut of Cecilia. This was something I discussed with Rasmus, my editor, in mid-December. We agreed that it would be a good idea if I'd lay up a rough sketch of the scenes and my ideas of how they could correspond to each other in a narrative, just to get started with the process. Then he would take over from there. 

The process turned out to be empowering for me. It felt good to have my hands on the material, to try to make the ideas manifest itself into something specific. Even though it's still just a rough sketch at this point, it is clear that it has it's own narrative tone. 
The fusion of the documentaric approach and the dreamy mythical imagery has a distinct expression to it, that will make the film difficult to categorize, (as with a lot of my previous work). It will be interesting to see it evolve.

The idea behind our approach on set, was to immitate the spontanuity and presence of a documentary production. As if we were doing a documentary about fictional characters. This means, that most of the scenes were improvised, based on headlines and conversations with the actors about the emotional situation. Only a few scenes had a fixed destination. The rest of the scenes had several potential outcomes, and we often did 15-20 minute runthroughs of variations over the scene. I worked with improvisation on previous films, but never this extensively, and never without a script to dictate the ending of a story. This means, that it is also an interesting first experience for me to edit this kind of material. Not unlike editing documentaries, it is a lot about shaping the narrative, finding it's true rhytm and keeping it real.

I have now assembled a first 30-minute cut of the film, and I am handing the hard drive over the Rasmus tomorrow. It is of course nowhere near finished. Editing a film is a process that takes a bit of time. But I am relieved that the train is in motion again.  

Saturday, 14 December 2013

The time-money equation

When I launched this project in September, I had hoped to have the first sketch ready before new year. But I've had to change the plans. Things are going a bit slower then first intended with #1, because both my editor and I have had other work that demanded our attention. That's just how it goes sometimes. Mothlands is a no-budget thing, and we need to eat.

The developing of #2 is slowly taking shape. However I feel that we need to be somewhere substantial with the cut for #1, before turning my attention fully to #2. I need some sort of natural cycle in the thought proces, for it to make sense. 

So, in case you were wondering, this is where Mothlands is at right now. Still moving, but at a slower pace. I just hope that 2014 will bring a bit more funding our way, to help run the wheels of the clockwork.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Trust energy

I think people have a natural type of energy or rhytm to them. What I am starting to realise more and more, is that some of the secrets behind great collaborations, is a match in those energies. Not that they are completely synchronized, but in tune. Open and alert to each other, and corresponding to each other. Think of a great jazz band for instance, and how they jam with seemingly little effort. Watch the energy!

Working with an artform like  music or film making, is a lot about the energy between collaborators. One of the things I have learned about film making, is that there need to be a certain tightness to the energy in the process. A certain alertness and a presence, that makes people excited, yet grounded and open. And if the presence and energy is not there, then it is difficult to create something strong and pure out of it. 

I still haven't figured out the magic alchemy, of how to keep the energy just right at all times. I think it is a difficult task, even in small crews, but I am learning what the pittfalls are. Stress is a killer for instance. It creates an hypertension that makes everyone a bit too efficient. I myself get aggressive and defensive when I'm stressed out, and it potentially leads to conflicts that can take hours to get over. But an energy that is too laid back, also gets problematic, because then the process becomes unfocused, and people become insecure about what is going on. It's like a string that needs to be held just tight enough not to slouch, and not even one person can let go of it. 

Film making - especially improvisation - is a lot like jamming. The energy need to be there. It has to have that swing. From every single player. It is something I'm paying a lot of attention to at the moment. Rule number three is a reminder, that energy isn't something fuzzy to be shrugged at. It is an important ingrediens in any creation. Something that we need to listen to and something that we need to trust! 

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Rule #2: Choose honesty

I think that being honest, is a difficult task in our world. Especially in the world of film making. It is a game that makes you self consciouss and makes you think about who you want to be and frankly doesn't leave a lot of space for openness and honesty. I have talked about this before, in the Mothlands manifesto. 

Choosing honesty, is not about giving everything away, however. Things can be left mysterious, unsolved, private. That's ok. But honesty is about showing the world who you really are and what you stand for. Meaning, also making yourself subject to ridicule, because you put yourself out there and show off your fragility and your fears and your uncool akwardness. It takes courage, and it's not a courage that is automatically with you all the time. At least not for me. It is a choice I have to make often and repeatedly, and sometimes I fail. 

So what has all of this got to do with Mothlands? 

Honesty is an emotional compas I want to put in front of us in the creative proces. Many artistic works are often driven by a need to be recognized, to perform well and make good work, and I believe this disturbs the possibility of capturing something really truthful. Idea nr. 2 is the reminder to myself and my collaborators to keep looking for moments of emotional truth. It is about choosing real emotions over aestethics, choosing authenticity over manipulation, choosing human characters over "what works" for the story. 
It's a rule which is there, to get the priorities straight. This doesn't mean, that the films can't be highly atmospheric, dreamy, fictional and surreal. It just means that we should try to avoid pretence.

It sounds so simple, even banal. But it really isn't. Honesty is such a difficult thing to maintain, because it requires emotional grounding, trust and confidence. I find that honesty is something to be nurtured, cared for, protected and - above all - chosen. Over and over again.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Challenge Linearity

A few people have asked me about the thoughts behind the 5 rules/ ideas. 
So I will take some time, over the next month, to elaborate over them one at a time.
Starting with idea nr. 1:


The other day, I was outside in my garden, when something suddenly tricked a distant childhood memory. It could have been a smell or a certain physical motion, I don't know exactly. But in the blink of an eye, I was there in the past, reminded of a specfic feeling, that I back then didn't fully understand. The flashback made me realise a connection that I hadn't made before. The threads seemed to loop in a mysterious circular pattern. I was thrilled by my new insight and felt inspired.

I'm sure a lot of you have tried something similar. This, it seems to me, is how our minds work. We are connecting threads in organic constructions, that seems a lot more complex than any cause-and-effect chronology could portray. Trouble is: If I were to tell the story of my life, I would have make it into a straight line of cause-and-effect, because this is how stories are build. I would have to edit out a lot of things that doesn't fit into the story. And in that process, I would edit out a lot of poetic, weird and insightful branches, in order to shape a lean and smooth tree. This is where I see a clash between our narrative tradition and the way we think, naturally. 

It's not a new thing I've invented. To play with linearity in cinema. 
Many filmmakers before me have explored a more organically structured narrative. Some of them are amongst my most influential cinematic experiences, and it seems that there is a wave of films right now that plays with different narratives. In recent years, brilliant films like Tree of Life, Martha Marcy May Marlene, We Need to talk about Kevin and the norwegian film Reprise, all explore a more circular narrative. I love all the films above and I'm excited about it. But the interesting thing is, that if you look closer, all of them seem to play with linearity only through the prism of a fragile psychological state (grief, shock, recovery). How can that be?

Maybe, it implies that circular and organic narrative (and the thinking pattern it represents) still has to be justified in terms of a subjective viewpoint. Our mainstream conventions still lean toward the linear structure. Of course they do. It's language. It's not something we can change overnight, I accept this. But it is also a living thing that changes, just as we changes, if we continue to challenge the structures we are used to, and open up for new connections.

But why should we? 

Because I think our collective narratives and the structure of these play an important part in shaping our understanding of the world. It's the old question: Can you think it, if there is not a language for it? 
(Orwell was on about Newspeak and that sort of thing.) I want to promote a language for the intuitive, the subconscious, the irrational and multifacetted viewpoint. Other cultures like fx the old native inuits in Greenland, shows completely different storypatterns in their old myths. Patterns different from the western world, that indicates a completely different perspective on time, causality and emotional logic. I have heard of other indengenous cultures that use the same word for past and future! They also have a circular narrative tradition. So what is it with us Westernes and the obsession with straight lines in our narrative tradition? What worldview does that promote?

Ok, it's really theoretical, but it fascinates me tremendously. I am curious to investigate what happens if we open ourselves up to different storypatterns, and I think it is a relevant aspect to examine. Especially, within a project that takes up the centraln theme of normality. What I need to figure out, is how to translate these abstract ideas into film making on a storytelling level. 
And how to achieve a balanced symbiosis between form and content.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Stories of resistance

I was teased in school quite a lot. Luckily it never tipped over into sinister harassment and I wasn't bullied systematically, like the worst stories we hear. But it was nevertheless a struggle for me, and something that had a profound effect on my social life and self-esteem. 

Grown ups told me, that I was "fun to tease" and gave me different advice on how to deal with it. Eventhough their intensions where good, the advice was often too akwardly intellectual to make real use of. "Try to ignore it" or "It is because they are envious of you" are difficult to put into practice.

When I turned 9-10 years old, my temper grew "bad". I started to react very loudly and physically to my teasing oppressors and threw a chair after one of them once. It felt great. 
I remember that he grinned at me with a face that was half impressed, half scared of my hidden power. Very quickly, a teacher ran to me, took me by my arm and told me firmly why that kind of behaviour wasn't tolerable! The message was clear: That I wasn't allowed to get that angry, and especially not channel the anger out. 

In my adult years, I begun to discover how this pattern also occurs at a structural level in society. We seem to tolerate huge amounts of oppression - in the form of a hierachic structure that we deem inevitable. But our norms demand us to control our emotions. We are not allowed to react.

I learned to control my temper in social contexts. It's not that I don't get angry anymore, I very often get upset by the dynamics of oppression when I meet them. But over the years, my anger morphed itself into this hard lump of resistance inside me. It is as if I can never get a full release from this feeling, only "blow off steam" once in a while, and always in private. The feeling of resistance has stored itself in my body, in my physical system, as tensions and aches. As something not allowed to come out.

This is what film #2 Fire in my bones will be about. Resistance. It's mental and physical manifestation in us. The form will be a series of intimate "interviews" with different young women, who has been formed by this resistance. 
What I am really curious to hear, is if you have similar stories out there that I might borrow as inspiration for the building of these characters? 

Do you have any stories or observations of a resistance of your own? Do you call it something else? Anything from anecdotes to physical experiences or dreams you had could be incredibly interesting to hear about. Hope to hear from you.

Yours, Trine

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