“I am actually only able to write when I am in a good mood.” (Aaron Sorkin)
Once you get yourself going, just by creating somethingor by starting to play, there’s always a result of some sort. Even though it may only be a small building block for a next experiment. Anyway, that’s how it works for me. Artistic creation is not a competition; you don’t have to keep on winning from yourself (or someone else). Whether I open a word processor or animation software or pick up a pencil, a camera or a guitar; it’s never a waste of time.
I prefer making things I have never made before and of which I am not sure what the outcome will be. I am drawn to the experimental phase, learning through playing, both in my personal free work and in commissioned work. One of the results of this is that I ended up in many different aspects in filmmaking and have had many different roles: that of director, editor, camera man, sound designer, animator, for both short fiction films, videoclips, (television) documentaries, animations, dance films and installations.
Before, I used to think long and hard before actually making something. I wanted to know exactly what I was going to make and think it all through, before I actually started makingsomething. The making came after the thinking process. These days I am convinced that these processes go hand in hand; thinking while making. That is a different kind of thinking. I don’t think it is necessary to completely understand logically what you are creating, while you’re creating it. Instead of contemplatingwhat I am actually going to make, I am discoveringwhat I want to make on-the-go. To me, creating something sparks the fire for more creation. It doesn’t matter where you begin, you just have to start. So you might as well start with something you enjoy the most at that moment. The good mood will automatically follow. 🙂
“I try to stretch the boundaries or the perception of boundaries that we give ourselves.”(Iris van Herpen)
Boundaries and limitations always cause an interesting tension, both in the work you make as in the process. Boundaries determine the rules, and I enjoy enforcing rules on myself. It’s not so much about the discipline. The game is about stretching the rules as far as possible without breaking them.
I often implement strict boundaries in my work, in order to explore the playground that results out of these. A very concrete example: for the short film ‘Mijn veld’, about the encounter between a curious girl and a traumatized man, I decided to limit the place and time of the movie to only one scene taking place in one room. Because you end up watching a 17-minute film existing of one long scene with two characters in one room, the entire experience of the film goes in depth. The boundaries in the duration create depth for the viewer. The boundaries in ‘width’ give the viewer room to go in deeper. Of perhaps I should say: “forcethe viewer to go in deeper”, as I purposely designed it this way.
Total freedom paralyses and limitations can be most freeing.
“Films are always pretentious. There’s nothing more pretentious than a filmmaker.” (John Milius)
The only thing more pretentious than a film maker is a studentfilm maker. 😀 The people who knew me back when I was still at the academy will be able to confirm that I am definitely guilty of this behavior too. I quickly wanted to get off the beaten track of the medium of film and discover my own visual language. As a consequence, I did a lot of cinematographic experiments. While many people saw this as an attempt to impress, I was simply exploring the boundaries of film.
When you are too focused on form, you risk to forget that it is a means to communicate something truly essential. If you use your work to shout: “Look how good/smart/passionate I am!” you will end up communicating only that. The work will get in its own way. The real message of the work should always have priority. Nobody likes films (and film makers) that think of themselves as very important. One of my favorite and most important teachers during my time at the academy once said: “What’s most in the way of making a beautiful film is the desire to make a beautiful film.”
At the other side of the spectrum you can find unpretentious work that as a result is also very noncommittal. For makers with a strong internal drive (and I have the pretension that I am one of them), noncommittal work that simply entertains is not worth making. Where is the urgency to create? Where is the excitement of the encounter between the maker and the viewer in a work that is not easily digestible? The task for every maker is to make visible, what was invisible before.
Being a student, you shout your vision from the rooftops just in order to be heard and to differentiate yourself from all those other makers. Later on, it became clearer and clearer to me that if you stay true to yourself and make things that make yourheart beat faster, it will not simply show your vision (which leads to pretension), but automatically makes sure a strong unique weight will end up in your work and enables other people to look at the world through your specific point of view.
What I also began to experience more and more is that I enjoy helping other makers in realizing theirprojects, by starting collaborations and contributing by applying my authorship in a way that is useful to others. I started realizing that when other makers ask me to contribute to a project, that this is also due to my signature and that I can use my skills and vision in a way that is both authentic and subservient.
But then again, to say out loud “Jos Meijers, subservient author” also sounds pretty pretentious, right?