SURRENDER | a case study in “NO INPUT PLEASE”
In discussing this film, SURRENDER, I’ll start off by professing that ever since I was a young boy I wanted to tell stories that come from the heart and make films that change the world. That being said, I’d also prefer you don’t choke on all that cheesy sentiment. So, let me cut to the chase….
So far, the response to SURRENDER has been nothing but positive, in fact, overwhelmingly so. Of course, I’m super stoked about this, but why has the reaction been so positive? Is it because I’m a genius filmmaker? Ha, I wish! I think the reason the film resonated with so many people was because Milton shared his life’s story in a way that was honest and open. That’s it. His no bullshit narrative provided such a powerful foundation that I found myself having to get out of the way so the story could tell itself. No clever techniques, no smoke and mirrors. Just storytelling laid bare. Unrefined. Raw.
Throughout my career as a director, I’ve witnessed the opposite over and over again. It’s like, the more people you have giving directional input on a film, the more the project starts to ‘unbecome’. The same can be said for commercials, long-form films and documentaries. I’ve seen brilliant concepts and stories utterly destroyed by too many people forcing their ideas, believing it’ll improve the final product. Spoiler alert; it doesn’t.
Now, I’m not hanging up a sign that screams “NO INPUT PLEASE” because filmmaking is a collaborative process. But I am saying that the key to making something authentic, something that comes from the heart and really hits home is more likely to happen when you safeguard the soul of a particular piece by restricting all the two cents that come flying at you from all angles.
I’m not sure how I’ll ever be able to fight this ‘creative committees’ monster without getting fired or being labelled a dick, but I’ll let you know when I do.
– By Porteus Xandau
HERE, NOW | a case study in being present in the moment.
I love filmmaking. The process of prepping, interviewing, travelling, shooting, and editing is an adrenaline rush. But if you’re not careful, you can get so caught up in the technicalities at hand.
Lost in the nitty-gritty, I completely forget to soak up the beauty and wonder amidst the intense hustle around you. And just like that: “Poof!”. The project is wrapped up and the moment is gone forever. Every filmmaking project, like the process of documenting the artisans and artists featured in Here, Now will never again repeat itself. And there’s a lesson in that… Never forget to be “in the present moment”.
It’s not always easy, as the nature of directing demands that you go down many mental rabbit holes to reach the best possible creative decision. The trick is to revert back to a state of being “in the moment”. It’s the space where you let yourself stand back and appreciate the process or interactions that are unfolding right in front of your eyes.
Shakespeare called his players, “players” for a reason, as the space that they operated in was strictly an open space designated for discovery, invention and being in the moment. And let’s face it, magic can’t happen if your own brain is constantly interrupting and blocking the flow of your own creativity or artistry.
The artisans and athletes featured in Here, Now have also reminded me that you have good days and bad days. You have days where you feel charged up and you feel like a pro. Other days where you bash your head against a wall. Always peaks and valleys.
“In the moment” is a space we too rarely permit ourselves to occupy, but I think it’s better to see it as a destination and a goal, instead of giving up if you’ve just hit a little speed bump. Just accept today for what it is and try again tomorrow.
– By Porteus Xandau