Saturday, September 28, 2013

artistic director journal | soul food movies, or, the care and feeding of an artistic director

Fall has fallen. Which means two things, here in Vancouver.

Rain. And the Vancouver International Film Festival.

I'll see only a few VIFF pix this year, but already one has made a great impression. Definitely in the Soul Food category, There Will Come A Day is about a privileged thirty year old woman from Italy whose life has come undone with the loss of a child. So she heads out on a boat up the Amazon, working with a veteran Catholic nun. Her patience with the whole missionary endeavour wears thin, as does her confidence in Christian faith, but it's not clear that the film's does.  One more chance to see it, on Monday Oct 7 at 6:15, Centre For Performing Arts (which has been turned into a fine venue for film - lack of snacks notwithstanding).

I guess it's something in the air - all those films being screened so close at hand - but I've spent some time lately shifting some of my more-or-less moth-balled Soul Food Movies project over to an eye-catching format at Letterboxd. (This link takes you to the pretty version, with the posters all laid out in a grid. But if you go there make sure and click the "Read Notes" button you'll find there...

The button will be just above the tiles, on the right. It'll take you to my Soul Food write-ups for the films - or you can cut straight to the chase by clicking here).

It feels good to revisit the project that fueled (or frustrated) me for, what, five or seven years? Digging deep into the sorts of films that would be on the Pacific Theatre stage if they'd been lucky enought to be plays instead of movies. Stories that explore the life of faith, themes that Jesus talked about or lived, movies that - for whatever reason - Christian movie-lovers seem to love. They're not necessarily explicitly religious films, but they somehow resonate with my own faith: I suppose the book is an investigation into why that might be, particularly in the case of films where religion isn't necessarily front and centre. About Schmidt, say, or Waking Ned Devine. Dogville. I Walked With A Zombie. Metropolitan. "Movies with a spiritual flavour." Soul Food Movies.

Eventually it became clear there just wasn't time to make my book and continue to run a theatre company. So the theatre company won out, and the book got set aside. But lately I've begun to wonder if there might be time again to revive the project, at least as a proper website. And Letterboxd turns out to be a quick and fun first step.

These are movies that feed my soul. As a person, as a Christian, as an artist. And the fact is, I headed into this current season at Pacific Theatre resolved to keep my soul fed - especially as an artist. Last season was a great one, exciting, fulfilling in many ways - but also exhausting. For various reasons I neglected to put any art in it - no acting, no playwriting, no directing - and by April or May I was pretty darn restless. By the time summer came, the needle had moved over into something approaching "desperate."

It can be good to be pushed that far. It helps you know you need to make changes. And to stick with them.

So this fall I enter another PT season with a fundamental shift in my approach. I'm thinking of myself primarily as an Artistic Director, and only secondarily as an administrator - as Alison Chisholm reminded me, "You do have an administrative staff: the artistic direction is all you." Indeed, I've even changed the way I think of what it is to be an Artistic Director: for some reason, it gives me a lift to think of myself as "Artist In Residence" at Pacific Theatre.

Frankly, none of these changes probably look all that different on the outside. But there's a tremendous difference in the way it feels inside. Infinitely more energy, motivation, spark. Not only for the work of the company - artistic and administrative - but also for all those creative side projects that keep me fed. Which now feel not so much off to the side. Much closer to the centre. Where, I think, they belong.

1 comment:

Rosie Perera said...

Yay, Ron! Happy that you can be you! And thanks for sharing your Soul Food Movies list in this great way.