Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"The Flow Of Forsythe": The Beginning

Not long after my documentary, The Skeptics In A World Of Their Own, premiered at the Weinberg Center in Frederick, Maryland, on March 25, 2010 (See post February 23, 2011), I was busy trying to get my next project off the ground. I had a couple ideas in the works, but nothing was panning out. That changed in September of 2010. One of my ideas had finally sparked to life.

This particular idea actually started in late 2009 when I discovered the artwork of Charles Eugene Forsythe, an abstract artist. Mina, his daughter, had been one of the people interviewed for The Skeptics' documentary. It was on her Facebook page I noticed her father's artwork. Interested in taking a closer look, I went to his page and opened the photo album dedicated to his latest series of paintings. My initial reaction was quite unexpected. His work spoke to me. I immediately felt compelled to contact him. I sent him a small email message letting him know I admired his work and explained why I was attracted to his style painting. It wasn't long before he wrote back. I soon learned our thoughts and interests were quite similar. For one, we were both fans of David Lynch. In my email I had quoted from Lynch's book, Catching The Big Fish. Charles had the book and enjoyed it thoroughly. Lynch's book had inspired us. This short and simple book corroborated the way we both approached our projects. It really didn't take too many words for the book to describe its ideas, a very important factor that fueled our project. Charles and I practiced many of the same ideas and perspectives Lynch used to traverse the creative path. I was surprised. Charles and I became fast friends.

We were soon speaking on the telephone. During one of our early chats, I asked Charles if he was interested in allowing me to make a film about him and his art. Charles was flattered, but not too receptive to the idea. He actually found it more interesting that I was inspired to tackle such a project. My proposition was quite unexpected. The thought of someone making a film about him and his art had never crossed his mind. Though it seemed Charles was not game, his response was enough to make me feel there was still a chance he might change his mind. The idea needed time to develop.

In the weeks to come, we continued to correspond via email. As suspected, my film idea had certainly sparked Charles's interest. He emailed me and asked that I call him so he could further discuss his thoughts. Within a few days, we were on the telephone together. Charles suggested that instead of making a film about him, that I make one about his oldest son, Riley, who was living in California and was an established and respected mural painter, specializing in building size paintings. Charles explained that my film project idea was very synchronistic. My idea had come along at about the same time he had seen the film called Kick-Ass. I, too, had seen the film and was intrigued about how my idea and Kick-Ass had anything to do with each other. I listened.

Charles explained that the movie's main character, Kick-Ass, was exactly like a character Riley drew as child to make Charles laugh. The cartoon strip was something special he shared with Riley and he always looked forward to the next installment. Charles felt that if the movie - Kick-Ass - could make a splash, then why couldn't Riley's character, predating the Kick-Ass movie, also make a splash? Why couldn't Riley get a little acknowledgment for his original idea too? Charles suggested I speak with Riley, as he had already told him about me. I thought Charles's idea was interesting, but knew logistically that such a film was not possible for me, even if I pursued it, primarily because Riley and I were coasts apart. Besides, it was Charles's art that inspired me. But I took Riley's telephone number and contacted him several days later.

Riley and I had a fun conversation, but as expected, we both understood that making a film about his early crime fighting character was not going to get off the ground. I then pitched my idea about making a film about his dad's art. Riley agreed it was a good idea and said he would mention it to his father next time they spoke. I felt I was gaining ground.

Several months passed, but Charles and I had not communicated too often. I then discovered he was having a one-man show at the Blue Elephant Art Center in Frederick, Maryland. Frustrated that it was already Fall of 2010 and I had not launched another project, I contacted Mina and asked her if she would also say something to her dad about him giving some serious thought to my proposed film.

With Charles's one-man show approaching in the next couple weeks, I was getting nervous. I felt the show was a perfect event to capture and a great way to launch the making of the film. Apparently, the stars were in alignment. It seemed the prodding by Riley, Mina, and myself had paid off. Charles agreed to become involved. All was a go. The film was off the ground.

From September 2010  to June 2011, Charles and I met nearly every week. During our early film sessions, Charles, though wanting to make the film, was nonetheless anxious about how I was going to pull off the film. He had many concerns. And I certainly understood why. We barely knew each other and now I was filming him for hours as he spoke about his life. Would I make him look foolish? Would I embarrass him? Did anyone want to see him talk about his life? What were my intentions and motivations with the film? These were all good questions. But as each film session ended, Charles's understood what I was trying to achieve and his concerns dissipated. In fact, he found the experience invigorating, as did I, and his desire to keep going increased after each session. We were enjoying each others company and realized the experience was worth more than the outcome.

Though I had a strategy for the documentary, there were no story boards. Just a couple of images in my mind. Between each session I planned our next shoot. Once on location, armed with a list of questions, we improvised. Not necessarily the normal way to proceed with constructing a film, I decided that I would treat the project like a painting. The camera had become the canvas and our sessions had become the colors. When I got home from each session, I began mixing the colors. And as I laid down more colors, I knew that it could be no other way. I was painting.

David Lynch might say Charles and I were "deep sea fishing" together. With my approach to the film, I certainly had cast my line and was trolling deep waters. My idea about how I wanted to present Charles's story was cytsalizing, and by May of 2011, my, our, painting was coming alive.

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