On Saturday evening, July 16, 2011, at 8:00 P.M., I unveiled my new film for Charles Forsythe, Millie (his wife), and his daughter, Mina. This was my first screening of the film. Since the film was about Charles, I felt it was best he was given the opportunity to view the film in an intimate setting, one where he could speak freely about whether he was supportive of my work. I was nervous. Charles had not seen any of the footage. It was the first time he had participated in such a project and he basically agreed to it without really knowing me or my ability. Everything was in my hands and understandably, this caused a little anxiety.
We had shot footage over the course of seven months and accumulated over 16 hours of footage. I knew there was a real chance he might not like how I presented his story. But throughout the project, my confidence was high and I always felt Charles would like the results. I would have not pursued the issue if my instincts told me to walk away. This was my third cut of the film. My first cut started out just under an hour and now it was clocking in at 35 minutes and 59 seconds. I was pleased with this cut. The spirit I had originally envisioned was there, even though I wasn’t sure how it would work out. I hadn’t found the flow until late in the game. I just kept filming, collecting my colors to paint with later. It was time to unveil the film to Charles.
My wife, Nancy, and I greeted Charles and his family when they arrived and invited them in. We gathered around the dining room table and ate some snacks while I began talking about the last seven months. Our conversation had barely begun when Charles proposed a toast. We held our drinks in the air. Charles said something like: Here’s to the film, and no matter what the outcome, it was the experience we had together. This was worth celebrating, and it can’t be overshadowed, therefore, the film is already a success. Though I was very happy with his enthusiasm. I was still nervous.
When we first started the project, I explained to Charles that I had envisioned a film that would focus on him as an artist. Not long after shooting began, I decided to include more about his life and family. I think this more encompassing approach made Charles feel at ease with the project. But I soon realized that direction was not working. I decided my original idea was the way I needed to proceed. As we progressed, Charles’s faith grew in the project. I was relieved, as I knew there were plenty of opportunities for him to end his cooperation with me and pull out of the project. For me, the turning point came that indicated I knew Charles was on-board (and trusted my instincts), occurred when he told me about a conversation with one of his sisters. She wanted to know why anyone would want to make a film about him. His answer to her question was brilliant. He told her, “I’m just a prop”. When he told that to me, I burst out laughing. I knew at that moment he had a better understanding of what I was doing. Though he was still nervous, he realized that I, like him, was painting. But I was not using a brush.
It was show time!
We sat and watched the film. I tried to view with virgin eyes, but of course, that was impossible. All I could see were my flaws. As the end credits rolled, I looked over at Charles. He was smiling. I was relieved. From there, we laughed, joked, and began talking about scenes.
Charles asked me about the music. He wanted to know for sure whether his son, Brian, had provided the music. Early on in the project, I asked Brian if he would provide the music, but in a vein outside his usual style playing. Brian was up for the challenge and readily agreed. Charles was unfamiliar with this style of music, what I call soundscapes, and most curious how it would fit in with the film. After the screening, Charles was impressed by Brian's work and felt the music fit well.
The screening had gone well. I was very pleased with Charles's reaction. My anxiety was gone. Well, not completely. I knew it was time to show a much bigger audience.