04 March 2010

The Commercial Conflict

by guest columnist Lee BishopFollow her on Twitter.
So here we are living in the world Tyler describes so well, everything going a mile a second, the future is here before we've taken a breath of the present, and people like us are trying to do everything we feel inspired to do.  God bless America.  Media is at our fingertips for the making.

And yet I've just recently had my TV turned off.  What's that all about?  My internal conflict over commercialism is coming ever more to the surface, because it's become part of my own life and career. And can I call it a career if I'm leaning towards a lack of intentional commercial involvement?

Being an experimental filmmaker, artist, and techie geek of a spiritual, grounded, earthy persuasion, a Capricorn with Scorpio rising, and in my day job, a self-employed bookkeeper (that's right, math on a computer), I'm all about conflict, from birth to this day.  The latest manifestation of which is this commercial versus art thing, in an actual personally meaningful sense, not just a vague political discussion.

I've been of a mind that both are wonderful - commercials themselves are art, ads are fun, fine art elitism is a drag, and everything is totally groovy with me.  And it still is!  But what about my own deepest personal aspirations?  Just because I enjoy the new American Airlines commercial about the film director and the squirrel doesn't mean I want to move in that direction, as my first choice of how to live my life as a filmmaker.  If all goes as planned, we are talking about many, many... many years to come - what do I want them to be?

I'm sure I will sound like a giant hypocrite the second someone offers me money to make a music video or an Apple app (as my short Animation 1 was once compared to), but it's not so much about what would I refuse (or not) on principle as much as what are my goals to move toward with intention? Without, hopefully, a completely naive idealism.

I've been inspired during some dark years by what I now recognize as the machine - American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, America's Next Top Model, even The Biggest Loser.  Because they are inspirational, and emotional, and celebrate ambition and over the top attitude and accomplishment.  I wouldn't be where I am today without these shows, and without the odd car commercial with an amazingly fresh and catchy college radio tune that makes my ears perk up when my senses are otherwise completely dulled.  I've identified with celebrities, and I do have my favorites who I secretly read up on from time to time in the magazine rack or at home with ice cream in my jammies.  I've found a good dose of Extra takes me away from the hum-drum and lifts me up to my own goals and possibilities--freedom from drudgery and from financial need and loneliness.  I was LA-struck for months after attending my first real film festival screenings and stumbling blushing through a couple of Q&As with maybe 25 people in the room.  I loved LA and the sense of community and drive that permeated everyone.  I was totally ready to go!

But 2009 turned out to be a rough year, and brought me back down to earth and pointed me inward more and more.  I've learned to slow down, and that peace is here when I see it, and when instead of trying to do as much as I can, and market and network as many places online as I can, and wish for commercial success over all else...when I ask myself what life I want to live AFTER I have "success," I understand better what true freedom is.

For me it's knowing that I can take care of myself no matter where I choose to live, that my needs are comparatively few, that my soul wants and needs to create, not necessarily to be paid to create.  True, that is still the goal, but for me I'm turning my purposeful direction away from Hollywood and toward living the life I thought I wanted "later" to my first priority.  Wouldn't it be wonderful to forget about money and create in a free space of meaningful solitude, tweet with my buddies once in a while, continue to show work (what a wonderful blessing it is to be given that opportunity ongoing), and look toward projects and collaborations in markets outside of the ultra-commercial Americanized system, say Europe for instance, or just let whatever comes come.  And then later, at a mature filmmaking stage, go make a Hollywood movie, for fun.  The giant paycheck would just be gravy.

For my friends who hustle in Hollywood, though my path may be turning, I love you more than ever, and will see you...later.

Lee Bishop was trained in fine arts and music all through her youth, but then left home to explore life and left art behind for 20 years.  In her 40s she has discovered that filmmaking is her calling.  Her interest is in no-budget experimentation, artistic self-expression, and inspiring others.  She has screened five short films in nine festivals in four countries in her first two years of filmmaking, and she continues to support herself and her production company as a self-employed businesswoman.


Mike said...

Thanks Lee, as someone who has also has a foot in the advertising world as well as the fine art world I really relate to what you are describing and appreciate your sentiments.

Lee Bishop said...

Thanks for commenting Mike. I appreciate it from you, because your work and site were inspiring to me early on, and you've been a help to me with fests also. I'd be curious to hear how your commercial conflict, or not, is playing out so far this year.

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