Image by cdd20 from Pixabay
29 May 2020
Lately, you’ve been doing little characters. You contort your face into some position and put on a dramatic voice or a silly voice, and then you burst into my space. You’re someone else. Mostly, you’re trying to get me to laugh. You often ask me if I “get it,” but, to be honest, I don’t always get it. But I do find it funny.
Sometimes, your little characters are imitations of characters you see in the television shows and movies that you watch. When you do their lines and it’s a movie I’ve seen, then I always get it. You might do a little scene with Yoda, for example, and I can pick up on that because of the voice you’re working toward and the speech pattern that you’re trying to adopt.
At other times, however, your characters are your own invention. You’re trying on how it feels to be someone or something different. You’re testing the waters of humor and of drama to figure out the difference between the two. You’re trying to entertain us and yourself. A few nights ago—during an epic meltdown that has already become a draft of a future letter to you that I’m not yet ready to finish—you admitted to me that you do these characters because you feel like “being dramatic” will help you to stave off boredom.
Imaginative play is a great way to do that!
I remember doing the exact same thing as a child. I would go to the playground and pretend that I was Luke Skywalker. I would run and jump around the playground, engage in epic lightsaber duels, and always get my hand cut off. I’d slump to the deck of the playscape and then find a way to fall off, down into the depths of the Bespin mining facility where I’d be picked up by Leia, Chewie, and Lando.
One of the hallmarks of your imaginative play, Gus, is that you are fully committed to it. Sometimes, I even have to ask you to come out of character and be Gus for a while. I love this commitment that you have and I see it elsewhere too. When you decide that you’re going to do something, you often go at it as hard as you can. You get lost in it, so lost that hours can pass before you’ve come up for air.
In the last couple of months, you’ve decided that you want to learn to make movies. You shot one movie with the neighborhood kids, a 90-minute spy thriller that had no script, no shot list, no plan. It came out a bit of a mess. Mom and I watched two different cuts of it, but I hope you don’t ask me to watch a third. ¯\_(シ)_/¯
Thankfully, you have moved on from that project to your next one: The Five Stones: Episode I — The Diamond of Glory. This is a sci-fi spy thriller that you planned out a little bit better. You created a story by writing down story beats on index cards. Then you arranged how different shots would look, you got the neighborhood kids together and started shooting, often coaxing Mom into being your director of photography. You’ve now produced a couple of different edits of it, worked on some rudimentary special effects, color-corrected some scenes, gone back and shot pick-ups (which required you to get kids to wear the same thing they were wearing before), and now you’ve realized that you need a new ending so you’re trying to figure how to do composite shots so that two of the characters can see themselves in the future. In addition to all of this, you also wrote and recorded 20 minutes of music for this thing, edited that in, added sound effects, even a bit of foley, and have cut together a trailer for your marketing department.
As you’ve done this, you’ve worked on it incrementally: you’ve spent a couple of hours each day building this thing, learning new skills, figuring things out. It's been very cool to watch!
I haven’t seen the most recent cut yet, but I have a feeling that you will watch The Five Stones: Episode I — The Diamond of Glory in a few years and be horrified. You will see everything wrong with it. You might even feel embarrassment or shame as you watch it. You’ll turn your head away from the screen, tell me it’s terrible, and maybe even ask me to stop watching it.
But I won’t.
Why? Because this commitment you’ve got is one of the most impressive damn things I’ve ever seen. It’s something that I’m just now learning, and I’m nearly thirty years older than you!
When I was a kid, I remember wanting to tell stories and make movies. But I can’t imagine trying to follow through on a project for more than a few days. I remember I had spiral notebooks in which I was going to write my great sci-fi novel. I wanted to be the next Ray Bradbury or Arthur C. Clarke. I was just a little bit older than you: fourth or fifth grade. I would take those spiral notebooks everywhere and write little snippets down in them. I can remember writing “Chapter One” at the top of many pages. I’d get a few pages in and then the project would be abandoned.
Working incrementally on something, committing to it over a long period of time, doing little things to push it along even though you may not be able to see the results right in that moment, is a really great skill. Somehow, you’ve developed—and continue to develop—this ability to commit to the things that you want to do.
Keep developing that skill, Gus. Keep working on commitment. Keep making things, doing them bit by bit over time.
After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day…neither was The Five Stones: Episode I — The Diamond of Glory. ☺️