Friday, July 23, 2010

Am I doing the right thing?

Thursday night I had a screening of the latest rough cut of my feature film "In Montauk." I was trying to get friends who were Mothers and worked outside the home, preferably in a creative field. (Actually, lots of us work at our other job in the home.) Time constraints being a constant in all of our lives, I ended up with an audience of two besides myself. Both friends who'd been witness to the process, who knew the struggles I was having, but also friends who would tell me, honestly, if the film wasn't working.

I particularly wanted this audience because the ending has ended up being controversial. Particularly among my male film friends who, as proper feminist-loving men, loudly voiced their opinions that I was betraying women, betraying feminism and that my potrayal of the lead woman was outdated. And that my strong feelings about how the film should end were getting in the way of making a good, satisfying film.

Needless to say, this screening, for my target audience of two, made me want to vomit. What if I really am the only person who understands why it ends the way it does? What if I haven't earned it in the film?

In a way, it is like watching what other mothers are doing for their kids and wondering if I am doing the right thing. That mother who signed her kid up for the Metropolitan Opera Chorus because he can really sing and loves to perform - should I be doing that for my kids? Or the mother who takes her child into Manhattan every Saturday for swim lessons - why am I not doing that? Or the mother who has a sports-loving daughter who plays basketball, softball and soccer - why aren't I doing that for my kids? Will they still turn out okay? Will they be well rounded? Or am I cheating them by not pushing them to be the best that they can be at one thing? (My kids each study one instrument, take one dance/sports class and one art class).

With a film, though, there is the hope that you will get an audience. That it will appeal to some segment of the population. After all, filmmaking is about trying to communicate something, about trying to touch people. And so I watched the film anxiously with my friends. I chewed on my nails, then stopped as I saw my lead doing that on screen. I twitched. I made notes. I held back from making excuses for every bad cut, poor sound, or temporary music that was cheesy. And they got it. They understood why I ended my film the way I did. In fact, they read more into it than I had intended. They loved it. They agreed that it was the only way to go. And I can breathe easier, without the anxiety that I need to re-conceive the story and re-shoot the ending or risk alienating the very audience I'm trying to appeal to.

As for my kids, the only audience I really care about is them. Whether or not they'll agree that I did the right things for them, only time will tell. And possibly years of therapy.