Concluding Observations, Inspirations & Statements: Change of Times, Change of Mind / by Sarah Kakusho

The moment I set foot on campus for the first time in 7 months, I knew this learning cluster would have to be the best because it would be my last. Arriving to this point in time, now that these long, agonizing yet fun three weeks have ended I have come to many conclusions. It’s interesting to reflect on projects that have tangible outcomes. Being able to realize a movie right before my eyes isn’t something new (I’ve done it countless of times before), yet each time something is created, it’s as if giving birth to something that’s alive again and a rebirth of oneself.

What is an artist’s work of art without a part of her? This movie that I produced this time in particular I had a personal connection with. Being abroad and learning about film, I learned of an up and coming genre called “mumblecore” in which movies of this genre focus on the relationships between each of the characters. These types of movies were usually beyond low-budget and were created by filmmakers in their 20s. To say the least, I strongly became attached to this type of genre as I came to know more movies within this genre like Nights and Weekends and Baghead because I could relate to how these directors created these films: as poor, 20-some year-old, digital camera owners who found film as their way out, their way to express themselves. Back to the movie that we (Young and I) produced, I was able to take this attachment and apply it to this film.

The more the script developed into something of its own, the more I realized how much it was taking form into my own reflection of the past 2 years of my learning cluster days. There are moments in the room scenes of the movie where I can recall moments of my past playing out in the same manner: arguing and bickering over a single issue of the movie that eventually evolves into an argument of a personal matter that has nothing to do with the film. This year I didn’t have a problem with this, quite possibly because my group had only two people in it, which brings me to my next realization.

The less is more, in all aspects. Although initially I thought it was a huge disadvantage to lose to people after so many days of working with them, I didn’t think it was that much of a drawback after I realized how much easier it was to get things done just because there were less people to run by an idea. Agreeing upon the dialogue of the script, choosing shots, editing and cutting scenes; all of it was easier than in the past. The last two years, I stressed myself over the top (my friends outside of my learning clusters will vouch). This year, I was still stressed; however, it was to a lesser extent. Maybe it was because I was working with less people; maybe it was because I was sick for almost the entirety of the film’s production; or maybe I even had a change in the way I work that allowed me to be less uptight. Nevertheless, my stress level, which I needed to control to avoid health consequences, dropped significantly while at the same time, maintaining the same drive and hard work to complete this year’s LC film.

However, during the creative process, I felt a longing for something, something that I might’ve wanted especially this year because I’ve been abroad for a semester. As with every year, I was working on a movie while everyone else went to class. While I got to play around with cameras and editing software, everyone else was getting lectured and reading books. Of course, the education best for my future was the former, but during the whole process, for some inexplicable reason, I was yearning for the latter. There was a sort of separation between me and the other people on campus, which was especially apparent because I had friends outside of the cluster. I never really understood or rather even noticed this feeling of isolation and estrangement until I found a quote by a director, Bryan Singer, who nailed it right on the dot:

“I’m actually part of a number of minorities. I grew up being a horribly awkward kid. A terrible student. And now I find myself as a filmmaker, and you feel kind of alone in the world because you’re separate from everyone else.”

I’m sure this is the case with any form of art, not just film. The lives of artists, though filled with so many collaborations with other people, are so enclosed in a world that they create that they isolate themselves from the reality around them in order to make their world a reality that can exist in everyone’s world, everyone’s reality. It’s a risk that has to be taken to be able to realize that small world for everyone to see. Now that I look back on the past learning clusters as well, I was always too busy, too stressed working on the film to even stop and think for myself. This year because my group managed to use our time, we had a little time to rest (which I needed because I was sick). During these moments I realized this.

Around my friends, who aren’t interested in filmmaking, I feel that there’s no one in the world that will understand the world I will be getting into. As arrogant as it may sound, it’s hard to live life as a filmmaker unless you’re living it, breathing it; therefore, it is hard to just tell anyone who hasn’t been through the process what one is going through. You just don’t know what you’re getting yourself into until you’re stuck in the middle of it. Although it usually doesn’t hinder my other friendships, there’s a little sense of sadness that shows itself during every production. In the past I think I accepted this feeling mainly because I wasn’t fully aware of where this feeling was coming from. Now that I’m aware, I know that I have even a greater mission to create something that even people outside of industry can appreciate. Although I could go on about the endless realizations I’ve had throughout my last learning cluster, it would take eons to read.

So, we’ve arrived at the end (of the production and quite possibly of this paper also), and the importance of humanity in art, not just film, has never been so apparent. Today in society, we are so enwrapped in the world of technology that people don’t have to see eye-to-eye or hear each others’ voices to communicate; it’s all texting and emailing now. I noticed this about the States, especially after coming back from abroad, but Americans are so busy, they fall into routine. They get up, go to work, go home, watch TV because they’re too tired to do anything else and sleep. Repeat. We need creativity in our lives to be able to break free of these routines, creativity in the most general sense, to create a life worth living for ourselves. We could live these routines everyday and not have a problem with it, but does it make us happy? Daisaku Ikeda, the founder of our university said:

“The institutions of human society treat us as parts of a machine. They assign us ranks and place considerable pressure upon us to fulfill defined roles. We need something to help us restore our lost and distorted humanity. Each of us has feelings that have been suppressed and have built up inside. There is a voiceless cry resting in the depths of our souls, waiting for expression. Art gives the soul's feelings voice and form.”

As a filmmaker, as an artist, as a person of the human race, it’s crucial to help revitalize that humanity through the films I make and the life I live. There are definitely both high points and low points in my life during the weeks I spend creating a film, but that’s what reminds me that I’m human. Filmmakers could create a society of its own; though there are tumultuous times in the midst of disagreements, regardless of differences, it’s a group of people that work together toward a common goal to create something meaningful. It may turn out that that something isn’t very meaningful to the audience, but it’s certainly meaningful to those who were creating it. Why? Because, I firmly believe every creation is an extension of the self and that creativity is certainly one way (if not the most surprising) to learn about our potential and expand our lives.