Love in the time of Cynicism
May 28th, 2010
So, I’m shooting a music video next month for one of the tracks off “Poet’s Lovely Daughter,” called TOO MUCH. It’s the dance-y track, and one of my favorites. (Which is silly, because they’re all like my children. Some are A students and some are baseball players and some are drug addicts and some are preachers and some are sadus and some are bank tellers and some are superstars and they are all each and everyone something unique to me and unto itself!)
I have this wonderful group of people who have come together to make this video happen- all donating their brilliance, expertise, time, talent… a producer, a DP, a director, a co-star/ choreographer…. more keep coming as we near the shoot date, (just one month away!) and we have been creating the narrative and the production plan and the look and the feel and the dance for a project that is taking on a life of its own. It’s no longer “Erin’s music video.” It is now Erin, Emeka, Ashley, Jacob and Petra’s music video. It’s a group of people all coming together to throw themselves into the mix to create a child that has its own life- something greater than the individual. And that’s AMAZING. And a gift.
It is most definitely a low budget affair. I’m fund raising to shoot the video beginning this weekend, and the entire production staff is helping me do this. This is something very rare and unique in this instance, because no one thinks they will make money back from this project. Each person involved in this project could very well be putting his or her time and attention elsewhere for cash or prestige, but they are not. They are donating of their time, sweat, blood, tears, heart, love, soul…. and I believe…. it’s because we ALL have come together for a reason beyond our own devising!
I won’t gush any more about my amazing crew but I would like to share a brief, beautiful story about this project in process.
We’ve been having weekly production meetings. Sometimes these meetings are about budget, sometimes they are location scouting, sometimes everything under the sun and then some. Lately we’ve held these at my house, because my home is pretty much smack dab in the middle of where everyone lives and works!
For one of these meetings, I decided to walk two blocks to the Starbucks near me and pick up some coffee for everyone. I had run out of coffee myself and thought it would be fun to go get one of those big containers of coffee for the group.
So before our meeting, I walked over to Starbucks, and checked in with Phoenix, the barista, and placed my order. Then I walked to one of the side counters (it’s a big Starbucks), the side where people are NOT waiting for their drinks but where, if people place big coffee orders or food orders, that is where they wait.
There was another gentleman standing near me. I could tell he was pretending to look at the pastries in an effort to look at me. I don’t mean to say it was a pick up or that I’m so fascinating or anything like that, but you know, sometimes we do that. We go look at the magazines in the drug store to have an excuse to furtively check out that weird looking lady or that hot guy or that celebrity or whomever. So here was a guy- late 40s, maybe, and he was just FASCINATED by the croissants and banana breads but sneaking glances at me.
As Phoenix filled up my coffee to go container, he said, “So, what have you got going on today?”
“Oh,” I began, “We’re shooting a music video in a month and we’re having a production meeting and I’m just getting coffee for everyone.”
“Oh,” said Phoenix, “Are you the PA? [for those not in the business, PA is a production assistant.]”
“Nope,” I laughed, “I’m the artist.”
“Wow,” piped up the pastry-watching gentleman, “That’s a low budget shoot when the art department is the PA!”
“It’s even lower than that,” I said, “I’m not the art department. I’m the artist. I’m the singer. It’s a video for me!”
Phoenix blushed. I smiled.
“Oh,” said the gentleman, surprised. “That’s nice of you to get coffee.”
“Oh, it’s my honor,” I said, “I have the best crew in the world. I’m an independent artist, and I’m paying for all this… Do you know I have one of the most talented up and coming DPs I’ve ever met? And I have such an amazing director and an amazing producer, and they are all helping me fundraise to shoot this video, and are deferring their OWN salaries until we raise the funds?”
Pastry watcher snorted.
“They probably need the demo reels,” he said.
I looked at him very closely. He had grey hair, and not many wrinkles, and he was attractive. He was wearing shorts and looked like a neighborhood fellow. I wasn’t sure if I had seen him or met him before, but I saw how angry he was in that one small observation. I felt such pity for him. To live with such anger…
“You’re so cynical,” I said, softly, pitying him.
He blinked. His demeanor changed and he grew defensive, just a wee bit, like a boy that just got caught stealing cookies from the cookie jar and is explaining why he really had to do it.
“Well, it’s just that, I’ve been in the business a long time, and I know that it’s all about money. I’ve worked on…” and he started explaining to me “how the business really works.”
“Maybe they do need demo reels,” I said, “But maybe they’re involved because this is a project that is about something greater than the needs of each of us individually. Maybe they’re doing this because they’re passionate, and they want to extend that passion through their love of music and videos and filmmaking. Maybe they want to be a part of something beautiful. Not crass.”
Now he was looking at me with a mixture of pity (poor, stupid girl) and awe (who is this girl and what the f*** is she talking about? Could it be?)
“Where are you from?” Phoenix asked.
“Oh, you guys are gonna laugh. I’m from Minnesota.”
They smiled. On the coast, people seem to think that Midwesterners are all naïve and un-informed. I think it’s a bit too easy to get lulled into this idea that the intellect of the west or east coast is superior to, well, anywhere else but the “city in which IIIIIiii live.”
“And I’ve lived here four years and I certainly know what you’re talking about,” I said to the pastry-watcher. “I’ve certainly had many run-ins with sharks.”
“Sharks?” He was confused.
“Everyone in the music industry, according to your opinion of it,” I explained.
Then he paused.
“Do you know Holly Cole?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I said, thoughtfully, “I do.” I don’t know much about her but one of my best friends is a HUGE Holly Cole fan.
And then, Mr. Pastry Cynical started going on and on about Holly Cole, and how she was an indie, and how she got started and what her inspirations were…. and he stopped playing Mr. Cynical and suddenly, he was involved, invested, maybe even in love. He started remembering something that, to him, was beautiful. And he shared that with me.
It was time for me to go. He gave me a few album suggestions, for my inspiration, and I gave him a postcard for my upcoming show.
“Always ready for self-promotion,” I said.
“Well, it is LA,” he said. I let that one go. Who the hell am I to constantly preach an anti-cynical world-view?
“Come to my show, if you like,” I said.
“Good luck with the video,” he said. And he meant it.