Of Enthusiasm and Existential Crises

One of the great emotions in life–and increasingly rare in this aging cynic–is that of enthusiasm. Having spent most of my life in school of one sort or another, I am acutely aware of the hopefulness I experience at the beginning of every school term; soon I shall be learning new things every day, expanding my horizons and improving my lot in life. The blank notebooks and unopened texts ache to be scribbled with my penetrating insights into the sum of man’s knowledge.

Soon, however, reality sets in: the daily grind wearing me down, the inevitable shortcomings of the instructor, the insufferable idiots surrounding me, the textbooks that are contractually forbidden from just getting to the point already, my own imperfect memory betraying my best intentions. By the end of the semester, I am happy to forget the whole experience. Rinse, lather, repeat.

After so many years of this cycle, only the faintest glimmer of hope remains, and is extinguished before my first class is over. And this is how I feel in the course of study for a subject I actually like, so you can imagine the severity of my existential crisis when I dropped out of my last program.

I even felt this enthusiasm before I joined the military–I was going to be a shining example of a young patriot, by Jove. Reality kicked my ass good and hard.

Now, the fraction of my spirit that hasn’t been crushed has turned to other pursuits, the ones I wish to discuss being filmmaking and writing.

Some of my friends and I have always been interested in indie filmmaking, but we never did anything due to the usual litany of real-life circumstances. However, at one time, I had great enthusiasm for the idea. But the more I thought about the cost and complications involved–besides the fact that the ultra low-budget indie scene of the 90′s is long dead–the more and more it drifted into the background.

Recently I watched a film called Feeding Frenzy, from the geniuses at Red Letter Media who created the Plinkett Star Wars reviews (which are, without hyperbole, the best art criticism in any form ever created). It’s a nearly zero-budget film that’s a spoof of 80′s “rubber monster” movies, and it is surprisingly smart and entertaining despite its obvious rough edges. So, naturally, the creativity bug hit me, and I practically raved like a madman, “Why aren’t we making movies?!?”, “Oh, look how much the price on such-and-such camera has come down!”, “We’ve got the script, let’s aim for shooting this summer!” Then I do the worst thing possible and listen to the creators’ commentary on the Feeding Frenzy DVD, and the trials they went through just to make this seemingly simple movie were, quite frankly, staggering. The realities hit me again–I have no money, time, equipment, cast, crew, or know-how. I lapse into my usual I-have-wasted-my-life despondency.

So I return to the cheapest and most solitary of artistic pursuits, writing. I need to finish that novel anyway, right? Miraculously, I am close to that point, and if my previous post is any indication, I was rather enthusiastic about becoming an “indie author” online. After exploring this dank, hopeless, rightfully shunned corner of the Internet, I just . . . Jesus Christ. The millions of man-hours these people pour into fruitless marketing and networking, their completely unjustified optimism (if not downright delusion), their bitching about the traditional publishing industry. Of course, that’s the next level, the thousands of wannabe authors scrambling at the virtual gates of the publishing houses like so many Depression-era workers. The very thought of it is so instantly sad and soul-crushing.

That being said, I’m still sold on my idea of just giving my book away, then just leaving it at that and not obsessing about my online “career”. I don’t have the time or constitution to jump through all these hoops, whether for elusive success as an indie author online, or with the print publishers. If it turns into something more, then great, if not, well, I had fun working on it. I guess I should pursue the traditional route if I want to be a “legit” author, but if there is one thing that’s obvious it’s that publishing, TV, and film executives are extremely poor at predicting what will be popular. Sure, they turn away scores of genuinely awful projects, but how many gems have never seen the light of day due to this system? (And how many abject failures have they greenlighted?) Since I can make this particular product so cheaply in this day and age, why not skip the middleman and let the customer decide? And how many poorly edited, amateurish titles have been released by publishers lately? Their standards seem to be getting lower everyday anyhow. Not that I consider this license to release a substandard product, but now that the end is in sight the usual pathetic artist’s anxieties have a firm grip upon me.

So, yeah, that’s how I feel.

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