Way back in January I participated in the WIDC (Women in the Director’s Chair) Workshop. It was an intense three weeks of learning, growing and bonding with my fellow directors, cast, crew and mentors. I’ve been playing ‘catch up’ ever since I got back, trying to pick up the pieces of my life and job which I gleefully cast away to go on ‘vacation in the life I want to have.’ But now I am finally ready to chronicle my experience…
Banff: “It Literally Takes Your Breath Away”
Banff is a town located within the larger “Banff National Park”, a top tourist destination, ski mecca and a National Treasure. It is also home to the Banff Centre, a unique institution in Canada that has grown from a small theatre school in 1933 to the vast artist-mecca it is today. It regularly hosts artist residencies, musicians, performances and conferences on its modern campus. Due to its location (read: altitude) up in the mountains, people unused to the thin air regularly become short of breath when traipsing around on campus, to and from the town of Banff. Its no joke: Banff literally takes your breath away.
Women in the Director’s Chair: “Forge the Yellow Brick Road”
The WIDC program is a two-part workshop. The first part is a 4 day Story Incubation Module, where the selected participants workshop their scenes (which will be shot in part two) with a story editor and other mentors. The directors then head home to fine-tune their scenes for production. In January the women return to Banff, scenes in hand, with absolutely no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into.
It is so much more challenging, heart-wrenching, uplifting, powerful and TRANSFORMATIVE than you can even imagine. Although we spend weeks preparing our scenes for production, attend endless workshops and spend an inordinate amount of time eating #cobbsalad while bonding with other participants, the stated goal of the program is not to produce “great scenes.” The reason that 100+ people converge in this tiny town perched on a craggy mountain, spend three weeks away from home and families in dorm-style housing, and donate their time, expertise and knowledge is for the directors. WE are the product, not our scenes.
The scenes, instead, are simply the evidence of our time spent there. They are the photograph, not the wedding. The keepsake, not the event itself.
I learned so much in Banff that I’m still processing it. There are so many gems that I came away with, not the least of which was a network of incredibly creative people that I am quite sure I will know (and likely work with) for the rest of my life. I learned that my ideas are worth pursuing, even if I think I will fail. I learned that sometimes even when I think I fail, others will still support me. I learned that I have a voice, something to contribute, and that people are actually willing and interested in hearing what I have to say. I learned that it is NEVER too late to pursue your dreams. I learned about my strengths as a director (planning, creativity, vision) and my weaknesses (technical knowledge, letting go, staying confident) and I worked on both.
Best of all, I learned that no matter how I feel when I walk onto set – directing is home for me. Walking on on the first day of shooting I can feel underprepared, overprepared, flustered, tired, filled with self-doubt, excited.. but no matter what, when I get on set, I just feel at home there. The best confirmation I could ever get that THIS IS WHAT I SHOULD BE DOING.
Since I got home, sometimes I feel as though I’ve let the ball drop. Like there was all this momentum behind me when I left Banff and that I’ve been a fool not to ride that wave and take advantage of it as soon as possible. I haven’t worked on my script, I haven’t set up meetings with producers, I haven’t applied for funding. What I keep trying to remind myself is that there are plenty of things I HAVEN’T done. I haven’t been to the moon, I haven’t met the pope, I haven’t walked a red carpet or eaten fugu or ridden a mechanical bull. What is important is what I HAVE done. What I WILL do. I have written a feature. I have directed 10 films. I will bring my feature to life. I will see my dreams come to reality. And who knows, maybe someday I WILL go to the moon!
Persistence is my momentum. Whether it takes a year or ten, I will get there. And WIDC gave me so many blocks to build that path with. Perhaps it isn’t that you ‘follow’ a path but that you forge one, hacking away at the underbrush, even as it tangles around you and tries to get in your way. In fact, I think I’ll make my own damn brick road thankyouverymuch.
I hope I see you along the way.