Saturday, March 7, 2009

Filling the Gap

I've ony got a few minutes - not enough for a review, but this has been on my mind a lot lately, and I wanted to get it out for discussion.

Some people are critical of LDS film that seems too naieve, simplistic, or restricted. They say it demeans the art or that it misses larger opportunities. Others complain about LDS filmmakers who want to push boundaries. Concerns of doctrinal correctness and gospel faithfulness can come up with this last group. Yet others are a mixture, wanting to represent all aspects and do justice to evil as well as good without coming close to the edge in what is actually depicted. This more moderate group may be called wishy-washy or double-standarded or hypocritical by some.

This isn't the best summary, but I think you see what I'm getting at.

So where do I fall? That's the problem. I don't know. I'm always trying to consider new ideas on this, hoping to find the one that fits for me. I love complex art and I believe in paradox and helping raise everyone to a higher sphere. I also think LDS art has the obligation to deal with serious issues. With our gospel perspective, who else can do this as effectively as we? I also agree with those who say that we shouldn't be preachy. I like the point of view that advocates exploration and representation without indoctrination. I remember the counsel of Brigham Young, quoted often by me, that you don't need to commit one sin on a journey to the depths of Hell in pursuit of truth and wisdom. But I realize we have been counselled to avoid the appearance of evil, and eschew those practices that, though technically innocent and potentially advantageous, may cause others observing us to stumble or go astray. I have a great desire to produce clean art, although I've struggled with what that means, exactly.

My point is that this is a tough question. But I also want to make the point that there's room for everyone. You may not like the Liken the Scriptures series. He may think God's Army was blasphemous (as I was told when, as a missionary, we were counseled not to see it). She may argue that the Halestorm collection is damaging to public perception. I may say that depictions of certain things have no place in our productions.

Yet the Lord works in diverse and mysterious ways. He also looks on the heart. Who are we to second-guess the inspiration - recognized as such or not - of others? Let's try to be tolerant and even cooperative, supporting each other in success and failure, because all of us - each of us - is filling a gap. Together we make the whole.


Brent Leavitt said...

I'll agree and disagree. I am agreed that we need every valid contribution to the cause of LDS Cinema that is willing to be rendered. I was particularly appreciative of one of Rob Diamond's latest films, Once Upon a Summer, though it had glaring flaws. I appreciated the depiction of the convert's story, from the convert's perspective, which began long before the missionaries arrived in the middle of the film.

I disagree in that it is hard to know where and how to get involved. Once we decide which stories we are going to tell, the work of decision is past, and then the work of doing begins.

It is as simple, in my mind, as deciding that we will produce entertainment that is going in the same direction as the Church and its teachings and on the flip side, not doing anything that would be degrading or distract from those core objectives.

Adam K. K. Figueira said...

Thanks for your perspective, Brent. I don't know if you understood me this way or not, but I was talking about the process of creation/production, not the selection of material. I agree that the selection of the stories, as you say, is a pivotal turning point, after which that decision doesn't need to be made again. But countless decisions go into a production all the way up to completion and distribution - even after.

I also appreciate your expression that a fundamental goal should be to align oneself with the Church and its teachings. As we can see from the examples I've listed, there are myriad ways to approach that. Your animated Friend stories project represents one of the most innovative approaches I've encountered.

But aside from the fundamental goal, there are several equally valid and important secondary goals. Some of these are to strengthen church members, to increase awareness of an important topic, to reach out to those unfamiliar with the church, and so on. Each of these might require a different approach, as the audience in each case has different needs. Also, some LDS filmmakers are interested in creating art as a pure expression of worship, personality, or ideology. This is an entirely different type of production as well, but it can serve the Lord as profoundly as any other.

Realize that the difficulty I'm speaking of is not a paralyzing one, but rather one that lends itself to my main point, which you well described: that we need the contributions of all.

Personally, I would rather that my works be difficult to bring to fruition. I need to stretch. I want to sweat, weep, bleed, and lose sleep over my productions. This is not a masochistic desire, but rather an attempt at laboring with all my might, mind, and strength. Not only is my personal satisfaction increased when this is the case, I think the product carries more of my soul and is therefore a truer offering.

Adam K. K. Figueira said...

BTW, Brent, I haven't forgotten about that paper I was going to write for you. It's kind of on the back burner because school is busy and everything else is going nuts, too. I'm in the process of trying to take my side business full-time so that I can quit my other job and be more productive, and that is eating up what little spare time I have.

Hopefully I'll get to it before long.