What to Do When You Can’t Make Films

I’ve been having a hard time lately. I know that seems trite, given how impossible it is for so many of us right now.

But although I’ll admit to being stressed, worried, angry, frustrated and terrified all in equal measure and every day, when I say I’m having a hard time, in this context I’m really talking about having a hard time creating.

How to make something when the world seems to be spiraling out of control.  I know that in theory, beauty is made and creativity is at its pinnacle on the very edge of chaos.  In reality, in our collective, crazy reality, I’m having a really hard time with it.

So what to do.  Since right now all my film writing is rewriting and production is stalled indefinitely.  I’m working on something entirely new and outside my realm of experience, a cook book.  Or rather a book of my recipes for the food I’ve grown up with and my children are built out of and friends ask if I’m making before they agree to come over.  This a new and interesting way to create for me.  Beginning with knowing exactly what I am doing, then trying to make it make sense to others, creating instructions and alternatives and then actually cooking the food so I understand how better to do that. It’s a totally different experience in creativity.

It’s kind of like that cooking show in your head you make as you’e making dinner. Am I the only one who does that?

So I’m creating that and I’m also watching a lot of TV…who isn’t right?   Right now, in this moment in time, watching TV can be an utterly unique  and new kind of experience in viewing. With all this time on our hands that is.  For me It’s become very systematic, instead of the rather random searches on Netflix, which used to frequently end in waves of confusion and ultimately nothingness.  Too much to chose from!  Now, with all this space in my life, viewing requires planning and discipline and order.  Having none of those attributes in very large amounts, I have developed my own specific and slightly lazy routine.  The first half of the day is all news based.  “What fresh hell this morning,” I often say as I scroll through my TV to CNN etc.  Then once that’s thankfully over with and I’m only in the cunningly wrought repeats of news I have already watched, I begin the really work,  watching the good stuff, the art.

I don’t do this every day of course, that would be a little nuts, but it is more often than not, If I’m honest.  In between cleaning and working on stuff and dogs and the husband and kids and life in general.  I watch.

If I’m being real, I have always been a happy and fairly massive consumer of TV and movies. I love being totally immersed in worlds other than my own.  It’s not a rejection of my own world, I love my own world, but I can also love others…and while I watch these worlds so brilliantly fashioned, I absorb the process of it, the art of it, the method of it.

Maybe I’m alone in finding the bliss in “Star Trek Discovery” or “The Mandalorian,” or “The Dark,” or “Lovecraft Country,” or “Watchmen,” or “Star Wars” watched the correct order of course, or “Harry Potter,” or “The Boys,” or “Evil,” or “The Great British Bake Off,” or, well, anything else that I have watched that I can’t quite remember right this second. But don’t think I am alone, am I?  That would make a nonsense of an entire industry and its spin offs.

The art of making something so brilliant, so perfect in its own time and place that we can loose ourselves in the watching of it, is something to aspire to indeed.  It’s important. It’s imperative. It’s immortal.  I really believe that.  Why do a thing if not to aspire to the immortality of it.

Lately I have watched works that inspire me to continue working on mine, so that when I can put all this chaos far enough away that I can move forward with my own, I will remember those moments of sheer, luminous and phenomenal art and be moved to keep on reaching for that same kind of brilliance.

Time is not always our enemy.  It can help us think more deeply and give us the courage to believe in ourselves, to find our voice and our purpose.

I’ve watched a lot of stuff.  Mostly good, some not so good, some bad, although I usually stopped watching the bad right away.  Some exquisite.  There was one particular show that I watched on HBO, a British show in fact, “I May Destroy You.”  Written, created and also staring the indomitable Michaela Coel.  This show, about a woman whose life is undone by a sexual assault in a nightclub and how she finds herself again in spite or perhaps because of it, is absolutely superb.  Terrifying, hilarious, fierce, incredibly clever and brave and so so familiar.  Familiar in a way that anyone who has been subjugated would immediately recognize. It is pure and phenomenal art. Art from pain, art from glory, art from the depths of a persons soul.  And what is so so impressive is that she got this made at all, and not just made but made by her, controlled by her, fueled by her.  Taking an experience that was real, terrible and totally out of her control and reforming it into something she had complete control over.  That’s a kind of magic isn’t it?  The kind that only an artist has.  The ability to somehow reform a damaged slice of herself into something stronger.  Like the way a wound can heel and be better than before. A piece of titanium that doesn’t cover up but enhance.

Watching TV, watching films, it’s a way of learning about writing and producing and directing, sure.  But its also a way to see something as it was meant to be seen but its creator.  In its entirety, binged, long hauled, back to back.  Like one long epic journey through their soul.  Whether it’s something death defying like “I May Destroy You” or more fun and frivolous like “Star Trek” – sorry Trekkers, I live in that world too – all of it forming neural pathways and reshaping the way we see ourselves and each other. It’s important and necessary and if you yearn to make something that good every yourself, a very necessary task.  Also, my lovely friend Andi Osho is in “I May Destroy You,” as an important aside…

If I stay on the couch all day absorbing other peoples worlds deeply, seeing life through their eyes and experiencing their perspective, then what a wondrous use of my time as an artist.  I’m not ashamed!  I’m actually vindicated by it.

Spend some of your time, while we all have so much of it, in school then…TV, Movie school, artists school.  The school of “watch everything you possibly can.”  The school of “opening your mind,” of “learning how the masters do it.”  Maybe it’s one very precious gift we can receive from all this chaos.

Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros
Author: Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros

Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros is a British writer and filmmaker living In Los Angeles.