Sad Hill Media

Film & Lesser Arts with Will Ross, Devan Scott, & Daniel Jeffery.

by Devan Scott

If you haven't read it yet, here's Part One. Now, for the thrilling conclusion.


4. Reflect.

Self-reflection is vital to creative growth; that much I knew. What I couldn’t predict was how quickly it could descend into pointless wheel-spinning. The Twilight Saga Part 3: Eclipse was, more than anything, the demented product of my attempts to break the cycle of self-undercutting and indecision that had crippled my ability to realize my ideas in a post-Fall of Man world.

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5. Know when to stop reflecting.

I came up with dozens of concepts for experimental films over the months following my first screening. All were doomed to failure, as I flatly rejected each idea for various reasons, real or imagined. Self-indulgence. Gimmickry. Gross self-indulgence. Obtuseness. Extreme gross self-indulgence. A few of them even made it to the script stage before being rejected; consigned to my personal vault, only to be pilfered in fifty years when I’ve run out of ideas and desperately need a concept for a quick buck. The most any of them amounted to was a few lines of chicken scratch on a notepad.

I was falling into a self-defeating cycle of the highest order, and I needed an out. So I went back to the root of the problem: The Fall of Man. I did something I had been consciously avoiding for the longest time. I asked my father what his ‘artist’s opinion’ of my film was.

One of the challenges of having an artist of the father is parsing out the two opinions they’ll inevitably have of your work: their opinion as a dad, and their opinion as an artist. When The Fall of Man first screened, I heard the former. I wanted the latter. So I asked for it. What I got was the most insightful piece of criticism I’ve ever received: “It doesn’t feel like it’s yours.”

6. Make it personal.

I had made a film, but it wasn’t my film. It didn’t express anything that I held any convictions about; I had played it safe, and suffered the consequences. Why? I remembered my film in the context of everyone else’s, and saw a blindingly obvious commonality: they were all, mine included, exercises in inscrutability under the guise of experimentalism. I had found my muse: me and my fellow film students.

Eclipse, as yet unnamed, was now to be a satire about the process film students go through in the creation of their works. My own failed ideas would serve as the vehicle. I would shoot them and incorporate them into a work that would serve to undercut each one. But that wasn’t enough. An exercise in pure self-flagellation did not interest me. So I integrated the ideas of my colleague’s previous films into my own. I borrowed elements that I felt were ripe for satire; a clock motif here, a conceited truism scrawled on a surface there. In its own warped way, the film became a communal effort.

7. Have fun.

Filming Eclipse was one of the more joyous experiences of my life. I invited my friend and co-writer Will to take part. I’ve scarcely had a more creatively liberating experience than the twelve hours we spent shooting the required footage. We worked entirely from rough descriptions of each segment; details, shotlists, et al were worked out on the fly. While shooting The Fall of Man, I spent every moment worried about failure. I spent the shoot of Eclipse not caring.

The editing process was both unusual and highly protracted. Editing one experimental short film took time. Editing what amounted to five experimental short films of wildly diverging styles took considerably more time. Tied together by Will’s narration, for which I instructed him to “do an impression of me doing an impression of Woody Allen”, the final product was an unapologetically blunt, confrontational evisceration of myself and my peers.

8. Unforeseen consequences. Prepare for them.

It seems that the initial screening of Eclipse has become a minor tall tale within the Simon Fraser University film student community. I still find myself asked somewhat regularly about what actually happened. “It really caused an uproar, didn’t it?” “I heard they gave a standing ovation.” “Didn’t a brawl break out?”

The screening was undeniably contentious. I was showing a film that, on top of stylistically flying in the face of what was implicitly expected, actively satirized my colleagues and their works. To make matters worse, I incorporated elements of performance art; prior to the film being shown, I scrawled a reference to another element of performance art that had been incorporated into one of my colleague’s films during the previous screening. What happened immediately following the film’s end was something that, while in hindsight inevitable, I had nonetheless utterly failed to predict. Dead silence. Then, at least twenty minutes of heated debate ensued over my film’s intent, its merit, and whether or not I hated everything ever made by anyone.

Despite the notoriety of the initial screening, it is undoubtedly the second screening which for I’ll reserve the fondest place in my memory. The first screening was a private affair that took place in a classroom with a grand total of around 25 attendees; the second took place in a lecture hall, and was attended by far more. I had retooled the performance art aspects of the film to suit the larger venue; a paint-splattered suit, a megaphone, and two overhead projectors were thrown into the equation.

The reaction from those attending this screening was, to understate the matter, different. They laughed. They applauded. Some cheered. In those moments, I felt, for the first time, the immense satisfaction of having created a work of art which had connected, however briefly, with a few people.

9. Failure is sometimes necessary.

I believed The Fall of Man a failure almost as soon as I’d finished it. I consider Eclipse an unqualified personal success; it expressed something I deeply wished to express at the time, and stands as the first time I’ve managed to create a work that is representative of my artistic idiom. This has caused something of a paradox; can the former work be considered a true failure when it directly led to the success of the latter work?

That leads me to my conclusion: if The Fall of Man is a a failure, it must be considered an utterly necessary one. To create a work I was satisfied with, it was crucial for me to experience that failure and the resultant crisis of confidence. For that, I’m thankful for having made The Fall of Man; I would almost certainly be a different person today if I hadn’t.

Note: Segments in which I personally interact with the film have been substituted with intertitles.


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