Film Stock of Life (FSL)

January 26, 2009

Andrew Marshall on Religion:

“For me, the ideas in orthodox religion were something to celebrate; to play with and to subvert and to own. For most of my life I have considered the great questions about deities and afterlife to be beyond the jurisdiction of logic and sense. Instead of calling this out-of-bounds, as many do, I’ve welcomed the freedom. One can invent a different religion for every day of their life and never be wrong. So I have done this.”

-Fictional interview, ca. 2020

To make a great work of art one has to make a great mess. The intricate configuration that is left, after the mess has been cleaned up, is some fraction of the materials used. The rest goes to the scrap bin: ruined canvases, over exposed negatives, shreds of paper, 6 months of writer’s block, the lives of 99 out of 100 people, or 9999 out of 10,000, if we can be so crass. (I mean only to distinguish the gems, not to deny the value of human life). I have often found myself scripting and acting out the film of my life and though it is bound to be an entertaining feature-length production, the majority of it is spent on film stock destined for the incinerator, or more likely the dust covered catacombs beneath some Heavenly library.

The artists who print, control the number and quality of each edition. They have the ability to run unlimited editions, or offer blemished prints at discount prices, so that the poor can furnish their homes with the same artwork as the rich. But they do not do this, and when they do their work loses its value. I would not mind putting a director in charge of editing my life, but it would have to be one whose skill was undoubtedly better than my own. I’m tempted to allow for an immaculate director, the one who crafts the perfect film from the footage offered. But the more reasonable side of me acknowledges the impossibility of such a craftsman, so I begin to wonder if we can’t just keep all the stock around, and invite a new director every few decades, to make their own story from it.

Film Stock of Life (FSL) is quite different than actual film stock, of course. The primary difference is that FSL does not record a specific point of view. To illustrate this point: the difference between a film about person A and one about person B is a difference only in what is done with the footage. This is the difference between 2 points in a continuum. Many decades from now stories with no central characters may come into vogue and these will be examples along some such continuum. However, today there is still an appreciation for the hero narrative, and its many variations, and of the films which involve me, I am most interested in those that feature me as (at least) a central character.

In the afterlife I would like to be a director. I could spend as long as necessary learning the techniques, say a few years or perhaps a few decades. At some point I’d be ready to market my product. My chief export would be interesting and flattering biographical films, and I would sell them to the citizens of Heaven. But I would also work for the judicial system and probably also make films that would end up on the black markets of Hell. The judicial system pieces would be indictments against those I find reprehensible. I would juxtapose the most despicable aspects of the defendant’s life. I could get most of these down to 30 minutes or so, just a series of outtakes. A few confessional speeches, a few short actions of cruelty or cowardice. The Hell-bound films would be similar, but ridiculous, full-length features with narrative and plot and lots of antiheroes. A lot of John Waters, a bit of Todd Solondz. The audience would find the characters enjoyably loathsome or hilariously pathetic.

Documentaries would be very enjoyable to make, as well. “Origins in Technology,” stories of firsts from the rising civilization of mankind. I’d include the first fire deliberately built, the first seed deliberately sowed, discoveries of electricity, radiation, irrational numbers. It would have to be a series, there are a lot of firsts.

That’s all I have now, though I will keep planning for eternity. It’s not the kind of thing you want to just happen to you one day, before you’ve thoroughly prepared for it.