Writing Reality with Zombies

I finished writing the zombie movie. I read it to my youngest brother. He said it's the "funniest, most interesting thing" I've written.

Zombie image courtesy of Uncherished
That means a lot coming from him. It's not that he is a film connoisseur or that I am in particular need of his approval. I just don't think there's been one artistic thing I've done that he's really connected to. I mean, I know he's liked things I've done enough to say "that was funny" or "it's interesting," but I've never gotten the combination together.

I realize there might be a chance that someone just reads that as me being sarcastic, since his statement was simply a combination of the two things he usually says, so let me clarify by saying: the dude liked it.

This is huge for me. I rarely set out to make something that appeals to younger people, meets this demographic, or is "popular." I literally cannot operate like that on a 100% capacity. I mean, somewhere in my head I'm sure I'm aware that that's coming into play as I think about an audience, but those thoughts usually dissipate to what I feel MUST happen. It's like once you have characters living and acting in a world you've created, they cannot be any different than they are. You can only change scenarios. They might say different things in the new scenarios, but, more than likely, the best combination will be what is most appealing to me personally.

That's the funny thing about writing a story. A writer makes around 12,000 choices (guesstimate) that will lead a reader from beginning to end. There could be so many different paths along the way, but each writer is going to make decisions based on personal interests, identity, and upbringing--there are also a hundred other elements that I'm not including in this minor and limited list, but I hope to just graze the surface of this idea for the sake of the point--and that is that a written work (or any created piece of art) requires a series of choices that are also based on the series of choices that make up each individual artist. So, if you can imagine, a completed work of art is really more like an M. C. Escher painting.

Like the Escher painting pictured, we can see continuous reflections of a set of stairs. Our eyes can wander up and down any set of stairs, as we try to move up and down this maze of possibilities. Each of us is going to gravitate to a different point, and each of us is going to traverse a different path. This is a rough approximation of the decisions that lead us through life or the creation of a work of art. My brother might find this painting to be a gimmick or an interesting piece for the contextual reference of this posting now having an experiential effect on his viewing of this piece. He may, like most of us, forget the correlation of this post with the painting and experience it completely fresh based on the specific moment when he views the piece.

Likewise, my brother's acknowledgement of the zombie script as something worthwhile could simply be an alignment of tastes and choices in his life at this particular moment, and the choices I made to create it. Still, there is a certain satisfaction in knowing that I've finally appealed to someone whose tastes in life are so radically different from my own. That, in essence, is what I would hope for when creating something, but that I can't entirely manufacture without losing the essence of an unconstrained work of art.

No one wants to feel duped into a purchase, unless the purchase itself is outwardly making an ironic comment on people being swindled. That's the funny thing about creation. People often get so caught up in making something appeal to one group or another that they swallow the actual possibility of making something that is real. This is what lies at the heart of everything we encounter in our everyday lives. We are looking to react to what is real--a proposition that can become bewildering when the constant advertisements and stories we are fed by the media and our own friends and family are befuddled with a lack of authenticity.

That is why what appeals to me most in life is when people are offering something that is true. I have been able to find this in the works of countless artists, including fellow contemporaries (small sampling), such as Harryette Mullen, Tao Lin, Jordan Castro, Noah Cicero, Jeffrey Brown, Keith Haring, Caveh Zahedi, and Brad Warner. Each of them offers their truth to the world, and I can acknowledge each of their creations because they touch this chord. I may not agree entirely with the ideologies each offers, but I can appreciate that their creations are the products of seeking the truth within themselves. This is often more successful in certain pieces than others, but those works that offer the most honest reflection is often what is the most appealing.

This last element is what drives me each day to create the things I offer to the world. In some cases, I may be telling the best lie that is actually my most honest reflection, but it is this reflection of reality as I see it--or its manipulation into a way that others can digest it into the way I see it--that excites me most about making films or anything else.

So when my brother says that he enjoyed a comedic zombie script that is a comment on consumerism and the way people interact and digest reality, I can pat myself on the back, because it's so rare to make something that appeals to myself and another person that has a completely different world view. Of course, the funny thing will be if anyone else likes this script besides him. It could be that I've written something that appeals only to people in their twenties. That's fine though. I can always try again. It's fun to make things. Maybe this time a film about vampires aging or a Martian invasion will be closer to the truth.

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