Never has one man done so much for so cheap.

Friday, October 05, 2007

it is not too late in the year to buy a convertible and hit the road

In fits of delusion I see myself as a filmmaker. That being the case, I want to make a film for this, not just write about them. 1970’s road movies have always held a certain mystic moth-to-flame draw for me, a glorious frenzy of outlaw activity. The point of this endeavor is to try and experience freedom in the face of ugly realities…the kind of world depicted in films like Easy Rider and Vanishing Point. My hypothesis is that their world is now our world. America once again seethes with panic, divisive anger and desperation as it finds itself mired in another unwinnable war and an economy on the verge of spectacular collapse.

As they did then, so must I now turn to The Road. Not the Kerouac book, although obviously an influence, but the actual, physical Road Itself. The task of a journey, the liberation of motion, the aim to, as it were, Live the Dream, or Nightmare, or whatever shape the journey may take. Discovery itself is the only goal.

My proposal is this. A friend of mine is trading his Hyundai for a 1971 MGB. I suggest we drive it to Zabriskie Point in Death Valley, CA, the site of Michel Foucault’s life-altering experience on LSD in 1975, and take a camera along with us, documenting the trip, shooting entirely on location, making a point of interviewing a wide spectrum of people en route (hippies, redneck law enforcement, good honest salt-of-the-earth Americans, etc). We will be shooting a very specific ten hours or less of footage and covering as much ground as possible in the least amount of time possible. This film must be made quickly. Shot and edited within 21 days, max, with a final running time between 10 and 15 minutes.

The march of radical miniaturization and simplification in motion picture technology that made renegade road films suddenly possible in the late ‘60’s/early ‘70’s has not stopped nor even slowed down. 3CCD 24p cameras like the Panasonic DVX100a (one of which I own and plan to use for this project) have enabled us to dispense with the crew more or less entirely. We have two people, ten tapes, a camera, a flexible suction-cup mount, wireless microphones, a tripod, a destination, and a situation. If absolutely necessary, we’ll recruit two more people and a support vehicle although that does sort of shatter the objective of making a reality out of a very particular myth.

It is one thing entirely to watch a movie, to study it, to talk about it, to dissect and analyze it and write words about it that few people will ever read. It is something else to live it. This is an opportunity afforded by new technology and an eerily heavy blanket of déjà vu in world history. I aim to draw direct, researched parallels between the anxieties and escapist diversions of 1971 and 2007, acting fully in the name of academic legitimacy.

The literature of the time will be our roadmap. We will soak our heads in Foucault and Vonnegut, Terence McKenna and Hunter S. Thompson. We shall take them with us and scan their pages for relevance, scouring used bookshops for additional material if necessary. The Truth, as they say, is…well, you know where it is. If we are successful, the world that birthed us may very well begin to make a sliver of sense. If we fail, we may go mad and in fact never return to Wisconsin. It is the danger that makes it worth doing.