Production has begun on chapter 6 of Suburban RED, titled Suburban GRAY, continuing with the color motifs. As with the previous chapters, it became time to thing about what the color/shade of gray means to me. Immediately I thought of light and shadow and how light will create a shadow when an object comes in between. Shadow is the color of mystery and light is the color of mystery as well. We live in the world between these mysteries. There is what is known and there is the Mystery, with the big M, as how Joseph Campbell with his Power of Myth would put the world where eveything happens seen and unseen, known and unknown. There is the duality and dualism of living within the mystery, between light and shadow. Then there is the theme of the shadow, as in the Shadow Self. That thing that is us that is unknown to us, or that is known but not recognized or denied the light of day.
Life in the Shadows
The bedroom set that has become a motif throughout Suburban RED is now complete with decor made up of the gray of the printed newspaper, the silver of tin foil and the black of plastic garbage bags. I wanted to bring the eye upward so I put up the white Christmas lights. (It being Christmas time, I decided to do the shot that features the Christmas tree to set the story to also be at Christmas time.) The room is equiped with an old 1980s tape cassette boom box which the character uses to listen to music. I wanted to set the scene as a pre-personal computer era so I brought in the large mirror and propped it up on the computer desk covering my computer screen. I've been living on this set since Christmas and will be sleeping in here until shooting ends. As with all the previous bedroom sets, I live in the room and so the story partly stems from narrrative ideas from my current living situation.
The Same Self
"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." - T. S. Eliot
Each character in Suburban RED is based on an aspect of my self during the ages of 13 to 23 years old. Eacj reflect how I actually was and how I dressed, or they reflect those people I saw around me that I was pulled to emulate in some way or at least weigh my own personality against. In the Sunnyvale of the nineteen sixties and seventies, the city seemed literally divided in class demographic by the railroad tracks - "the other side of the tracks." There was the north where we lived that was populated by more working class people of color. Then there was south of the tracks where we moved when I was three and where you would find Sunnyvale more populated by white middle class people. Much of the life of my family, although working class, was also steeped in the air of upward mobility. My dad was a teacher and owned several homes as well as land in the Santa Cruz Mountains so I grew up with a sense of entitlement. As an artist who attended schools mostly populated by white middle class students, I ran with the idea that my life was destined to happen away from family and away from my cultural and economic background. It eventually dawned upon me while screening a film at the San Francisco Cinemateque that I had moved so far from the life I lived in Sunnyvale with family and cousins and their concerns and life styles that I felt a bit perturbed sitting there watching my film send flickers of light on the watching audience, an audience that looked very unlike my family. Was it okay that I had moved so far from the social mileu and culture of my upbringing? I resolved that evening that if I was going to continue in the experimental film community that I would have to embrace some aspect of Chicanismo and being raised working class. At that time, as part of that resolve I made a film called Jump Fence.
At first I wanted to revive the character I played in Jump Fence and have the character in GRAY to move around in hip hop style movements (popping for example). This character I called Capman was inspired by the male Latino students that I worked with in a program for "at risk" teens - at risk of dropping out of school. The students would sort of punch at the air while performing a poem or rap they had written. The character was mostly based on an energy and an attitude that I felt in some of the students. At the time I wanted to create a dreamlike film in the style of Maya Deren but populated by imagery that might concern Chicanos. When I have doubts about the effectiveness of this kind of filmmaking I am reminded of an experience I had screening and then having a Q&A with inmates through an arts program at San Quentin State Prison. Upon seeing the film some men asked about the masks featured in the film while others talked frankly about violence in their childhoods. One inmate asked "Did you get the belt too?" After the screening the program director told me that this was the most they had ever heard the men open up and talk about their lives. I thought about this and wondered whether the men would have opened up if they had seen a more straight forward documentary or if the film was not made by a Chicano and filled with recognizable imagery.
Upon developing this character for GRAY I realized that this project was too different in style than Jump Fence and that it would be better to settle on some similarity in wardrobe and music style and dance deriving from hip hop, but the character had to move and be more like me, as I am in my currect personality.
The character of the old man, the father of the main character has been a study of my mom and of some of the realms of being elderly. I see the old man character as a way of embracing my own aging and inevitable old age.