Regarding the Arts
I just got off the phone with Steve Fesenmaier, blogger for The Gazz and arguably the most knowledgeable person in the world regarding WV Film. Picking Fessemeier’s brain is like a Wikipedia of stories, films, and best of all, contacts. There is not an aspect of WV Film that Steve hasn’t been at least tangentially involved.
The reason of this call revolved around the upcoming WV Filmmaker’s Conference Jun 11-12 at the Landmark Studio For the Arts in Sutton WV. Its sponsored by the West Virginia Filmmakers Guild, and one of the workshops involves a roundtable with some of the state’s leading film exhibitors. Sadly, Steve will be unable to come to this year’s event. Of course he sends his best wishes.
While we were talking, we got on the subject of respect for WV Films. I’m a filmmaker by trade and the mountain state and its filmmakers mean a lot to me. In a weird way, I’d put a B.J. Gudmunson, Danny Boyd, or Robert Gates along side of a Jean Luke Goddard, Martin Scorsese or Francois Truffaut in terms of filmmakers of importance.
This is why I’m so consistently bothered by the fact that the West Virginia Arts community so frequently turns its back on local product. True, strides have been made in this direction, and I was particularly impressed by the product at the Mountaineer Video Festival earlier this year in Morgantown. However, multiple sources have told me that “WV Films aren’t good enough to screen.”
This simply isn’t true. All films are worthy of viewing, at least once. I firmly believe that. Any movie that is concieved as a work of art, no matter how horrible, no matter how slight, deserve their day. (This of course excludes crap like “Transformers” or “The Bounty Hunter” which are clearly concieved not as art, but as a consumable product. This is not to say that they aren’t art, only to say that their existence in art isn’t their primary purpose, and it would be fair to say that whether or not they get seen is not dependent on their worth.)
Still, All art deserves to be seen. Therefore, All films deserve to be seen. By at least one person. Hopefully more.
Last fall, I sat in an otherwise empty theater in Sutton WV watching BJ Gudmunson’s touching documentary “The Long Runway Home.” It does not matter that I was the only one in that theater. It was still seen. I communed with that film. That film and I had an experience.
That’s what’s required of film is for people to see it, and I worry that that is being lost in this state. We can be happy to support people who are making art, but it is just as important to consume art. I think a lot of this comes from the idea that art is an artist-based invention. I do not believe this. Good art is just as much about the audience’s response to the art than the art itself.
I would go further to say that since art is by definition subjective and non uniform, the object, play, film, song that we consider the work of art does not become art until someone consumes it. So the true work of art doesn’t exist as an object. It exists in our brains, in our hearts as an imprint of that object, a relationship with that object. We are communicating with an abstract idea that expresses something to us that we cannot articulate otherwise.
This is why it is so important to patronize the arts. Patronizing the arts creates the arts. Without audiences for a new theatrical work such as Kanawha Players laudable “Courting Disaster” or without viewers of Filmmaker Sun Jae Smith’s touching “Cashing Out” they can’t exist as pieces of art. They’re just things. Words are just tiny drawings until they are read. Songs are just soundwaves until they are heard by the human ear. Paintings are just blends of color on a canvas.
We have Festivall Charleston coming up soon, and while I think that it can sometimes border on elietist, the fact that so many artists in so many different fields are exposed to an audience they wouldn’t normally have makes it important. The juxtaposition of the artist against open-minded audience creates a whole new experience.
Think about this in deciding what you want to do this and every weekend.