I am immersed in editing my movie of “Letting Go of God.” I am working at home, with a guy named Tony, and we are spending many hours a day going through footage and assembling a rough cut of the film. And so, most of my thoughts have to do with this.
And frankly, this process is not all that interesting unless you are the person editing it. For me, it is very interesting because I feel like five years of work is finally assembling itself in an interesting way. And this is my very favorite part of the process. I like this part more than pre-production and much more than shooting. This is like you are a knitter and you finally have the yarn and the pattern and the knitting needles and now you are just joyfully knitting away.
Since I am the actress in the film, I don’t know what a lot of the footage looks like and I’m seeing it for the very first time. And there are, ahem… surprises.
For example, I have learned that at some point in the last four years I turned into my aunt Barbara. And I had absolutely no idea until I started editing my film.
Oh my god.
I am my aunt Barbara.
Fortunately I loved my aunt Barbara. She did die when she was 56, she pointedly drank herself to death, and that was very sad for all of us that were trying to stop her. And she did it in a very Leaving Las Vegas-y kind of way – canceling her health insurance, going to the store and buying a shopping cart full of booze, coming home and turning on the TV, and waiting. And soon it was all over.
So, okay, it didn’t end well for her. But aunt Barbara was just… great. She was funny and laughed a lot and she was smart and so caring about us kids.
I normally think I look more like my aunt Bonnie – who I think is very pretty and also, she is still very much in my life.
But no, I don’t look so much like aunt Bonnie. It’s aunt Barbara – I’m definitely aunt Barbara. And then there are all the Chicago aunts – aunt Barbara’s aunts. And all of them, their faces did this thing – when they hit their mid-to-late-forties, their faces did this thing – where they went from mostly oval to mostly square. All of them. How did I think I was going to escape this inevitability?
I guess if I was going to nail it down, I had this vague idea that I were going to age like Audrey Hepburn did. I think this must be related to the idea I had at age eleven that I would get older and look like Cher.
And then there’s my mouth. I don’t have my mother’s mouth. I have my mother’s mother’s mouth. My grandmother, Marie – it’s right there for me to remember and identify it. Every time I make an “r” sound – Grandma Ivers is living on.
You know, you don’t look at yourself all that much. I mean, unless you are a crazed narcissist who spends the day gazing into the mirror, you don’t really spend all that much time looking at yourself. A few minutes in the morning, a few more minutes mid-day maybe. You spend a lot more time looking at other people, especially those that you live with and those you hang out with. It struck me just recently and with some profundity that the average person doesn’t really know what they look like day in and day out like their loved ones do.
So here I am, spending some weeks in a dark room looking at a screen of MYSELF. Oh gawd. When I edited “God Said Ha!” which was at a post-production house and not at home (like you can do now with Final Studio 2 which seems to be working seamlessly,)I drove home every night for the first two weeks in tears. I remember it well, because the tears would start about a mile from where I was working, just as I turned onto the 101 Freeway and headed the next few miles home. I usually had recovered myself by the time I arrived to my house. You see, I liked the performance in “God Said Ha!” but I just hated the way I looked.
Now, when I see God Said Ha! (which I had to do as I prepared for this current shoot) I think I look fine – good even. Possibly great. I am WISTFUL over how I looked then. I guess some part of me knows that eventually I will feel that way about this movie too – but oh! People! Imagine if you had to spend hours at a time just looking at yourself! It’s a Zen exercise in self-acceptance. And also, sort of a nightmare. But I have to admit… interesting. Like I suddenly realize, “Oh, when I move my arm like this, it looks like that. And then I turn my head just this way, why it looks like that. And oh -- so this is what other people look at when they look at me, oh, oh, oh!” And then all the insecurity, resignation, rallying self esteem kicks in and finally I become just an object, a dissociated-from-me-object that is the focus of a film and I editing it together, stitch stitch, stitch.
My friend Kathy Griffin says you can get yourself stretched. Yes, on screen. The digital age – you know. Maybe I’ll try it. Just a wee little teensy 5% stretch. No, maybe 7.5%. I may look like a giraffe by the time I’m done.
The set for the film is filled with furniture from my living room and also books and objects from around my house. And I felt so… well – I’ll say it, at “home” on stage. But now that I look at it, it all looks so fussy. And old-ladyish. My shock at having become aunt Barbara is exacerbated by the fact that I inherited many of Aunt Barbara’s (and my Grandmother Henrietta’s) things and those are the very things are on the set. Like I have an old religious triptych of the Madonna and child that has been in our family for over 100 years, a large Mexican rosary that hung above my grandmother’s bed, a painting of a young woman in a bonnet that was in their living room. When I inherited those objects, I put them up and around my house in “honor” of my beloved, now dead relatives. What I thought was in respect of them, turned out to be something much darker. Because, you see, I DIDN’T REALIZE I WAS TURNING INTO THEM! Oh jeez.
It makes me want to sell my house and all my belongings and buy a very contemporary house that is stark and clean and… modern! And not at all like aunt Barbara.
Even though, I loved aunt Barbara. I just didn’t know, I just had no idea; I just am so astonished that I turned into her!
Which I suppose is my fate. And fortunately, and I’ll say it again, I loved aunt Barbara. Yes, it’s true; she was deeply depressed and lonely. (The comedy writer in me wants to write here: … and who isn’t? But the truth is, I am not depressed and I am not lonely. Even though I feel like I am much like my aunt Barbara in so many ways.)
Please don’t write to me: no! You look good. DO NOT. I know, I look all right. Really, I feel good. But let me ask you, how would you feel if you had to spend hours and hours and hours looking at yourself? It is… a rather deep moment of truth to experience, let me tell you.
p.s. I loved all the comments on the last post. It’s nice to know that so many others jab at the radio station channel to turn off Bush the way I do. And I loved, LOVED, “Will someone please give Bush a blow job so we can impeach him?” bumper sticker. I would put that one on my car if I had it. Although I would have to come up with some explanation for Mulan. Hmmm… It means that Clinton got such a bad hair cut and blow dry that he was impeached? It means that…
Okay, the comedy writer in me has completely failed me in this moment.
Anyway, back to editing…