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Filmmaking is Like Tai Chi: A "Lit Fest" Experience

“One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1000 years. To read is to voyage through time.”

~ Carl Sagan

In Shanghai, China, M Glam an M Restaurant Group establishment, annually hosts “Lit Fest.” The Literary Festival is the leading English-language literary festival in China. Celebrating the importance of literature and how words influence the arts, but as well as the daily fabric of our lives, creatives and educators are gathered in one place to give lectures on selected topics. This allows for a discourse between readers and writers to be established.

I was fortunate enough to attend with VIP tickets granted by my employer at the time, who was one of the sponsors. Lit Fest organizes the lectures throughout the month of March (so this is a longtime overdue) with panels, lunches, workshops, and live events; however, I feel that the themes discussed in the lecture I attended still fit well with October. My brief summary of my experience won’t nearly do enough justice to actually sitting in the session, but I hope any small nugget can be captured from this post. On this occasion, I learned how filmmaking is like Tai Chi.

Photo by Yiqun Tang

There were many great options to choose from, and I wish I could have attended all of them, but the limited time allowed only for Words of Image Quality. This lecture was presented by Christopher Doyle a renowned cinematographer and director. It was quite the experience to see him in person and I wish I could have stayed afterward to speak with him, unfortunately, students beckoned. Despite having to attend to students, I was able to glean a new perspective on visual creation and its connection with words.

M Glam created the perfect forum for a creative gathering. The sophisticated dining bar and lounge set an elegant atmosphere with modern flair and class, located on the bund. The room was energized upon entry, packed with an eager audience. I sat off to the side with a cup of orange juice and my writing pad, wondering what I would gather from this experience.

The discussion was unique that in its seeming disorderedness there was sound delivery. The organized yet scattershot delivery held my attention. The talk ebbed in and out of a photo and video collage. Mr. Doyle covered the ideas of balance, idea sharing, and purity in his talk with the occasional beer break. He began by shutting down one of the very reasons most of us came with the declaration that no one can teach you how to make a film. It is up to us to make the image resonate and reach our audience. In transforming words to image, there is a dependency on word interpretation and giving words the space they deserve, or desire.

Photo by Pj Accetturo

Mr. Doyle positioned that what we do, the thing we find pleasure in and are good at should have balance. Our efforts should take us beyond simply doing, and to create, we ought to indulge in who we are. He compared filmmaking to Tai Chi, in that there is an exchange of energy with give and take between the objective and subjective. In creating, we should use what is brought to us and let the idea carry us somewhere else, perhaps somewhere even unexpected. It is then perceived that the filmmaking process is one that incorporates the application and reapplication of craftmanship, conveyance and receipt, and engagement with purity and innocence.

What makes an artist? What is the essence of an image? What makes a masterpiece? These are questions with no simple answer that Mr. Doyle posed in his session. What was made clear was the existence of dichotomy in the engagement created by the director between the actor, medium and audience, presenting art, and various perspectives that can be attributed to that art. The dichotomy leads to understanding yourself a little bit more or gaining new insights about yourself.

As a content creator and teacher, I found this talk invaluable. Visual sharing is pertinent in modern learning environments. It is an interesting concept to unwrite what is written, and still have the same meaning portrayed. Learning about yourself is key not only in obtaining knowledge but in the creative process. My main takeaway can be summed up in what Mr. Doyle asserts it’s all about—the people. The art we create, the words we make, while for own pleasure, is viewed by and shared with ideas. It’s an exchange.

How do you see your art as an exchange? Do you indulge in yourself for your art? Share how in the comments down below.

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