Making a film about something personal is a different story than making a film about something not so personal. Although that may seem to be stating the obvious, it has been a very tangible insight for me lately. As I wrapped up my film “Anton LaVey – Into the Devil’s Den” I wasn’t only knee-deep in filmmaking but also in my own emotional experience. The need to balance these two aspects was absolutely essential to me. And that is as it should be.
A documentary film is, and has to be, an aesthetic and emotional expression of a highly subjective impression. If it is or claims to be something more or less than that, it is no longer a documentary film. It would be a commercial, a piece of demagogia, or it could even be an attempt at “objective” journalism. And possibly many other things. But it’s only a documentary film of value to me if it is an aesthetic and emotional expression of a highly subjective impression.
The recent work with the LaVey film has given me much amplifying food for thought in this regard. I am thoroughly satisfied with the film, as it is a real documentary according to my definition.
The story is my story, and it is certainly subjective and emotional. It is even amplified by other people who shared similar experiences at LaVey’s Black House in San Francisco. We experienced it, and it affected us emotionally. And that’s how my expression ended up. Sure, along the way I felt tempted to make a “bio pic” of sorts, or to give a more “nuanced” picture by weaving in film school-indoctrinated “contra-punctual” voices. But that would have meant transgressing my original vision (which is very often the most valuable one), and that I simply couldn’t do.
One clarifying moment in this adventure was when a former partner in the project said he didn’t want this to become “just another Carl Abrahamsson film.” Understandably, that got me thinking. I’m happy I made the right decision in that very moment. I cannot (and will not) ever not make a Carl Abrahamsson film.
People can take it or leave it, but eventually this is between me and the film gods. Am I making them happy by adhering to my existential-creative construct? I think so. I feel they are smiling at me and supporting me, and there really is no greater happiness than that.
All that now remains is to make more films. I have already begun. What has affected me, or who has affected me on deep levels at some point, I will always consider making a film about.
Statements about the process of making films are not really necessary, but they can act as pleasant pensées in the midst of that very process; not unlike getting a bit of fresh air.
You should watch the film and make up your own mind:
Photo by Curtis Harrington’s grave in Los Angeles by Vanessa Sinclair.
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