The below was written on the train ride home from a short business trip.
There are lonelier places in the world than a small hotel room, but I haven’t been in any of them — not lately, insofar as I can remember in this moment.
That’s an important detail, incidentally. Attention to the moment. It’s something I’m learning, trying to learn. Too many of us, too often, myself included – in the rush of livelihood we fail to pay immediate attention to what is truly happening to us and within us as we go on living.
I woke up this morning in such a hotel room. I had slept deeply, because I’ve been sick. Before I could even situate myself, though, I felt it: the void that comes when we are without our usual or most precious tethers to the world. I am traveling for work, so my wife isn’t with me. My pets, obviously, aren’t with me. It’s been a short trip so I don’t have many of my things.
At the beginning of the trip, this lack of attachments was exciting. It was a break from the usual, rather than the removal of the usual from my immediate sense field. I looked forward, only a day ago, to the sensation of Travel itself. Regardless of the destination (for me at least) it’s liberating to simply move from my usual location, temporarily, to another one. This is of course common, even the point, to traveling – unless we have more practical reasons for relocation (such as work responsibilities). The excitement, and the related sense of freedom, however, just did not survive this morning.
This morning, I woke up and felt only – alone.
I recognized the feeling and I determined to feel it. It hurt, but it didn’t kill me. I showered and packed and went to breakfast; all of this made me feel better. Soon after that, I met up with a colleague and then all was well. Even now, as I write this during my trip home, it’s not so bad. There are people around and I know I will be back among the familiar before long. I’m alone but I’m not. I’m not okay but I am.
Loneliness, in general, has been on my mind again, lately, after the rush to complete a new cut of Multiverse over the past few weeks.
Readers who remember our Indiegogo pitch video for Multiverse might also remember that we framed the video around the delivery of its central theme and goal: the film as an exploration of loneliness. At the time, that was about as far as that story went. This make sense – even more so now – because the discussion was at that time only the beginning of a very specific journey, both for me and the film.
I wrote the script for Multiverse about a year ago, in early August of 2012. We produced the project a few months later. At the time, I knew only that I felt compelled to tell this particular story. I didn’t have a full idea as to why its production was such an imperative.
There were a few practical reasons why I nominally “decided” to make the film. First, I was feeling the itch. It had been too long since I had last directed a film. After years spent writing and writing and writing, I needed to create something tangible again. I needed to fully explore a vision. I felt this palpably, struggling to identify, accept, respect the sensation for almost a full week. At the same time, not coincidentally, I was arriving at a crossroads in life.
I had been taking too close a look, at too many parts of myself that I had been avoiding too expertly for years, for anything else to happen. A storm had been built up inside me, had performed its version of restructuring, and was now dying out, at least temporarily.
In the eerie quiet moments following the departure of the storm, Multiverse knocked. In this way, a project that would traverse over a year of my life erupted spasmodically from the alchemical ether of what probably appeared on the surface, to others, as a normal day. It was a simple thing and not a simple thing. A rush of feeling came, and instead of repressing it, I took out a pen and paper and delivered the rush to the itch.
Regardless of its other qualities – which I do not presume to be able to measure objectively – a truly good script, for me, must retain a level of mystery, even in later drafts. For this to happen, and for the film itself to earn the right to exist, the writer must be honest, and probably also brave. Speaking only for myself — I just haven’t found any other way of striving effectively towards these goals other than to abandon myself to the story. The same can be said of production and photography.
Still, if we are to explore something, we must become a part of it. This takes time, and it takes trust. I have historically been better at delivering the former than the latter.
The reason I wanted to discuss all this is because I am really just now, as the film arrives at its final stages, beginning to truly understand why I needed to make Multiverse.
I had the itch – yes. I felt compelled to run towards, rather than from, the deep sensation of loneliness that informed the genesis of the story – also true. But there is a difference between wanting and needing to do something and actually doing it. In this way, over time, Multiverse became a living thing to me…something that needed my help (and the help of many others) to become not just a film or a story but a bold and thriving exploration of life.
To be completely honest, I didn’t think I had it in me. In truth, I probably didn’t. It is a testament to the rest of the production team, and to the cast and crew, that together we were able to scratch the film together over the course of a year. I speak not only of the labor performed by these men and women but also their ideas, their passion, their openness and commitment and creativity. To have crafted a story about loneliness, about a very particular sort of loneliness inextricably connected to a sense of social anomie, through the combined efforts of a group of good people – it’s an achievement of which I am immensely proud.
Still, I’ve been wondering why it took me the full year to truly begin thinking about what this film means. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, in between viewings of our newest cut.
I’m not going to give anything away. But I think I can share some ideas about what Multiverse has come to mean to me, now that a year has passed and I’ve had time and space to watch the film evolve and, subsequently, to further consider its mystery.
I think Multiverse is a warning, to myself and, hopefully, others. I think the mystery that drove me to make the film was that ever-broad, age-old question – why? Specific to the film and its constituent parts – why do we collectively move so quickly, so ceaselessly, so predictably, along beaten paths that show all appearances of having become fundamentally divorced from their humane destinations? Why do we so seldom slow down and feel? Why can’t we seem to do something else?
And then, of course, there are the consequences to consider.
There is a cost to loneliness. It is not just a feeling, and it is not just a personal experience. There is a price we pay, when we collectively fail to admit or accept what we feel, when we feel it. The price gets higher when we actively avoid or mask our private experiences. Multiverse, for me, has become a way for me to teach myself this lesson. I don’t always remember it, but that’s okay. This morning, I felt lonely, but I knew it would pass. I knew all I had to do was shower, pack, and get out among people. I also had to just – move.