Bless em, the judging panel of the Paddling Film Festival and The Waterwalker Film Festival have voted Bass by Kayak the best sea kayaking film of 2018. They’re nice emails to get first thing in the morning. Cartoon figure trophies jump from the inbox, laden with digital wreaths and laurels. Content is excited, as if I’ve won a spare kidney. Good going fella, I think to myself, time to celebrate with booze, fast cars and liquorice!
With only one of those things, I pick the least filthy shirt from an offensive pile of work clothes and head to the shed. Settling into moving stuff about- reacquainting myself with the space, and finding great joy in sorting through odd nails, I graduate to reanimating an old gate. Aligning a latch and hasp of different size and shape coincides with long swigs of homemade wine. I drink freely. Jobs are not work here.
Several jars in and I’m inspired. Not necessarily by the gongs for Bass by Kayak– awarded by people I will never meet, in faraway countries, but the idea that the awards makes me feel like a filmmaker, vindicated. And the wine, yes, the wine. I’m lashed, retiring to the fireside, thinking that I’m the luckiest bloke in the world. As if filling, or full, my mind wanders aimlessly through story ideas, strange plots and characters. Fire, as so many people have said, is wonderful company. Film ideas seem endless. I consider putting the billy on, but think better of it, filling my pickle jar with wine instead.
I slip easily into romantising the life of a dirtbag filmmaker. Having watched a Spike Jonze documentary a while ago, the prodigious filmmaker comes to mind as my prophet. The likeable skater-come-filmmaker seems to be the embodiment of making something out of nothing. His brimming American confidence and innovative storytelling is now infamous. I’d Googled him late into the night after watching the documentary, wondering why people like him make things happen. I concluded that like other creative savants’ he 1) fell into it, and 2) accidentally loved it. He personifies the unintended expert, blending work and leisure with no real division. I imagine also that he cares little for money. Making one project after another based on good timing, exploiting himself as an outlier (skater dude), with his casual ability to push buttons on a handycam. He realised early on the endless potential of his (the) storytelling world. I wondered if he saw himself as a success- a filmmaker with kudos, given his often obnoxious (aka Jackass) films and his mixed filmography of anything and everything. Alain de Bottons ‘Status Anxiety’ comes to mind. Does Spike have status as filmmaker, skater, or opportunist? How seriously do people take him? A copy of deBotton’s book often catches my eye as I leave the house. It did, oddly enough, when heading to the shed. Timely really, as the front door of a person’s home represents a threshold; of heading somewhere, to do or be something. You leave with a task, and perhaps an identity in mind, stepping towards a particular vocation, or obligation for a particular reason.
In the company of a slow burning elephant-foot hunk of oak, I flex my PhD wankery and pour a half measure of wine. I think loosely, philosophically, about Martin Heidegger- a man famous for writing about human ‘being’ and ‘thresholds’, wondering if I can glean anything from him by craftily merging ‘status’-with-‘thresholds’. Given I’d give up all the wine in the world to potter in the shed all week, and make films on weekends, I question why I don’t do just that. What drives ‘regular’ work? Am I enacting a ghostly pursuit of status? Do I care for what others are seeing in the mirror I reflect onto the world?
Quietly, a small silver car pulls alongside the shed. A supremely attractive woman steps out. By golly, what have we here! Ah, of course (you idiot, instantly sober), it’s Helen. ‘I forgot you were coming home tonight, hun! Welcome! Welcome to my party’. The billy goes on during an exchange of daily news. I tell her about the gongs from the film festivals. We toast, and settle in.
Our news recaps the week just gone, and touches on the weeks ahead. We fill in the non-verbal space that the fire and I had worked up. Seeking advice, I question if the film festival win contributes to my ideology of success, and how this weighs on status? Helen pounces, questioning my happiness as an occasional teacher, seasonal field guide and part time filmmaker. Indeed, I ponder. How exploitative of a person’s potential is being a poly-jobist? Does chewing over a few building projects and a few films a year cut the creative mustard? Stumbling on my deeper, earlier, highly intelligent pondering, I ask ‘What is being and what is pretending?’
Helen repeats a common question I get asked all the time ‘why do you do all this stuff – the expeditions, the quirky projects?’, and asks why I avoid providing any kind of real answer. Because, I tell her, I’m still coming to grips with the purpose of life, and I don’t see an epiphany hitting me in the face anytime soon.
So, what’s the point of this wine soaked reflection? What conclusions did I come to in the shed? Did Helen’s constantly endearing lines of questioning and stories shed light? Did the wild vino help in my pondering? Answers= Pondering; not a lot; yes; absolutely.
I concluded that 1) Winning the film festivals is great, and I should drink to it (tick) 2) Having a mixed vocational farm-city-office-film life is pretty damn good and 3) Status, as a self-manifested aspect of how we see our image portrayed to others is a great idea to ponder when sitting by a fire in the company of a Helen.