Particle physics art

The art of finishing

“I may not have gotten where I wanted to go, but I think I ended up where I needed to be.”
– Douglas Adams

“Maybe the story you end is never the one you start.”
-Salman Rushdie

Einstein proposed and published two groundbreaking scientific papers related to relativity theories. First, in 1905, there was the restricted theory of relativity, then, in 1915, its greatest achievement: the general theory of relativity. Together, these theories revolutionized theoretical physics, throwing traditional Newtonian laws of motion and mechanics from the center of human import. A famous thought experiment by Einstein went like this: if two people are in separate elevators going at different speeds, they will experience time differently, and no one can prove that they are the ones who are on time. “correct”. It sounds weird, but it turns out to be true and has been empirically proven. time is relative. Gravity warps time. Einstein showed that the speed of light is the same all the time, no matter how fast you are moving. But everything else matters and the time, depend and change. A new concept – space-time – was born.

With this new 20th century theory, the absolutes of time have been set aside. Absolutes have even become outdated. I wish my Talkhouse editor would consider the possibility that we move in different elevators at different speeds and that my clocks move faster. As the deadline looms on this article, I feel the time to have to move differently for both of us. ‘Cause I really want more seconds, more minutes, more days, more time.

“I like the delays. I like the hissing noise they make as they pass.
– Douglas Adams

Director Rennik Soholt talks to his subjects Aidenn and Lorne while filming Forced change.

But I really don’t want to talk about deadlines. I do, but I don’t. I mean, I’m a filmmaker. And sometimes even a television producer. And so, I know the schedules, deadlines, edit locks, and release dates. Everything in media is on a timeline. But despite the fact that I know the schedules intimately and professionally, it also took me 14 years to make my feature documentary Forced change. I hadn’t expected this. When Katrina arrived in 2005 and I rented a car to drive from New York to New Orleans to film people entering their homes for the first time to see what they had lost, I had no idea it would take that long. No one did, let alone the people I was touring with. And I wasn’t on a schedule. I wanted to make a film, a work of art, something important, even entertaining, but also something completed.

Spike Lee has completed his incredible four-part documentary series about Katrina and New Orleans, When the dikes burstin a year. trouble the waterthe feature documentary by Tia Lessin and Carl Deal, was nominated for an Oscar in 2008.

And I was there. Still making my movie. With money invested, time invested, people involved, many hours of images.

Musician Kermit Ruffins, a New Orleans great who tirelessly supported the city, in Rennik Soholt Forced change.

After the first year, I still had 12 characters; some stayed, some left town. After second year, I had eight characters. Then six. Because all of the long-running visual media focused on rebuilding New Orleans, I focused my attention on my best stories, which were about the people who left. Finally, I narrowed it down to four key characters, all telling different sides of the story. It was a slow way to find the building blocks of a documentary narrative, but certainly an organic and honest one.

It was in 2014 when I decided I had to finish this film. So I started a Kickstarter campaign and raised over $30,000. I hired another editor and cinematographer. We worked, we shot, we structured sequences. We found holes. We threw pictures. We added visual elements. We have planned shoots. We were looking for a film, a story, something grounded.

Then one of the characters decided not to return to New Orleans. It was supposed to be my end. But plans change – this is real life. Suddenly I felt like I had no way to finish the movie. What I had were four separate stories, connected by shared past experience, but not narratively connected.

On the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, 10 minutes of the film aired on the PBS NewsTime. I was happy. Ecstatic, in fact. I got paid (a little). I have the press. It was exciting! And I wondered if that was all. The film was not finished. I mean, it almost did, but it still needed something. It felt like four stories, not a feature film.

Director Rennik Soholt and cinematographer Joe Brunette interviewing another of Forced changeTristan’s subjects, in Georgetown, Texas.

I understood along the way that a film must say something bigger than its stories. Even if it is nuanced and not definitive, it must be coherent and complete in a mysterious way, like any end product of creation.

I think I figured out how to make it work. You will see if you look Forced change yourself.

But the question is: when is a work of art finished and how do you know it?

Now it’s true, some arts take longer than others. David Lynch’s first movie eraser head took five years. Koyaanisqatsi, the brilliant dialogue-free documentary filmed around the world, ran for seven years. But how much time do we really spend “making” a film? And how much is invested in thinking, editing, adding, deleting?

“Perhaps I could be satisfied, momentarily, with a work finished in one go, but I would soon be bored looking at it; therefore, I prefer to continue working on it so that later I can recognize it as a work of my mind.
-Henri Matisse

Contemporary Dutch conceptual artist Petra Groen says that once you start removing things, it gets closer. “For me, a work of art is finished when I add something and start taking it away. Usually I let it sit for a few days so I can have a new look. I’ve heard that too from other artists. I think this applies to paintings, sculptures and even documentaries.

“The end never comes when you think it will. It’s always ten steps after the worst moment, then a weird turn to the left.
-Lena Dunham

Is it ultimately about finding the end of the road, the finish line? Or, in some cases, does he find the money in the end?

Director Rennik Soholt and cinematographer Joe Brunette during the filming of Forced change.

Movies cost millions of dollars. Documentaries only cost thousands, but many thousands. Documentaries have a smaller audience than blockbusters. So you can’t spend too much money. But it’s still an expensive medium, and I made Forced change myself.

Kickstarter brought me money, but no one else gave it to me. I learned on this trip that you need to be experienced in order for backers and custodians to trust you. So you just have to make a movie, as you can. Nobody takes risks with someone without experience; it takes experience to get someone to take risks on you. And I found that even with years of television experience, you can’t convince someone to give you money for a movie if you haven’t done a movie. And if you don’t have a lot of money, it takes time. So what are you doing?

You are making a movie. You finish it. Even if it takes 10 years. 14 years old. 17 years.

“A film is never finished, only abandoned.”
-George Lucas

I think timelines are important. Art takes time, storytelling takes practice and love, and some arts are very expensive. The more expensive the art, the more planning is needed to avoid costly mistakes. The film is expensive, but it can feel random or even cheap. I mean, maybe that’s why some filmmakers who want to make feature films start out by making documentaries. There is a lower barrier to entry. Just go somewhere with a video camera or your phone, point it and record. But anyone who’s made documentaries knows that it’s a lot more complicated than that. Joshua Oppenheimer said of making his brilliant doc The act of killing that more time and planning went into each scene. It took days, sometimes months, to make sure the camera captured what it was looking for. I can’t compare myself to Oppenheimer – his work is great – but I can relate to the layman’s belief that you start filming and the film starts to be made, and the practitioner’s knowledge that it’s all about of timing, waiting, aiming, point of view, construction of a reality, heavy and light production, pre-planning.

With all the time in the world and all the money in the world, you can do whatever you want. But the question is, will it be good? Boundaries give us structure, give us boundaries. Deadlines make us finish. Right? So should all art have a deadline?

In a scene from forced change, Lorne and his son, Aidenn, cycle together in Georgetown, Texas.

Wait, I’m talking about making art, not meeting deadlines. But maybe they are all linked and intertwined in the life of a creator.

But time being relative, Einstein and all, deadlines are relative. Right?

So consider this currently discontinued trial.

“Art completes what nature cannot complete.”
― Aristotle

“The end is at the beginning and yet you continue.”
-Samuel Beckett

Featured image shows Forced change‘South DakotaDirector Rennik Soholt and cinematographer Joe Brunette get a B-roll in Leander, Texas. All images courtesy of Rennik Soholt and 103rd Street Productions.