Our neighbors black Labrador Retriever loves to play. Every time he sees someone in our shared driveway, his response is the same. He’ll drop a drool covered tennis ball at their feet. It’s time to play. If he had his way, even in this crazy heat, he would literally play until he dropped of exhaustion.
My oldest daughter Johanna is the same way. This week she said the dreaded words, “I’m bored.” Keep in mind that we just came back from vacation. Keep in mind that she’s at a camp where they spend most of the day doing fun science experiments and playing games.
As Johanna’s father, it’s hard for me to sympathize. You see I know my daughter. If she had her choice, she would spend her entire summer doing three things.
2) Playing in an inflatable jumpy castle.
3) Riding roller coasters
As you can imagine, it can be something of a challenge to keep Johanna engaged. If pressed to name Johanna’s love language, I’d have to say, “Roller coasters.” Maybe we should introduce her to diving. Any sport that involves jumping off of a tower into a pool of water would have an immediate appeal for Johanna.
At the beginning of this summer, I presented an idea to Johanna about making a movie together. This is what I wrote on May 17th.
This could be a great summer project! I could teach my daughter about the elements of a story and we could work on the screenplay together. We could make our own set and we could involve my daughter’s friends, and the neighbor’s dog. Our entire family, including Emma, would be the crew and the cast for our production.
How much progress have we made on our movie?
Zilch, Nada, None.
Part of the problem is that it seemed a little overwhelming and I just didn’t know where to start. We’ve also been really busy. Ever since the end of the academic school year, Johanna has been participating in camps and we’ve been on vacation going from place to place. We’ve been on the go and as result, making a movie wasn’t high on the priority list. Of course, these are all my excuses.
It’s now mid-July and the summer rapidly getting away from us.
While in California on vacation, I had a moment of inspiration, or at least I borrowed a moment of inspiration. I read about these two students at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. Ian MacDougall, a film student, had to make a short film for one of his classes. As a result of procrastination and problems with his computer hard drive, MacDougall hadn’t even started his assignment. A little desperate, MacDougall and fellow film student Mack Warner decided to make a documentary about trying to get Morgan Freeman to narrate their documentary. They raised money through a Facebook page and an Indigogo campaign, and travelled cross-country to Clarksdale, Mississippi to attend a Blues Festival frequented by Freeman. They went on a kind of quest and talked to locals, all in the hopes of making their pitch to Morgan Freeman. In the end, they were unsuccessful in getting Morgan Freeman to narrate their film, but they did make a documentary chronicling their experience.
The idea of these two film students making a documentary about going cross-country to get narrator extraordinaire Morgan Freeman to participate in their movie seemed like pure genius. It’s not a movie about achieving some grand result, but rather it’s a movie about process. It’s a journey film, about the steps we take to pursue our dreams. Showing that sometimes, what we gain from a given experience is measured less by what we achieve, and more about the lengths we are willing to get there, and the things we learn along the way.
Inspired by MacDougall and Warner, I’m going to try to sell Johanna on doing a documentary. Our documentary won’t be about anything as ambitious as going to Mississippi and trying to get Morgan Freeman to take part in our movie. Instead, I was thinking about following Johanna with our video camera as we try to accomplish a challenging task. I could follow her with a camera as she trains for a 5k race (this is my favorite), or I could follow her as we try to talk to someone famous living in New England. We could interview people who are doing really cool things in the local area.
It may not be as exciting or captivating as creating our own movie from whole-cloth, and writing our screenplay and making our own sets, but it could still be a lot of fun and offer a really great educational experience. In the end, the documentary would be less about what we accomplish at the end, and more about a father and daughter going through a process together.
Of course, all of this depends on whether I can sell Johanna on the possibility of doing a documentary with her father. This is the same girl whose love language is roller coasters and who could literally spend all day in an inflatable jumpy castle. This might be a tough sell.
On Thursday, July 19th, I’m going to take Johanna to her favorite local restaurant for macaroni and cheese followed by dessert and I’m going to give her the pitch. I’ll take our flip video camera and we’re going to talk about making a documentary.