Lots of progress made in a fairly short amount of time. I have been keeping notes and have some information to share over the next few posts.
First, a little bit of backstory on where the idea originated. It’s been over 20 years since I visited NE Oklahoma and Picher, OK. Last time I was there was as a student collecting soil samples for a scientific research project associated with my Masters thesis. In that work, I was investigating the relationship between particle size distribution and heavy metal concentrations in chat for extrapolation to potential exposures and health hazards. Even then, I remember feeling like the research I was doing, while useful in some respects, did not convey or communicate any real message, the way I wanted to. I recall having a discussion with my advisor once, about a documentary or story – but at that time it only felt like a pipe-dream, nothing more. Soon after achieving my degree I got my first career-level job, life took over and I moved on to other things. I never forgot about the place, kept up with the headlines, but always wondered if my work made any difference. I kept tabs on issues and followed stories about the area but it wasn’t until recently that I felt like maybe there’s something more to contribute.
Straight 8 is something I have entered a couple of times before. I’ve always embraced the opportunity to try and think of a concept from nothing, to something, to execution. This year I registered before ever having a real idea. I just felt like the pressure of knowing I’d committed to it would be a good driver of having to come up with something. Going into this one, my mind was actually headed in a completely different direction. I was thinking much more fictional and experimental. I went back to some old notes I’d made years ago and worked through the concept. But the more I thought about it the more I wanted to explore something in a documentary style. I started thinking out loud, talking through it, talking about ideas accessible to me, relevant to Oklahoma. And something that I thought an international audience might find unique or interesting about Oklahoma. This idea was in my wheelhouse – I’d known about Tar Creek, I’d known the challenges there, and the continuing struggles that the place has experienced. So the more I thought about the more it began to seem possible.
What I’ve found many times is that an idea that feels right seems to take on a life of its own. It grows legs and starts to move in a direction that wasn’t necessarily planned. It morphs and evolves into something more, something greater and sometimes, something different. Part of this feels like trying to bridle a mustang. It can get out of control. Trying to get my arms around something with so much weight, so much impact, and such a vast and storied past is difficult – and i felt that right away in approaching this idea for a mere 3 minute and 20 second film. My intent, from the beginning was to create a multi-part story, even a multi-film story. But I’ve since come to accept that I need to handle this one piece at a time. And while I could enter the Straight 8 festival multiple times and have multiple parts, I felt like I would be moving away from the intent of being able to tell a story with only one roll of Super 8 film. Arguably, an even harder task than knowing that I might have more time with multiple entires. The idea was then re-centered on keeping the focus on a single roll.
More to come on the idea in future posts…