A Reflection on December

December, 2014

In the twelfth and final month of the year, a full revitalization took place in me. The discouragement that consumed me in October and haunted me in early November eroded. It eroded with rest, as a new perspective was gained that would change my outlook for the better, in 2015.

Schoolwork lessened with December’s arrival, and I rested from the pressure I’d placed on myself in making the film—the pressure of perfectionism. I sought a break from thinking about the film, as my perfectionism had done great damage to my peace of mind about it. I welcomed life at a slower pace, but the desire to work on a project did not fade away.

I felt like working on a personal project with a near “finish line” in sight, that would nevertheless be a stimulating one. The idea I’d toyed with was perfect. In November, I began plotting a surprise birthday party for my best friend, James. Among the things I planned and prepared for it, was this personal project that would become my gift to him: an original cassette tape.

Recording and trading our own audio cassette tapes was one of the great staples of our cherished childhood. The idea of making another one for the first time in at least six years lit me up. During my family’s November trip to Nashville, I began writing the script for the tape. The tape would contain a Side A and a Side B filled with original segments, jingles, and commercials—all homage to some of the interests, activities, and highlights of our lives. The tape was entitled, WESB Radio on Cassette’s 18th Birthday Celebration Cassette. WESB were the call letters for a “cassette station” (versus radio station) that I recorded tapes as, years ago.

I had a blast making it. I loved the linear process of it. In digital production, you have control over every single element of every single piece of audio, and can do whatever you like with it. You can move things around wherever you like with ease. You can click to wherever you want to go in a timeline. In making the cassette, there was no editing. There was only “record”. Everything was one element at once, going into the mic of the tape machine. But, there was “rewind”, “play” and cue up, then “pause” and “record” when I wanted to do something over again. In the script, I time-coded music and sound effects elements for playback off of my stereo when recording.

Mechanically, it was somewhat painstaking. I recorded on the mono channel internal input of a ten or fifteen year-old portable cassette tape machine. I bought it, used, in 2009. The machine began to frequently eat the tape while making Side B (I remedied the issue by winding through the tape several times on another machine), and I experienced pitch issues. I was hopeful that the worn out machine would last me through until the end. It did, and James thoroughly enjoyed taking it home and listening to it. I even dug out colored pencils, pens, and markers for an illustrated and hand-lettered cover for the cassette case (a paper slip) as I used to do all of the time, years ago. My cover doesn’t look much different than it would’ve looked if I’d done it eight or nine years ago! It was tremendous fun to return to that era.

I began recording the tape (and finishing the script as I went along) five days before I gave it to James on the day of his surprise birthday party. Doing the project was a much-needed diversion from the worry and pessimism that overwhelmed me in October and early November. Doing it, and planning the surprise birthday party, altogether, was a significant part of my healing.

A few days before James’ surprise birthday party, I saw my friend, Sophie, in a locally renowned performance of The Nutcracker. I dragged our good friend, TR, along for the performance. Sophie is a dedicated and talented ballerina, and performed beautifully. I’ve seen The Nutcracker several times throughout the years, but came away with a new appreciation for ballet as an incredible artform. Its marriage of graceful dance with soaring music is compelling.

In October, my family broke ground on a new home we are building. It is no ordinary home. It will be a non-toxic and mold resistant home. My parents have done thorough research in determining the materials and methods that will best ensure our new home will be as non-toxic as possible. In 2012, my family left our previous home because of the severe health issues hidden toxic mold had on all three of us—and most dramatically, on me. I have been recovering and healing, since. This new home will be a haven to provide us the completion of our healing.

A local newspaper, The Peoria Journal Star, picked up the story of the unique home we’re building. A photographer came to our new house to snap a few pictures of my family and I. The next day, the article was published for the December 12th edition. Our hope for the article is to better broaden people’s awareness of toxic mold and non-toxic home construction. At present, these are widely new concepts. Soon after the article was published, we heard from a few people struggling with toxic mold.

The Christmas season was a bustling one. It was a good one with friends and family. Might I add that many a crooner and sounds of the twentieth century were played off of my stereo. Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Ray Conniff & the Ray Conniff Singers, and instrumentalists Percy Faith, Paul Mauriat, and Bert Kaempfert, provided the ambiance.

Now, for what December saw for Space Prairie. You’ll recall from A Reflection on November

“With the entrance of Myranda—the completion of the cast needed to film beyond Scene 1, we aimed our focus on the indoor scenes as winter and its leafless trees rolled along. Space Prairie is a primarily outdoor film, but contains several indoor scenes mainly set in the household of our central characters. We now needed a place to film in—a place I hadn’t yet determined. After month upon month of asking people, ‘Do you want to be in the film?’ I took it for granted that we would have a household to film in after each ‘Yes!’ came in. I now had to find the homeowner that would be enthused about our project, and would be willing to open up their home to us. I discovered this was a harder thing to ask than ‘Do you want to be in the film?'”

It was harder in the sense that I felt I was asking, “Hey, do you mind if we invade your personal living space to shoot our movie in?” But everyone I talked to about the possibility was open and supportive, regardless of their answer.

In early November, I went shopping with my Dad for some boots that wouldn’t eat up my heals (as described in A Reflection on October). While preparing to exit , we ran into a friend of ours. Midway through the conversation she turned to me and asked, “How’s the film coming along? Have you found your home, yet?” “No, we’re still searching,” I replied. She then said, “I’ll have to ask my husband what he thinks about shooting the movie at our home.”

On December 6th, after many weeks and several emails later, she wrote, “Hi, Wes! We are excited for you all to be in our home.” And we will be excited to film there.

There remains only one major need left to be fulfilled: the actor who will play Jack Knight. The future of Space Prairie will be dependent on whether or not this character is fulfilled, this January.

As for my perspective on making Space Prairie, it has drastically changed since what I’ve described in A Reflection on October and A Reflection on November. In December, I was restored. Peace of mind has returned to me, and with it, direction for the future. With introspection, I have learned an incredible lesson.

The negativity I held towards myself in October was far more imperfect than whatever it was I did to deserve any negativity. My negativity was the true imperfection. To me, perfection is no longer what I idealize. Perfection is what is good. What do I mean? Perfectness is what is constructive, and not destructive. The human being on Earth does not encounter absolute perfection in this sense. But when we learn from what isn’t good, and embrace what is, that is what I think is perfect. In the case of making a film, not every brushstroke will be the way I dreamed (as a vague and unattainable image)…

I had created my own world of perfectionism. My world betrayed me when reality intruded it. It betrayed me because, through it, I allowed disappointment, then discouragement, then pessimism, to overtake me. I am now abandoning that world of self-conjured perfectionism, and am embracing a new reality.

Space Prairie is no longer about being a perfect film. Space Prairie is about relationship. It is about growth. I love my cast. We have become good friends. And if my perfectionism had its way in 2013, I never would have met them (refer to Introducing Space Prairie and Space Prairie: Meet Myranda).

Space Prairie is still about accomplishment. But I now accept reality as my coauthor. And that makes the journey far more exciting.

Space Prairie is no longer my identity. If the film is not completed, I am not a failure. If Space Prairie is not made, I am content. If Space Prairie is not finished, I’ll marvel at what was. If Space Prairie continues to be made, it will not be because I want to prove myself. I know what I am capable of, but will not wallow in the arrogance of perfectionism if I fall short of what I want to accomplish. Discouragement will no longer dominate me when imperfection in myself is really an opportunity for self-refinement.

The desire closest to my heart is to continue making Space Prairie. But if the continuation of Space Prairie is not what 2015 has in store, I will embrace that. If Space Prairie is what 2015 has in store, I will embrace that. Either way, it’s…

Upwards and onwards,

~Wes

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4 comments

    1. 2013, because that is the year I began “Space Prairie” with an entirely different cast in mind. I had to give them up and find new cast members in order to make the film. “[The current cast and I] have become good friends. And if my perfectionism had its way in 2013, I never would have met them.”

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