Discover more from Jim Kroft
Between Resistance and Commitment: A Creative Chronicle
Notes on beginning a new documentary
We like to think we have power over our projects.
But it’s a primal delusion.
Once we set out with them, they become our partners.
And like a partner, you cannot know the ins and outs of one another until you set out on the journey itself.
Even then, the knowing is ever unfolding.
I never set out to write “The Isolation Diaries”
Instead, it happened.
In this, it has been writing me.
It began sucker-punched in the exit of love before the pandemic.
It continued while living alone during the great isolation.
And then, as the world returned to "normal", I realised I had only begun with the themes it awoke in me:
Of suffering, catharsis, mortality, love and the human condition.
And so I set out:
Not to pursue a project,
But in the effort to be inside time;
That is - to bring the vastness I had inkled into alignment with a new version of myself.
If that sounds annoyingly abstract, believe me, I empathise!
How do you bring intentionality to a project who by very nature has no interest in intentionality?
This is why it has lasted longer than some feature films take to make.
Because the project is just a side project of the experience.
The songs were chance emanations which came along the way.
Sometimes a man howling in great pain.
Other times just someone leathered in the back of a van as the storm railed upon it.
I only had one rule:
I'm not going to make a dam documentary.
Because I didn’t want to do anything which interrupted the primacy of experience.
I love documentary. I love film, I love cameras.
But they make you live at a remove.
I’d furied around the world trying to understand the madness of this moment of history.
But this wasn’t about a story.
It was about being in one’s own heart, reconciling with one’s history.
And that’s why the “project” has extended over some years now.
Because when you dare to be inside time the frame rates of what you do slow down.
Some questions will not be answered by rushing.
They will not fit in.
I couldn't confront the imbalance between “being and doing” in modern life - by making everything actionable.
Could it be that this constant desire for something from everything is the root of modern misery?
The deeper I searched for answers, the more the questions would multiply.
It is a paradox; that preceding unity - in the spirit - is the expansion of things.
And so, to use the brutality of the ancient Hydra myth, every time I cut off a head, two more grew.
At some point, you have to ask:
Am I going to pursue this, with all my heart, no matter how long it takes, and no matter where it leads?
Yes, some transformations you have to follow from spark to flame…
And it won’t dam well be rushed.
And it doesn't listen to your deadlines.
And it ignores your neat goals and your five-year plans.
There’s a Buddhist aphorism that you shouldn’t pursue enlightenment unless you are willing to chase it like a man whose head on fire seeks water.
I can’t tell you anything about enlightenment.
But I do know that some things once opened can never be repacked.
Play with Pandora’s Box at your peril.
And so I committed to see through what I started, come what may.
Arriving here, in the future, I am ready to bring this chapter of my life to conclusion.
I need to because in the heart of one thing grows another…
But there is no moving on without completion - without the sense of an ending.
However, a sense of an ending requires a shape, just as the spirit yearns for the elevation of something released.
The songs felt not enough and the thousands of pages I’d written were too personal for publication.
Something was bugging me.
The thing I was resisting with all my heart:
I’d had my camera with me in the van. And though I’d go for weeks without taking it out, still it would call me.
Sometimes out of boredom - yes, 19 hours of darkness a day in a van during winter does make you reach for the toys you have!
And I wanted to log my breakthroughs in real time.
I didn’t want to forget.
And sometimes I just wanted someone to talk to.
And so I talked to the camera.
Like the lonely old Steppenwolf, just vlogging...
And it talked back to me.
Because when I watched the footage I could feel the gulf between the nature of my experience and my ability to communicate it.
And so a game began.
To attempt to bring my broken insights, my fractured glimpses, my hacked main line to the mystery - back with me.
Now, three years later, I find myself confronted by paradox.
There are terabytes of footage.
And in entering a new chapter of my life (again) I have found myself completely resistant to revisiting it.
But I realised:
There could be no ending to “The Isolation Diaries” without finding out what was in there.
It’s been bugging me like hell.
On the one hand, knowing there is something in there.
And on the other having no will to go backwards.
The resistance to going back is two-fold:
First, the project was about a state of becoming - and in becoming something new, it is to this newness I gravitate.
Second, I don’t know if there is something in there. I never set out to dam well make a documentary. And I know all too well what a dedication of time is required just to find out!
So my resistance is that I dread the potential sacrifice of so many hours, days, weeks, months - just to find a NO.
And yet a friend said to me recently (in a different context)
The only way OUT is IN.
And so I arrive at:
The threshold between resistance and commitment.
And after weeks of resisting, of saying there is no way I can do it while juggling all the other aspects of my life, I have realised:
I have to do it.
Because it is our task to complete what we start.
Maybe for ourselves.
Maybe for others.
My creative challenge is to make a documentary out of abstractions, moods and ravings.
None of the crutches I’ve had in my previous documentary work are in there.
And so, “The Isolation Diaries” invites me into the abstraction, and to shape whatever glimpses of the mystery may have been caught in there.
So that is the challenge.
(Is it not ours all? To make meaning from the randomness, beauty & suffering of human life?)
Not to have a chronology.
Not to have a story.
Not to have neatness.
Instead, it asks me to go back into the unknown.
Might a boon come from diving deep into the reservoir of my resistance?
This is the magic, this is the unknown, this is the Arts.
This, I could be, potentially.
Are you willing to follow me?
Sometimes, it is only in the answering of that question that we find out who we are.
And discover the elixir we sought.
So, with deep breath, I set out:
Not towards success.
Not towards failure.
But to the spiritual resolution which comes with the decision to complete things.
That is a reward in itself.
And the belief that, somewhere in there, is something that might help or inspire another.
Amidst our hungering, furying and wandering, that is promise enough.
And with that I steel myself -
For one last chapter of
"The Isolation Diaries"