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Millennium Film Journal
Nos. 71/72 Spring/Fall 2020

Shelter-in-Place Survey
May 25, 2020

It’s as if we’ve all been thrust into the middle of a science fiction novel: a mysterious and highly contagious virus is on the rampage, infecting and killing people all over the world. Everyone’s been instructed to stay in their homes, the economy is in ruins, the death toll mounts, “normal” is a thing of the past, and time feels like it’s standing still.

Editing my films has always kept me indoors much of the time, so it’s not as though I’ve had to make major adjustments to my daily routine. But okay, I’ll admit it. As horrible as the Covid-19 pandemic has been – several friends and family members have been hospitalized; a few have died -- the isolation, uncertainty, and pressure of living in its shadow have also been profoundly liberating. It’s as if I’ve been able to forge a new and unexpected relationship to time itself.

I feel like I’ve been given the chance to take inventory of all the creative quandaries I’ve put off, avoided, set aside, or simply never figured out -- waiting for, I don’t know -- inspiration, clarity, or that ever elusive “right time.” Simply put, my “rainy day” – that hiding-place buried deep in the psyche, that warehouse of so many accumulated and sublimated ideas, aspirations, and un-launched hunches, that mirage on the horizon of time, that proverbial thing of myth and legend – has finally arrived.

It wasn’t something I ever expected to see. I’ve always imagined the day would come when my extensive collection of old technology and antiquated media would be casually dismissed as just another of my many obsessions, as it was carried off to the dumpster or prepped for sale on ebay. I’ve always assumed that this part of my artistic project would remain unresolved and forever unfulfilled.

Why did I take-apart all those radios, telephones, typewriters, clocks, and old computers over the years, and meticulously organize the thousands of small mechanical, electrical, and electronic odds and ends I found inside? What is it about analogue technology that still has a powerful magnetic hold over me? Why did I buy hundreds of small audio speakers and thousands of feet of multi-colored speaker wire? What about the dozens of empty picture frames I have lying around? What was I going to fill them with? And what does any of this have to do with being a filmmaker?

This is my chance to find out. I never thought I’d see the day.