january 2012. 

i returned to nyu last fall to tell a story about a maid, like nafissatou diallo, moving on after sexual assault and public shame. i raised $12K from friends and family and we shot from january 6-12 in harlem and the bronx.

making this film was the hardest thing i've ever done. too large a cast, too many locations, too ambitious of a story line. for a week i hardly slept or ate, setting my personal needs aside for the good of the film. if it wasn't for my lead actress--jen tchiakpe, a force of a woman--i probably would have given up. driving the grip truck home on the last day i parked at the side of the road to cry, wiping away gallons of tears as i released the enormous weight i had been carrying for months.

everyone has needs: your actors, crew, your funders and family. a director must manage all these needs selflessly, no matter how heavy or inconceivable the burden. we gather this truth inward, hoping that someone will ask us someday how much determination and courage it took to make it, knowing that nobody ever will.

but neither determination nor courage keep you going; only a mild insanity and generosity of spirit bordering on love--of the story, characters, images, and message. or the love of struggle since, each time you finish a shot, you have waged and won a small battle of wills.

i understand now that one must risk something, maybe everything, on the dim hope of transforming a loosely-formed, fleeting thought into a living, breathing film. mine was not even so heavy a task--as in fitzcarraldo, in which director herzog dared drag a three-ton steamboat uphill in the Amazon jungle--tho in all cases the burden of a dream feels this great.

it forces you to ponder deep questions like: how can i do justice to a story? make my family proud? satisfy my professors and an audience of strangers? use enough dolly shots so it doesn't look like a 'student film'? you can't do everything right, or maybe anything right; only your best, pat yourself on the back, and try to do better next time.

in the end, i've found, it is only this burden of a dream and the constant striving toward perfection that makes it all worthwhile. --AL.

Update: so happy to hear that diallo's civil case has reached a settlement of $6 million. this was a wish that i never thought would become a reality.

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  1. I could so relate to your blog post. I shot my short film "Crossing the River" last March for 4 days and felt every one of the feelings you described but have not been able to put a name to them. Thank you... And really hope to see your film - Emilie


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