Tuesday, January 3, 2012

15 Minutes

When I was a kid my dad was a small town celebrity.  He played for the local football team and people seemed to think that was a big deal.  Even today if it comes out that my dad played “pro-ball” I am bombarded with all kinds of questions about where, for how long, or whether or not he was famous for any plays.  Then people either remember him or they go home and tell the story to their spouse, sibling, or friend - whoever the football fan is in their world. 

My dad wasn’t a national star.  He wasn’t a household name, except in our town. But he was famous for one special play.  I'll save that story for another time.  On second thought I don't see myself blogging about that so here you go.  

My dad didn’t seem any more special to me than other dads.  I remember feeling curiosity about the people who were curious about us.  If anything, it seemed to me that the thing that brought him celebrity was terrible.  My dad was a defensive end.  His job was to chase after people at top speeds, slam his body into theirs, wrap his limbs around them and then hurl himself as hard as he could - with his human package sealed tightly in his arms - straight into the ground.  

Think about that. 

Imagine a job where you’re expected to run as fast as you can, slam into something and then slam into the ground again and again and again.  Would you celebrate that job or get yourself a new one?  I remember watching my dad ice his knees and elbows.  I remember him having injuries that looked like softballs hanging from his body.  I remember him needing help to get out of bed.

Yes, he was in the newspapers.  Yes, he was on the morning shows.  Yes, he even made an album.  Really.  This song was the anthem of my elementary school years.  Thank God I didn't know what the lyrics meant.  Today my dad has a nice little spot on Wikipedia and he lives in chronic pain.

The years have flown by and I am no longer a kid.  I’ve watched as celebrity itself has become a commodity.  People use fame like it's compound interest – they might come from a famous family, they turn that into something more interesting than just a name, they turn that into a small level of celebrity that gets them into parties, that gets them famous friends, that turns into a reality show, and on and on. 

Modern day media has allowed us all access into these people’s lives.  Where did they sleep last night and with whom?  What kind of fast food wrappers did they leave behind?  

This movie thing has exposed my feelings towards media - or my lack of trust towards it.  Maybe it's because people thought that we were always perfect simply because we were known.  Even as a kid I knew that equation was dangerous and fallible. 

When I was young my parents threw party after party only to have the crowds disappear when my father's body was too battered to play ball anymore.  I saw a movie once where someone was talking about fame and he said, "They never leave you alone until they're leaving you alone."  That was us.  Constant noise when he played and then unbearable silence when he couldn't.  

Sometimes I get into these huge arguments with one of the filmmakers about sources.  He doesn’t want me to ask any hard questions until we can ask them on camera.  It’s so simple to him.  The movie takes precedence over everything.  It’s the media.  It’s the vehicle for all of our potential celebrity.  It’s the door to awards, deals, talk shows, more media, more money, and eventually, fame. 

We rail against each other because he thinks I want first dibs on information so that I can put it in my book.  Something interesting is happening in my life, something that others may find compelling.  But if I was doing it for the drama then I would’ve gone to see Cork.  Even though this thing in my life happens to be interesting, it is still my real life, this is my real family, these are my real feelings and this is a real journey for me.  It is not a magically manipulated media maneuver.  It’s not for her book.

They say that I don't trust them.  They say that it's been nine months and I should trust them by now.    

When we were in Greenwood making the documentary we would often stop people on the street and ask them if they'd ever been to Booker's Place.  If they said "yes", then we'd ask them if we could talk to them on camera.  They always agreed.  I thought these people were crazy.

Don't get me wrong, I was grateful. The entire documentary is a compilation of testimonies given to us by people who agreed to share their stories with us for free. They didn't know us or what kind of movie we were making, yet they trusted us without a moment's hesitation.  When the interviews were done we gave them something to sign, a document that would allow us to use their interview however we saw fit.  They all signed.  Again, I thought they were crazy.  

Maybe I'm the one who's crazy.  Anything that involves cameras, fame, and exposure makes me cringe.  I sound so Un-American.  I sound like a baby.  I'm a handful for the filmmakers, I know.  I exhaust them because I question every detail, I am suspicious of everyone, and I'm always waiting for the other shoe to drop.  But I know what it's like when the story ends and the party is over.  

I tell myself everyday that I need to remember to enjoy this process.  After all, it is my 15 minutes.  

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