Picture Lock

Many years ago, I think I was maybe 24 or 25, I was walking a dog named Chloe and wondering how Jackson Pollack knew when his drip paintings were finished.

Jackson Pollock Number 1 (Lavender Mist), 1950
Number 1 (Lavender Mist), 1950

As I pondered, Chloe assumed her doggie poop position, dropped her load, and boom! It hit me. He knew instinctively, like Chloe knew when she finished doing her business — he felt it in his gut! Or maybe in his bones. Or maybe somewhere else, but he felt it.

Years later, when I started going to artist residencies and hanging out with painters I would ask them the same question. Most said something like, “When I see that I’m not improving the painting with more brushstrokes,” which ultimately comes down to it’s done when I feel like I cannot improve it.

And so, it is with great pleasure that I am announcing that A Life’s Work is done. Mostly.  I have spoken those two scary words, “picture lock” and have given my digital files to the color corrector and the sound mixer. This means there will be no more shooting and there will be no more editing.

What Is Picture Lock?

I qualified with “mostly” because the music is still being worked on and the credits need to be tackled. But essentially, it is done. And it is done because I feel there is nothing more I can do to it to make it better.

This feeling of done-ness was validated when I showed the film to cinematographers, Andy Bowley and Wolfgang Held, each of whom shot about 44% of the film. They weighed in with specific suggestions, terrific suggestions, most of which I took because I knew they would improve the film. I don’t want to say they were small suggestions, because they weren’t, but they weren’t big structural changes. They were changes or additions that were simple to do — put music here, think about removing that shot, things like that. Their few focused, excellent comments told me they thought the film was done, too.

And so, now to finish up the music.

Coincidentally, the day I completed this blog post, I listened to a Malcolm Gladwell podcast called Hallelujah, having no idea what it was about.  From his Revisionist History site: “‘Hallelujah‘ is about the role that time and iteration play in the production of genius, and how some of the most memorable works of art had modest and undistinguished births.” It uses as its example an obscure Elvis Costello, Cezanne’s paintings, and the often covered song by Leonard Cohen.

As always, thanks for reading. And if you have the time and desire, leave a comment, I love hearing from you.

Though the film is “done” it could still use your support for many things such as: paying the sound mixer,  having the film made into a DCP file for festival screenings, closed captioning, E&O insurance, legal fees, festival fees, and on and on. So if you’d care to help out, all you have to do click the button…

Donate Now!

… and enter the amount you want to contribute. $4,000 covers the immediate need to get the film in shape for the Sundance Film Festival application. Pretty exciting, right?

Click the button, that’s it. No login or registration required. Your contribution does not line my pocket; because the film is fiscally sponsored by the New York Foundation for the Arts, all money given this way is overseen by them and is guaranteed to go toward the completion of this film. Being fiscally sponsored also means that your contribution is tax-deductible. So why not do it? You can give as little as $5 and as much as $50,000. And to be honest, I would rather have 800 people contribute $5 each than one person write a $4,000 check.

How Do You Know When You’re Done?

I met Josephine Crawford, artist, one time Arcosanti resident, and A Life’s Work supporter, via the wonderful world of Facebook. We’ve had interesting exchanges over the course of our friendship, mostly via the FB comments.

She left the first comment in this post in response to my Is Production Really Over? piece, wherein I asked the question, “How do you know when you’re done shooting?” What followed was an exchange about the artistic process between two people working in different mediums.

Jackson Pollock, Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist) – National Gallery

Josephine Crawford just like a painting ….hardest thing to know when it’s finished. btw just noticed, as i typed, painting starts with pain!!!!

A Life’s Work I always ask painters, especially abstract painters, how do they know when it’s done. I feel like a dope asking that, but the painters nod knowingly and smile and usually say some variation of “when I’m okay with it.”

JC for me it’s a test of ??? anyway it’s a test. My “work” often has a sketchy look, not finished and it’s a fight for me to say …that’s ok. sometimes i love it the way it is, but feel it’s a bit “untidy” so I quickly make another.

ALW This maybe TMI, but I was thinking about this when I was in my early 20s. I was walking a dog and I was thinking about how Jackson Pollock knew when he had finished one of his drip paintings. The dog did its business and then got up out of her squat and walked on, and I thought, “That’s how! He just knew, as the dog knew it had finished.” Now, I know painting and relieving oneself is very different, but it was kind of an a-ha moment. He felt that it was done. It was, as it were, a gut feeling.

JC that’s funny…but true. you do just know.

ALW I don’t mean to be too flip about it, but there comes a point, right, after you’ve analyzed and looked at twenty different ways, when you just know. This is done. I can’t do anymore to it.

JC does this mean you’ve finished your movie? as i said before, because of the premise, i think the end is going to be particularly tricky and am looking forward to seeing how you do it.

ALW Nah, not finished. Editing and looking for money. It’s going to take a while.

JC just changed a pic that i thought was finished but this morning woke up panicked…now its finished.

ALW Great about “finishing” that picture.

The next day, Josephine updated her status.

JC eleventh hour change, had a dream…thought the picture was finished, it wasn’t. now it is! love it.


And so it goes. Thanks to Josephine for letting me use this exchange here.

Make sure to read Robert Darden’s comment on the subject.

You can get in on the conversation by liking A Life’s Work on FB, or dialoging with me here. I know there are a lot of you out there with thoughts on this. I’d love to hear from you.