Conscious Filmmaking

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In order to make sense of things, we tend to create associations with words. The word conscious is almost nostalgic for me, because it takes me back to high school, a time when I was first exposed to the word. When I was a teenager I listened to what everyone was calling “conscious hip-hop”, which was ironically in the mainstream at the time (those days are long gone). In 1993 artists like Queen Latifah had songs like “U.N.I.T.Y.” with lyrics like “love a black woman/man into infinity”. You’d never hear that in today’s mindless pop music. During the “Golden Era of Hip-hop”, groups like Poor Righteous Teachers rhymed about seeing with your third eye in almost every song. At the time I didn’t know what they actually meant and had never heard of the pineal gland, but I had a vague idea as if it was some long lost memory.

So what does it mean to be conscious as an artist? Even as a young person which was well before my official “spiritual awakening”, it simply meant caring.

Rawkus Records was once a successful indie label that put on artists rapping about social injustice and empowering yourself by standing up against oppression. They were big proponents of activism as opposed to apathy, which is preached in pop party music. Sure, celebratory music has its purpose but we also need to balance it out with music that can motivate us, help us to heal our wounds rather than medicating and numbing them.

I remember seeing Common (called Common Sense back then) at a show with KRS-One in college in Austin, Texas (Quentin Tarantino was drunk in the VIP section ironically) which at the time had a well organized conscious hip-hop scene. They were rapping about being vegetarian and I was blown away. It was cool to be vegetarian in Austin in the 90’s and there were many restaurants catering to the healthy “hippie” population. I always wondered where the rappers got this information from; I assumed at the time it was from Rastafarianism whose diet consists of Ital food (organic “vital” veggie food). Many of the artists were also into ancient Chinese philosophy, Buddhism and even Sufism. Early on I was fascinated by their wisdom but like many people, got pulled into the style of hip-hop that sonically blew my mind, but had extremely negative messages. I was programmed aka brainwashed and as a result I had to uninstall that program.

In college while I was getting a BA in “Transmedia” through the art department at UT Austin, I was also really into Richard Linklater, an Austin based filmmaker who made films that were (and still are) expanding consciousness to say the least. Waking Life is the primary inspiration for our feature film, Time is Art (imagine a true to life documentary version). Scanner Darkly is also a powerful film which follows the prophetic storyline in which our poor choices lead to a joyless post apocalyptic world. We stand at the apex of that choice point now like many civilizations before. The plot becomes extra thick when high technology meets a blatant lack of ethics (the plot line in every Star Trek film).

walking lifeI don’t prefer to hide from humanity’s dark side. I’m fascinated by the poor choices we continue to make as a society (over and over again). There would be no Daily Show if Fox/CNN weren’t making shit up everyday, 24 hours a day and lying to our faces. We can choose to laugh at them (or cry). Watching Abby Martin’s show on RT, Breaking the Set might be depressing but this is how I choose to stay informed. It’s no secret we have been lied to for years about 9/11, JFK, the UFO phenomenon and whistleblowers continue exposing corrupt factions of the CIA, DOD, NSA, the DEA’s drug and arms trafficking, corporations dumping radioactive waste, the continue genocide of native peoples, mind control programs like MK ULTRA, secret meetings by the Occult Elite at Bohemian Grove. I could go on and on and on. The truth is a lot more stranger than fiction. It’s very easy to get caught up in the dark stuff. Darkness does not hide, but the truth is abundant. This makes for lots of ideas for “fictional” films.

I am also inspired by the transcendental film movement. This film movement, as my screenwriter instructor once informed me, includes films like Cloud Atlas, the Matrix, Memento, and Inception, where they play with time, showing alternative timelines of reality in which we make “service to self” choices as opposed to “service to the greater good” of the planet and universe. The movement was also probably inspired by “transcendentalism“, especially writer/director Terrence Malick’s notorious wide angle landscape shots. His latest film in post-production is called, Voyage of Time; An examination of the birth and death of the known universe. If you are interested in studying these ideas, David Lynch, filmmaker and transcendental mediator, also teaches a course on “consciousness based filmmaking”.

Terry Gilliam is also a huge inspiration. Classics such as Brazil, The Fisher King and his new film, Zero Point Theorem, (logline; a computer hacker whose goal is to discover the reason for human existence continually finds his work interrupted thanks to the Management; namely, they send a teenager and lusty love interest to distract him) are completely outside of the box. His work is both cheeky and brilliant, always pushing the envelope and taking major risks to make his films transcend time.

Entheodelic storytelling (a term co-coined by Benton Rooks, Graham Hancock, Rak Razam, and Jeremy D. Johnson) is a new international transmedia paradigm led by many important scholars and artists interested in shamanism that recalls a time in which fables once served as specific symbolic reminders to initiates who were to undergo trials leading them to the spirit world. Our film, Time is Art, is very much inspired by these concepts. Through an abstract narrative journey, the audience is immersed in a dreamlike world, acting as co-creator of a beautiful tapestry of inquiry and meditation, awakening us to how interdependently connected to each other we really are. Narrator and writer, Jennifer Palmer, once an atheist and skeptic, is now a student of life, expanding her consciousness through books, street art and plant medicine ceremonies as well as working with her dreams and spirit guides.

Chris Soria & Jennifer Palmer, still from Time is Art

“Within this framework, contemplative traditions and a multitude of spiritual paths are equally at home with the plant path. Those of us who are Western European in descent are also well aware of the sensitive issues and dangers surrounding the appropriation of indigenous cultures—and neocolonialism in general—and therefore make a conscious act of deriving material for art from the European witchcraft tradition (ayahuasca may have been brewed in the “witches cauldron”), in addition to the pop-culture of the West” Benton Rooks writes.

To be perfectly honest, most of the people in our film are of western decent, due to limited time and resources, we’ve been able to feature those connected to our direct inner circle. This movement is once again lead by mostly white males. We’ve worked extra hard to feature many women in the film, however. It takes courage to come forward and face rejection by the powers the be, so in some instances, I can understand why the movement is lead by mostly white men, like Rupert Sheldrake and Graham Hancock.

Toko-Pa

My own spiritual life has been greatly enriched by partaking in traditional Lakota sweat lodges, and regularly visiting a Cherokee Peace Village, just as much as partaking in plant medicine. Another part of our journey toward awakening is to remember that past life time(s) when we were once Shamans ourselves. Although my husband, Joel, is often overwhelmed with all my ideas, he admits that he is interested in my latest web series idea which involves past life regression sessions. We are equally and utterly fascinated with the recently deceased (but forever in our hearts and minds) Dolores Cannon‘s work. In my recent session I asked how I could heal from my leg/hip pain and they said to help people more and in his recent session, Joel remembered a lifetime during the Spanish Inquisition. If that doesn’t put the struggles of your current lifetime into prospective, nothing will.

Being conscious is caring about the world around you, about injustice in your community and making your art work for the greater good, as opposed ego driven ideas. My favorite lyrical line from one of our new songs is “the mystery is not the enemy”. Our purpose here is simply to create.  The mystery of the universe is what inspires us to get closer to the Creator. We may never have all the answers but we can be sure that life will never be devoid of purpose (like some scientists believe) as long as we continue seeking the truth. This is what conscious filmmaking is all about for me and why we created our production company, Things Are Changing, “for seekers of conscious media”.