Saturday, April 01, 2006


My oldest son Artie and I went out this late afternoon to film depressing scenes for an edition of ZenderFilms. Depressing scenes are so easy to come by here. All one need do, really, is aim the camera any old where and press the record button. But Artie and I wanted to create something. He is a filmmaker, I am writer; we would put our heads together—and probably get them wet: it was raining.

Have I told you about ZenderFilms? Looking back now, I see that I haven’t. I want to create a series of video vignettes that will teach small but monumental kernels of scriptural truth. I’m talking eight to ten minute episodes in the reality television vein.

One of the pieces I have in mind is a series of depressing, outdoor shots, accompanied by a somber voiceover (mine) describing the nature of this current wicked eon. Evolution? No, my friends. The earth is in a state of de-volution, and so many things in this world conspire to take us down with them. The piece will teach the futility of certain brands of human escape, while heralding the benefit of others, such as sleep. Eight hours of sleep, you know, is a pearl of great price to me, and one of the most gracious gifts bestowed by God upon the sons and daughters of humanity.

My son is a serious filmmaker and has invested in a $3,500 video camera. He was afraid of getting it wet, so insisted I take an umbrella and hold it over him while he shot. I was happy to do it. I loved this idea of us being a film crew. It was only him and me, but that counted as a crew to me. Off we went to make something out of nothing.

The process of creation thrills me. I was born to create; God planted a small piece of godhood in my breast. To make an abstraction concrete touches sensitive chords beneath my rib cage. The artist has a thought, or a dream, or a lesson to teach. He or she perceives, in one moment, a sliver of universal truth. But, like the primordial earth, it is without form and void. It is invisible. This light of revelation exists only in the head or the heart or the soul of the one chosen by God to articulate it. The things exist now only in the way the artist’s hand shakes, or in the way the heart beats, or in the way the artist sees light where no light is, or shadows where light washes everything.

The challenge and the torture of the artist is the God-imposed necessity to bring forth into concrete existence the abstract thought. Even God records truth for human consumption. Truth, to be appreciated, needs seen, or heard, or read, or touched. God mercifully provides the media. This media is dug from quarries, or mined, or ground into pigments, or stripped from the bark of trees, or fashioned into hollow pieces of wood. If the artist is a sculptor and the medium is marble or clay, the truth takes three-dimensions. If the artist is a musician and the medium is music, the truth speaks via certain notes played a certain way in a certain order at a certain time. The art not only resides in the notes, but in the inspired spaces between them. A piano keyboard articulates one truth, a violin another, a human voice yet another. If the artist is a painter or photographer, he or she captures a moment of time with pigment, with color drawn from the earth’s native hues, or with light on loan from the sun. The filmmaker captures moving images. The writer places letters side-by-side, in the right order, at the right time, cajoling the letters, belaboring them, marching them en masse toward a desired effect.

As we set out, I felt large. Artie and I were gods. Yes. Small ‘g’ gods, enabled by the capital “G” God, graced with a mood-capturing medium, energized by the goal of bringing His light to the world. What was this but a fresh crack at Eden? It was a means of rectifying the temporary desecration of man.

We began at a place on my walking route where a county crew hacked away at a new bridge. It was Saturday afternoon, however, and the crew was gone. But there was plenty of mud, plenty of grease-soaked chains, plenty of brown watergurgles running nowhere.

Near the site, a trio of gray gain silos rose above a farm through the mist and into the gray sky. “Let’s get that,” I told Artie, and we hopped from the car. I extended the umbrella while Artie’s medium recorded an eonian moment headed for the past. The silence was somber and holy. The silos and the silence, and my son and I—these things impressed me. God was teaching me a lesson about the wicked eon.

We filmed odd tree branches, some weeds, and some slabs of concrete from the unfinished bridge. It was growing dark. Satisfied with our work, we headed home. On the way down our road, the property of a neighbor suggested itself.

“Stop here,” I said to Artie. “Let’s get that.”

“They’re our neighbors,” he said. “What if they see us?”

I had to think about that one.

“We’ll tell them, ‘Please excuse us. We are filmmakers looking for depressing, broken-down garbage typical of an evil eon, and your property provided us a cornucopia of opportunity.’”

Artie laughed. I laughed. We took three shots and drove the short distance home. Melody had hot chocolate on the stove. The curling swirls of steam rising from the pan of chocolate spoke a new language. It was a new form of art I had not considered before. I stared at it. The steam went to heaven in curlicues, then disappeared.

It went to heaven in curlicues, then disappeared.

© 2006 by Martin Zender