Yesterday I met with our Director of Photography (DP), Ragland. We spent about five hours talking through Sweet, Sweet Country, scene by scene. It was exciting. There are no words to express what happens when you start a meaningful collaboration. It’s nice to say you want to work with someone and bounce ideas around, but it’s a completely different thing when you really dissect your work and accept that ownership of what you’re about to create doesn’t lay solely on your shoulders, but with others as well. It was about five hours of beating out the script and really finding a visual language for the story. However, the first 30 minutes was spent on a singular topic.
Ragland, is a Christian. I learned this within the first week of meeting him. It wasn’t some grand pronouncement. It just came up in conversation. There was no fanfare, no invitation to Bible Study, no quotation of scripture. Over a year and a half later and still no fanfare, no invitation to Bible Study, nor the quoting of scripture. We’ve had conversations about what being a Christian DP will mean for his career and what it means to be an artist who draws a line for himself.
When I interviewed Rags it was on the same script but less fleshed out. It wasn’t explicit that sex took place in the story. Fair enough. Now it is explicitly stated. As a Christian, Rags has a problem filming sex. We spent half an hour speaking on how far the characters will go, sexually, in detail. Part of this also is dependent on the actors and their comfort level, but I let him know what my thoughts were for the characters.
As we started the conversation I couldn’t help but be proud of him. Last summer I 2nd AD’d a film I had obvious problems with. The content went against what I believed not just as a filmmaker, but as a person. As an artist I try not to judge what other artists create or even how they create it. But in all honesty, I was broke and needed a paycheck. I worked on the show and it went from not feeling comfortable with the content to the added pressure of feeling unsure for the safety of the crew. I compromised not just my artistic viewpoints, but my personal ones. I was seriously conflicted throughout the entire process and felt a deep sense of shame that I made a decision based on money and not on what I believed.
After Rags outlined his issues, I assured him that I was happy to continue working with him. I choose him with the knowledge that he’s a Christian. Christian or not, he’s talented behind the camera. How far we film my characters having sex are the least of my worries. The emotional and confrontational beats of my story, the conflict within the family outweigh that completely.
Our meeting ended with me not only happy with the ideas Rags brought to the table but proud of him as well. It’s one thing to say you believe and another thing to live by those beliefs. You really can’t lose when you have people around who try to live by the latter.