Why I'm a Big Joy Fanatic
Stephen Silha here.
We're down to needing less than $10,000 with only 5 days to go! Crunch time... And I'm so excited that a majority of supporters so far are not people I personally know.
So, I'll tell you why I'm making this film. When I met James Broughton in 1989, he was the most lively 75-year-old I had ever met – surrounded by adoring young men (and women), spouting poetic phrases, laughing loudly. I thought, “Wow! I’d like to be that lively when I’m 75!” As it turned out, I was invited to dinner at his house some months later, and we became friends. He was a mentor.
When I was working on a major research project on the future of journalism, James gave me this advice, a poem he had just written:
but it doesn’t
Some of the time
Much of the time
In the long run
matter a lot
I took his characteristic Zen humor to the newsroom of The Seattle Times, and some people got it. (One editor put it on his wall.) But, as with much of his work, not everyone resonated.
I figured, as a recovering journalist, I would some day write a book about James, having known him quite well for the last ten years of his life. But I soon realized that if I wrote a book, in this multi-media age, it likely would not attract a significant readership because so few people have heard of Broughton.
So, now I’m making a film – my first feature film. And in researching Broughton’s life, I’ve discovered so much I never knew about him when we were friends. For example, I had no idea he was a seminal force in the San Francisco Renaissance (1945-53), the little- known creative stewpot that ultimately gave birth to the Beat movement. I didn’t realize how much this out-and-proud gay elder had struggled repeatedly with his sexuality. And I had no idea how prolific and disciplined a writer he was, nor how far into Jungian psychoanalysis he got – resulting in boxes of journals and dream journals in his archive at Kent State University.
Telling the story of Broughton’s life and work in a poetic way that honors his 23 experimental films, yet being true to my own journalistic instincts, is challenging and exciting. We’re taking the advice he gave to his film students: Follow your own Weird.
We’ve been working on the film for nearly four years. In that time, we’ve interviewed over 37 people who either knew Broughton or were influenced by him. We’ve staged some re-enactments— of Broughton’s altar, his time by the sea, and his androgynous explorations.
We’ve worked with some amazing artists – Max St. Romain, who currently creates out of Mexico City, provided our artistic spine, solidifying the Big Joy website with its nearly unattainable motto: Simplify Clarify Vivify. Eric Slade, the intuitively poetic and always questioning director (who also directed the bio-film about Harry Hay, Hope Along the Wind), ensured that we honed and honed to the essential stories of James Broughton’s complexities. Animator Michael Mann intuited James’s poetry and journal entries into beautiful blossoming images that will communicate his messages to 21st-century lovers of life.
Ultimately, we find that the more we explore James Broughton’s expressions both in film and poetry, we're impressed with the directness of his word choice, the playfulness of his images, the vastness of his range:
HERE COMES YOUR MESSIAH (excerpt)
…As an unlisted long-distance metaphysician
I service a direct line to outer spaces
but I'm a down-to-earth surgeon when it comes to the heart
My goal is to make the world safe for the amorous
Are you primed for a bypass from misery to mirth?
Or are you addicted to the habit of agony?
I teach the sex of loving and the love of sexing
I preach the sacred music of the body's organs
I advocate a regimen of intersecting genders
…I am also Doctor Undoing the wrong head remover
ready to extract the deformities of your mind
and put you in the pink of genital condition
And I am Polly Morphous transorgasmic nurse
Convalesce with me in the hotsprings of surrender
Come alive and kicking to the fields of love
Come on! Why cling to your moth-eaten doldrum?
How better to summarize this project? Look here:
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