As a videographer and director he is more dominant, less insecure, and a little less patient. This is the thing he takes ownership of, like I take ownership of my writing, and it is clear and obvious in the way we slipped into two different roles for our project. We were two parts of a five person team entered into Emerson’s 48 Hour Film Competition. He, the leader and the teacher. Me, the observer.
The world is rife with advice about how to work alongside your significant other. The most common commandment is Thou Shalt Not Mix Work and Play. You are encouraged to separate your creative life and your romantic life; don two different costumes, and be able to hang one of them up. After all, it’s as easy to slip back into “professional colleague” as it is to pull on a raincoat at the door of your suite. Tongues in mouths and pens on paper exist in two different dimensions, and for good reason, or else nothing would ever get done.
Except that this is bullshit.
The cheap and obvious panacea is that having a good relationship will mean having a good working relationship. Our good relationship meant kisses after a successful shot, but I was left with other feelings, too: did I contribute at all? I was the journalism major posing as a VMA, hoping desperately to learn and mimic what they did. Did I compromise and swallow criticisms because I was an outsider, or because I felt deferential to him?
I can’t help but feel smaller than him. I didn’t understand his reasoning for certain creative choices, cutting this, spending more time on that. I worry that he doesn’t think I’m smart because when he’s admiring classic directors all I am qualified to do is admire his intellect. And, because he’s good, he has given me reassurances about this. He liked the fact that I wasn’t perturbed by his idiosyncrasies on set (like the orange socks he religiously wears while filming). But for some reason I felt like Luke being complimented for making a tin can twitch, while Yoda was creating a steel castle with his mind.
The following recommendations were the missing links during my own experience: the things I needed but didn’t act on. The most important thing is to carve out your own space in the project- claim a talent that the other doesn’t have so that you never feel superfluous. If you don’t know about camera angles, focus on upholding the continuity of each shot- use your eye for detail. Channel your ability to talk to people by organizing marketing for your film, or your artistic skills to design the poster. This idea applies to any collaboration, like being in a study group or group project with your partner. Above all, you need to talk to them: fear is nothing except for the absence of communication. Confronting my insecurities with him as they rose up might have slowed us down, but it also wouldn’t have hit me so hard after the fact. And finally, set up an opportunity for them to watch you doing something you’re great at. We had shared our poetry with each other before but he didn’t truly see how I had a writer’s mind until I helped craft the film’s story. Someone in their element is someone at their sexiest- and we could all stand to see a little more of that. YM