Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Summer in San Francisco: The Kickoff and Conclusion

Today is a very big day for me, in both the real-world and cosmic sense.

Today is the day Studio G-dcast releases my video.

In August, I spent two weeks in San Francisco, of which six very intense days were filled by Studio G-dcast, the Jewish-Educational fellowship I'd signed on for. For those of you unfamiliar with G-dcast, you can find all the info you need here, but in a nutshell, they're an awesome organization that creates animated short films based on Jewish topics for use in educational settings. Bible stories, holiday tales, etc.

This summer, they flew in twelve of us college-grad school-age artists, some writer-storytellers and the others animators, to the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco to work long hours and intense sessions reading up on, writing, recording, animating, and directing our own three-four minute Jewish educational short films. Each group of one writer/one animator was assigned a famous story from the Talmud, a few awesome teachers/staff members to work with, supplies, and work space, and told to get to it.

My amazingly amazing animation partner, Adina and I were assigned one of the more difficult stories to work with. Depressing, not all that exciting in terms of action sequence or dialogue, and yet meaningful and thought-provoking. We were pretty much assigned with that most Jewish of all questions, why, G-d, why? Well, at long last, here it is, the fruit of our labor:

Adina and I wrote the script together, and decided we would animate it using the classic Jewish medium and favorite of mine, papercuts. So I got to work, sketching and cutting like some crazed human weed whacker,

Pic courtesy of the Covenant Foundation, Photo taken by Peter Marcus

And with every finished letter, puppet, or scenery piece, Adina had a new item to computer-animate. We chose voice actors and musicians and recorded with them in a professional studio. And after five utterly-exhausting days, we presented our work-in-progress to an audience of Museum donors and G-dcast supporters. It was brutal. (FYI that pic has been featured in articles and stuff! The top of my head is famous!)

By sheer coincidence, or maybe not, it was also the week my life changed from the distinct "last year" to the challenge of "this year." It was the informal kickoff to what would prove to be the most challenging three months of my life (so far. G-d, that's not a hint. Don't take it as one). I received the first of many emotional blows, the first of a few health scares, the first of too many moments of self-doubt. I left for San Francisco naively optimistic, secure, and sure. I returned stressed to my core, uncertain, and eight pounds lighter due to a stomach thing I'd picked up.

This weekend, with the much-anticipated, finally! release of the video we worked so hard on, I naturally started relating it to where I am now. In the past two days, one of my health scares at long last abated (Thank. You. G-d.), and on that front I can breathe easier. I also (finally) came to a few conclusions in the self-worth department. I regained a small sense of the security I thought lost forever back in August, even though it's in an entirely different form. I've gained back a few of the in-total fifteen pounds I dropped in that most unhealthy few months. I'm not the same person I was before San Francisco, though. I doubt I ever will be. And to me, my own process during this semester only makes the video I worked so hard on all the more poignant.

Just like Moshe Rabbeinu in the video, I've also found myself turning to G-d many times recently and asking, "Master of the Universe... such Torah/effort/time/energy/love/determination/prayer (take your pick)... and yet, such a reward?"Only to feel like I'm being met with an order to be silent, for this is what G-d has decided.

I don't know. To me it feels significant. I feel like, with the official release of this video, some part of the last three months has paid off, even if my own major effort with regard to this project was finished back in San Francisco (Thank you, Adina, for your much longer work time!). For some reason, I feel like this is a major hurdle cleared on my race for security, normalcy, and well, life. All I've got to do now is finish that Kohelet project, hand in my last papers, and finish the semester. Call me superstitious or stupid or unrealistically optimistic, but I can't help but feel, in the deepest depths of my gut, that once this semester's run its course, so will have my rough patch, and I'll be back on top, in my true fighting form.

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