Have you ever had hives?
Me neither. So you can imagine my distress - my terrified, uninsured distress - when my entire body broke out in hives a week after Hardly Sound Season One was finished. This was preceded by a week that was a haze of expectorate and NyQuil dreams - one of those haymaker colds that knocks you to the ground. There’s no way to prove this but I am almost certain that it was a long overdue physical manifestation of the stress I was under while making this show. I think my body was trying to tell me something.
Specifically: “Uh, dude, don’t do that.” ”That” being shooting, writing, and editing five episodes of television mostly by myself.
I should specify. I say “mostly by myself” but there would be no show without Randy Reynolds, co-creator and producer of Hardly Sound. He is a hero in the same way air traffic controllers are heroes - they are under constant pressure to deal with many, many disparate pieces that need to line up just perfectly in order to succeed. I don’t envy his position. I’m the lucky one. My job right now is essentially to post pictures of my dog on Facebook. (That’s what you guys want, right?)
Oh, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not trying to be humble here. I did a ridiculous amount of work, too, and I love subtly working it into everyday conversation like so:
“I know what you mean. I make this TV show. It’s on KLRU - y’know, PBS - and I did all the editing and stuff myself. It was really hard. I broke out in hives afterwards I was so stressed out!”
“Sir, I don’t see how that’s relevant. You asked me where the tater tots were. They’re right here.”
“Yeah, you get it. Working man to working man.”
“I’m a woman.”
“Oh. Wow. That’s quite a chin.”
I don’t really know what else to say about the show because I kind of say it all in the show. I don’t mean that like, “I think the work speaks for itself, thank you very much.” I mean, I literally talk about my feelings about the show in the show. Who does that?
Apparently, me. ”I often wonder if I’m flat out doing it wrong.” I say that in the last episode, and I honestly still wonder. There’s a part of me that thinks nobody at the station has actually seen the show. I have this nagging feeling that the reason we’re getting away with this is that no one’s paying attention and it doesn’t cost anything, and that some time soon someone with the power to kick us off of TV is finally going to get around to watching the show and that’ll be that. The dream is over.
Because this is a weird show. It really is. We bill ourselves as a music documentary series but all of you reading this know that this isn’t strictly true. Broadly, yes, but the show is also about me and about the creative process and about figuring out how to be happy and about finding comfort in creation and about death.
This show has changed me in a fundamental way, I think. Or maybe it strengthened something about my fundamental self. What I mean is, I feel this strange comfort sometimes. I’ll be walking on campus, for example, and feel this overwhelming - and entirely new - sense of calm. I am transported to a place with a total absence of anxiety. This is what I mean when I say “comfort in creation.” There’s a secret nugget of truth inside of me; a well of pride that I can draw from at any time. ”I made this thing, and there are some people out there who like it.”
And now that we’re on a break I find myself feeling restless and bored even though I don’t have to reach that far back to remember how beat down and stressed I felt. Here I am at 2 in the morning eating a bowl of cereal because it’s 2 in the morning and what else am I supposed to do?
I’ve had a taste of it now, you see. I’ve had a taste of what it’s like to be working on something that really means something to me and to have that thing really mean something to others. It’s not a large group, mind you, but it’s a taste of what I think I’ve always wanted out of art. I love this feeling, and yet I know it only came about because I worked myself to the point that my body rebelled and fought back and knocked me on my ass for a couple of weeks.
Isn’t this how it always goes, though? You complain about the heat in the summer and then you miss it in the winter.
We start shooting again in April. That’s our plan. April. Three months from now I’ll be back at it - complaining to Alex about how little free time I have, losing my patience with all of the people I love the most, pulling all-nighters the day before a deadline. Panicking because what’s the story what’s the story what the hell is the story of this episode?
This is a hard show to make, and I can tell you now that I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t believe it was something special. I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t believe it spoke to some truth about ourselves. I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t believe that someone somewhere feels a little less alone after watching an episode of Hardly Sound.
This is all haughty, high-minded stuff. I am fully aware of that. I am fully aware that there will be critics - that there are critics - who think that the show overreaches, that it tries too hard or too much, because this is just supposed to be about local musicians and who cares what the filmmaker’s thoughts are on life and death?
Maybe they’re right. ”I often wonder if I’m flat out doing it wrong” and all that jazz. All I know is this:
This is the show I can’t help but make.
And for the first time in my life I can honestly say that I don’t give a damn whether everyone likes me or not. Yes, me, because when I say “Hardly Sound” I really mean “me.” When I talk about the show, I am talking about myself, because the show is who I am. The show won’t click for some people. The show will be too personal for some. The show will seem self-serving, awkward, and cringe-inducing to some. The show will rub some people the wrong way. But If I’m lucky, and I think I have been, the show might just find a few people who love it.
So I say again, for the first time in my life I can honestly say that I don’t give a damn whether everyone likes me or not.
I suppose that’s it, though, right? I suppose that that’s real growth right there. I suppose that’s how you take the measure of a man. Or woman. I mean, honestly, who can tell with that chin.
The season one finale of Hardly Sound. Enjoy!
A preview of our season finale!
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