Guest Blogger Cynthia Lopez on not being the one to stop it

Listen to this post read by Cynthia Lopez of Eleusis Films

“Have you ever had someone diss your art? You know that it’s actually an invitation to keep creating, right?

After the premiere of my second movie, a null-budget, feature-length narrative fiction film, a person that I knew told me that I should not be a filmmaker, and that I had no business being an artist. ‘I have known a lot of artists, and you are soooo not one.’

I would like to thank that person now. I will not mention his name. But that comment made me deeply question what it means to be an artist, why I want to make films, and whether it was for me to do.

Plate engravings from 1709 showing personifications of "inspiration" and "idea." The male figure of Inspiration has a glittering ray coming from his chest with a starry sky behind him. His knotted hair is mixed with serpents, and he looks up to heaven. He holds a naked sword, the point on the ground in one hand and and a sunflower or Heliotrope in the other. The female figure of Idea is naked except for a veil. She has a flame on her head and a golden crown with jewels. She is breast-feeding a baby and points down to the world.[Plates with personifications of ‘Inspiration’ and ‘Idea’ Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images]

I did not question whether my film was a disaster. I had a lot of fun making it, and I believed in the story we were telling, and I worked really hard to create something great. But it can be hard to keep perspective on something that you are so close to. Once I watched it in the theater with an audience, I realized that it was not a successful film, and that the message of the film was lost.

For a while after that, I kept myself out of ALL artistic endeavors. I have always enjoyed painting and I also did a bit of acting in addition to making films, and I basically stopped doing everything. I really, earnestly wanted to find myself and I was big on considering everyone’s opinion on what I should do. Perhaps, as had been suggested, I was not an artist.

Keeping myself from creating lasted about six months. I couldn’t stop myself any longer than that, although I was more than willing to not take myself seriously for quite some time after I started again. I began painting a little bit. I volunteered for a documentary production. I brought out my little video camera and made little videos. No biggy.

Gradually, gradually, gradually – in the slowest way possible, while completing a graduate degree, attempting to have a career as an ethnographic researcher, experiencing a few relationships, and finally developing a sense of myself separate from anyone’s opinion of who I should be – I held on to the act of creation as a primary grounding force in my life, and I gradually made filmmaking my job. Because it wasn’t something that I could stop doing, even if I was going to be awful at it, and even if there was always going to be someone there telling me that I shouldn’t do it. I could no longer value doing work that was keeping me away from fully honoring and expressing my creativity, in the way that it demanded to be expressed. And really, who was I to stop it?

So that comment, early on in my exploration of what I wanted to do in this world, was a gift, because it gave me the opportunity to experience going to ground, and to realize that the roots of who we are and why we create are far too deep for anyone or anything to truly stop us.

This is why I am co-producing ‘Who Am I To Stop It.'”