Craft By Zen

4 min read

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On Obsession

I repeat the same pattern every few months. I’ll stop being productive on personal projects. I’ll replace it with an obsession, and it takes over my life for the next few weeks. It’s great if the obsession promotes healthy living, like marathon training or yoga. But this past month, it was an obsession with film.

And I mixed this obsession with the feeling of guilt. Every week, I see the task of writing this newsletter. And every week, I follow the same routine. Monday comes and Monday goes. Tuesday morning, I feel guilty I let my readers down. Rinse and repeat the next week.

The obsession began when I started watching a documentary series called “The Story of Film: An Odyssey”. It was a 15 hour series chronicling world cinema since its inception to the early 2000s. About halfway through, I wanted to watch many of the films mentioned. That’s when I found the Criterion Collection. Or rather, re-discovered. I knew about Criterion through their collaboration with Hulu. I thought they were a collection of American films. But it’s much, much more. The Criterion Collection includes films from around the world that cover nearly all decades of film. I was determined to watch some of them and own a few.

On my little journey, I learned most physical Criterion discs include supplemental material, booklets, and books. I also learned about their restoration process for old films, learning there’s an art in film preservation and that we’ve lost many great films over the years. I also learned of their custom artwork for their covers. What I’m trying to say is, I learned about Criterion’s brand. I feel in love with their brand because of this attention to detail. Loyal fans of criterion will speak highly of these things. It almost feels like an Apple cult-like level. I was determined to buy one to see what the big hype was.

Not wanting to pay for such expensive media, I found my local used records and movie store. I hadn’t been there before. When I stepped in, I remembered why I like these stores. I lost myself in the sea of aisles scanning through albums I’ll never listen to. I get excited wondering why someone purchased this record in the first place. Nested behind the soundtracks were an entire section dedicated to Criterions. I was amazed at the selection. I walked away with “Spartacus” and “High and Low”, a Kubrick film and a Kurosawa film. I was not disappointed.

For the next few weeks, I found myself pouring through the collection, either renting some of the films from the library, watching them on Hulu, or binging on the sale from late last month. I found myself collecting films I wouldn’t have watched a few months ago. Silent films? Yes. Foreign Italian films from the neorealist era? Check. I now feel more adept at hearing film director’s names and reciting one of their films.

Tonight, I’m watching Persona from Bergman. 7 minutes in and I know I’m in for a treat. But I must still make time for writing. Writing grounds me not to stray too far away in this little obsessions of mine. The time I spend writing this newsletter has paid back in helping me understand myself better. Today, I feel more confident about writing again. The truth is I felt like I lost my way with writing during the end of January. I sunk myself in film, and now I feel refreshed, ready to talk about some pending items I have in store. In a way, film restored my writing. Watching these directors at the height of their craft really inspires me to lose myself in creativity. So, let us begin another few months of newsletter goodness. I know I’ll enjoy it.