A bit of self-serving, shameless promotion for a project I’m part of and believe in very much. But first, some rambling.
I’m fascinated by creation myths and origin stories. I don’t spend enough time with them. One of the most popular origin stories in the Western World is Adam & Eve–the first humans, as told in that familiar-yet-elusive text, The Holy Bible. We know about the Bible, right? Eh, kind of. Often we know it more through how it’s interpreted by people professing it to be scripture from God rather than from reading the text ourselves. Unsurprisingly, lots of Christians don’t spend much time with Adam & Eve, and the basic lesson(s) of the story are told a bit simplistically.
This is different from being simple. Myths, fables, parables, metaphors–often the bread n butter of Biblical storytelling–excel at being complex narratives communicated through simple structures. They’re surprisingly difficult narrative forms. Kinda how comedy, when done well, appears effortless and spontaneous. In effect, easy. But anyone in comedy, either as a critic or practitioner, knows it’s anything but easy. And one of the greatest challenges is to make it appear really damn easy (like making a world through millions of years of natural process appear like it was created from nothing). So, it’s gotta look easy, and it’s gotta convey big, expansive ideas through laughter–also not something we value as much as we should.
Laughter in the Bible? Where? Lamentably, the Bible has the unfortunate reputation of not only being dry and severe, but aggressively unfunny. This isn’t necessarily true (it’s a big book, so some of it is absolutely not funny–some of that Law of Moses stuff, and the mass slaughter of entire civilizations, usually not funny; Jesus baggin on how stupid his apostles often are? Very funny. Job trash-talkin his unhelpful friends, very funny. Watching too many Christian homophobes work their way around David and Jonathan’s hella-gay relationship? Always funny, yet sad, with a history of devastating consequences for so many people). Finding the humor, much like finding the poignancy and layers of meaning, takes a little-to-a-lot of work learning how to read and understand the Bible–though your Sunday School class will undoubtedly assure you that it’s all easy and crystal clear, and often conveniently in line with the class’ already established world view, and frequently confused with Divine Revelation.
There’s a problem though. It’s actually not easy, and believers I think could benefit from seeing the degree of difficulty a little more clearly. For starters, imagine Adam & Eve as a rom com. Why not? You don’t think it was hella weird being the only two people on earth, who had known each other for a potentially shortish amount of time, in a perfect environment devoid of conflict? Yeah, getting along is easy when that’s your world. Especially when God is always there to chat. Life’s pretty good. Perfect even. Plato would be proud. But everyone else is bored to death, except we can’t die, because the Garden of Eden. Suddenly, this isn’t easy; this is damnation–the ultimate Beckett play where nothing happens and everything is as it should be and existence is meaningless. No human likes that. But there was a spark of tension, which ignited into a full-blown atomic blast, wherein Adam & Eve learned some things, gained some perspective, and flunked out of Eternity School. At least, so it seems. Suddenly, God ain’t around and there’s only them, and now they age, and have clothes, and their bodies wanna get down, and everything can die.
Eternity didn’t prepare them too well for this. So you gotta figure it out. Work from scratch, hone your DIY skillz, and figure out whether this person you’ve always been around in a perfect, conflict-free, environment, is still tol’able despite being a perplexing, contradictory, pain in the ass. Oh crap, you mean I gotta actually figure out if I like this person? What if I don’t? They’re the only one here! Nuts, right? A total mess. Think of the most uncomfortable date ever, and then realize you can’t tell anyone about it because the only person to tell is your date.
Wait, what about the telling? We like telling stories. We like telling uncomfortable stories. Good storytellers–even funny, optimistic, kind ones–are masochists to some degree, because most of the time the best stories contain unbearable conflict. Some of the best humor is found in watching other people agonize through the most uncomfortable scenarios imaginable–Miracle at Morgan’s Creek, Bringing Up Baby, Some Like It Hot, Nightcrawler (yes, Nightcrawler is a comedy–the darkest comedy ever made, besides perhaps Heathers). We love watching this stuff, we don’t like living it. But how often have you found yourself halfway over the coals and thought: “this sucks, but it’ll make a killer story later,” or “someday we’ll laugh about this, but today is not that day.” We’ve been there. Hell, it was the only thing my sophomore creative writing class could write about. It was just four months of the most uncomfortable, absurd, and confessional dating and relationship stories ever. All these kids were desperately attracted to and repulsed by relationships and the perplexingly cruel rituals of dating in Provo, Utah; the shiny Sunday School curtain of perfect lives pulled back, revealing the most grotesque and carnivalesque shop of human horrors imaginable. Stories allowed this release, and it was the only release available since these were Mormon kids, who couldn’t get laid. Masochistic, dark-humored narratives of collapse and despair were all they had, an eternal cycle of birth, growth, decay compressed into the week-to-week crucible of singles ward hell.
All of which makes Adam & Eve a rather relatable narrative. Even a true narrative. But it requires some work on our part, because Biblical language is tricky, and people’s interpretations of that language even trickier. And sometimes, there are gaps in the narrative, where we can speculate on the details. This is fun, and potentially dangerous, and kinda vital. So we appropriate, interpret, translate, and adapt the story to ourselves, our communities, our cultures–just as we do with the painfully amusing stories of our own lived experience. Again, not a bad thing. Quite the opposite, I think this is essential. Storytelling is a kind of redemption, where suffering, forgiveness, and salvation all become possible, through the telling, the crying, and the laughing. Understanding a text is like understanding our lives–God wants us to figure it out, because the easy ride of paradise is over, and now it’s time to get our hands dirty, apply some elbow grease, and troubleshoot this life thing. Essentially, you have to care. About everything and everyone. The boundaries and limits are suddenly so firmly before you, yet the whole point is to get past them, or perhaps more accurately, expand them to include other people who you don’t and can’t know as well as you thought.
Goes without saying: this is a huge pain sometimes, I know. So we do everything we can to make it easy, which usually involves some incredibly creative machinations, which, if they weren’t so stifling, I’d say were commendable. But the creative work of reductionist thinking, where stories and people get simplistic, is talent going in reverse, vain attempts to force ourselves back into the Garden rather than venture forward into Eternity. After all, the promise of eternal life stands as a powerful metaphor for limitless possibility, in which we can take our lives virtually anywhere we want, within certain basic-yet-difficult parameters, summed up by Charlton Heston:
To “Be Cool” means going forward with faith, hope, and charity. “Don’t be an Asshole” means to extend those three pillars of Christianity to everyone around you. Which can be hard when there’s only one person around, and they’re always there, and kinda dumb sometimes. Or you’re kinda dumb sometimes. And you know it, don’t know what to do about it, and can’t bury yourself away from the person next to you who also knows you’re pretty dumb. Oh man, existential absurdism taken to the horrible limits, and we’re all alive but dead from secondhand embarrassment.
Did all of that get pretty dry? I think so. Point is: if this kinda stuff interests you, then you might enjoy the charming romantic comedy web series Adam & Eve. If you’ve seen it, good for you! Your indie street cred is on fire! If you haven’t, well, forgiveness and repentance are real; knowing you’ve repented and been forgiven, less real. In any case, I don’t blame you for having not seen it. The show has been cruising under the radar, despite making a nice splash in Utah, where it was filmed, and at several film festivals across the globe. There’s so much to watch out there, and so much of it very good. And this web series was made on the super cheap, from the quietly hard-working married couple Davey & Bianca Morrison Dillard. I’m, of course, quite biased since they are dear friends of mine, and I have been the PA/AC on this project. It has been a joy to work on this series.
I mean, doesn’t this look fun? (It’s fun.)
Now (here’s the shameless promotional part), there’s a chance for Adam & Eve to get a little funding through the Stareable competition, currently running through the end of the month. How does it work? You click on the link to the project you wish to support. That’s it. The clicks are tallied and the project with the most clicks by the end wins a $2000 grant. For a DIY project like this, $2000 would go an incredibly long way to funding future episodes. But it’s only possible with consistent clicking from those interested. What’s better is that you can click once daily, on any device you can find. Meaning, if you happen to find yourself in a room full of computers, tablets, and phones, you can click once from each device, and every single click counts(!). Incredible. Technology has really carried us some places since Adam & Eve stumbled out of the garden.
What Davey and Bianca have crafted here is much more than a simple Bible story. Not that the Bible is simple, as we know–it’s super not. And that’s true here, as well. What appears simple and straight-forward on the surface, is more intricate and complex. There are nuances here, and what attracts me the most is how human and in the world the whole thing is. A lot of Christian religious cinema I think does itself a great disservice by either falling back too hard on easy platitudes that double as advertising, or becoming too vague and impersonal so that everything becomes more conceptual than concrete. Davey & Bianca, and most certainly Becca Ingram‘s performance as Eve, have crafted a tale rooted in experience. The emotions and concerns are fairly accessible and ordinary ones, which makes them rather massive and profound–eternal perhaps? The Christian narrative explored here is quite catholic (you know, the universal variety, not the institutional), and deeply uninterested in whether or not we viewers might literally believe in God or the story of Adam & Eve. The story is the vehicle through which we can examine ourselves, our relationships, and the world we live in. It needn’t be a “true story” to deliver human truths regarding the human condition. If anything, the Biblical narrative speaks very explicitly to our humanness, emphasizing just how vital it is to engage with that world directly and wholely. And therein might we see the face of God: in the people across from us, and the life surrounding us. This is lovely stuff, sincerely and modestly created. It’s not without limitation, but so it is to be human. And tomorrow is a new day.
As you can see, we work very hard on this project:
TBT: Working fast to catch the evening light. #tbt #throwbackthursday #makingmovies #cinematography #cinematographer. #director #directing #codirectors #producer #producing #coproducers #acting #actor #actress #ac #indiefilm #nobudget #webseries #indiefilmmaking #diyfilm #catchinglight #onset #filmlife
We would love to keep working on it, and would greatly appreciate your support. The lone and dreary world awaits, and sometimes it’s funny there.
DISCLAIMER: Davey & Bianca didn’t ask me to write this, and the ridiculous thoughts herein are my own. I just like them so much and want their project to continue. Go find their own thoughts and words about their series. They’re worth reading.