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Talking with filmmaker Patrick Takaya Solomon about Finding Joe””

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  • #72027

    To help celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Joseph Campbell Foundation, Patrick Takaya Solomon, writer/director of the documentary Finding Joe (which explores Campbell’s observations on the Hero’s Journey motif in myth), has graciously consented to join us in JCF’s Conversations of a Higher Order this week (September 28 – October 4) to discuss the making of his film.

    I’ll get this exchange started, but it will be your questions, thoughts, and comments that expand this beyond just another interview into a true “conversation of a higher order.” Once the discussion begins, please feel free to jump in and engage Patrick directly with your questions and comments.

    (Please keep in mind that conversations on this platform do not move at the speed of social media, but unfold leisurely – so please do check the box that says “Notify me of follow-up replies via email” when you post to be alerted when Patrick responds (or click on “Favorite” at the top of this thread to follow the full conversation). Also, do not be surprised if your contribution inspires related comments and observations from other participants – that’s what makes it a conversation; no telling what unexpected treasures may arise from such side-discussions.)

    Patrick, I understand you got your start shooting action sports films (snowboarding, motocross, skateboarding – I sense a theme!), and then built a solid, stable career directing commercials. Helming a full-length documentary about the ideas of a scholar and philosopher would appear to be one heck of a departure.

    Three questions come to mind:

    1) WHY? What was behind your decision – why did you feel this was a film that needed to be made?

    The other two questions focus on the more practical aspects (especially for those of us lacking in firsthand experience as to how the film industry works):

    2) How did you fund Finding Joe? Humanities grants? Investors?

    3)  What happened to your day job? I understand that writing, directing, and producing a feature-length documentary can eat one’s life. Were you able squeeze shooting commercials in between the filming and editing, or did your personal income take a hit?

    More to come . . .

    #72049

    Thanks so much for having me on this forum Stephen!  The foundation has been so supportive of Finding Joe from the very beginning.  I’m going to answer all of your questions in a very brief origin story.  If anyone wants more details feel free to ask 😉

    The origin story of Finding Joe actually started when I was a teenager. I was introduced to Campbell’s work by a teacher in high school and shortly thereafter the Bill Moyers interviews were first aired on PBS.  When I heard the phrases “Follow your Bliss” and “Heroes Journey” I was hooked.  I bought every book authored by Joe and devoured them. My decision to become a film maker was a direct result of my study of Joseph Campbell’s work.  My bliss was film-making, so I followed it!

    I was also into a lot of sports at that time, skateboarding and snowboarding and motocross etc. So naturally those were the subjects I filmed. As my career shooting commercials blossomed, I harbored this secret desire to make a film about Campbell’s work though I had no clue what it would look like or how I would get it made. I held onto this desire for more than a decade.

    Then, as in most good stories, a crisis came along. An actual full blown, therapist approved mid-life crisis.  Whatever you imagine a mid-life crisis to be multiply it by 10… horribly embarrassing.  In the midst of this nightmare both of my parents passed away inside three weeks of each other.  I’m not going to get into the details but the metaphor “lost in hell” sums up where I was pretty accurately.

    Here I am in hell and over the course of about a month the desire to create a film about the work of Joseph Campbell bubbled to the surface and after about another month I became obsessed with the idea.  In hindsight, I’ve no doubt that some part me knew that following this path would lead to salvation from the current hell I was experiencing.  It’s important to note that my wife, who had just dealt with her husband’s mid-life crisis, was instrumental in the creation of the film.  I think she saw the same value in its creation as I did.

    So, I did what everyone told me not to do… I put my career on hold, I mortgaged my house to fund the film and set off on my forest adventure to create Finding Joe… what could possibly go wrong?

    The creation of Finding Joe remains the pinnacle of my career.  I still get emails and comments from people all over the world saying that the film changed their life in some way.  My favorite still is a group of women who, after viewing the film,  took turns breaking up with their boyfriends.

    There was definitely some fall out from following my bliss. Financial fall out, which brings me to the film I am currently working on. It took almost three years to make Finding Joe and in that time I didn’t work. I lost my commercial accounts and my career took a pretty big blow.  I think the lesson was that following ones bliss does not automatically equate to a paycheck but I wouldn’t change a thing.

    As I toured the film around and did live Q & A’s there was always some joker who’d stand up and say “Hey, I’d really love to quit my job and become an artist but I need money.  I need to pay rent and put my kids through college and put food on the table etc.” This comment was consistent and I always hated it but it was true.  It got me thinking about money though.  What is money? Why do we need it? At base money is just an idea, it’s symbolic thinking, it happens in your mind… and that’s freaking weird!  So my current film “What is Money?” is an exploration of the psychology of money.  It’s not about how markets or banking works rather it’s about our relationship with money.   The goal is to explain to people WHY they behave the way they do with money and HOW to be better with this stuff!

    So, that is past, present and future in a nut shell. I think I’ll wrap it up right here Stephen.  Giant covid safe hugs to you all!!!

    #72048
    jamesn.
    Participant

    Welcome to the forums Patrick; so glad to have you here. I was so deeply moved by your personal story it reminded me of a couple of lines from the movie: “Dead Poets Society”; where Robin Williams played high school English teacher: John Keating and in these 2 scenes: 1) The Meaning of Poetry; he refers to life as a stage where: “The powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse – What will your verse be?” And 2) where he tells his students: “We are all food for worms” and uses the Latin phrase: “Carpe Diem; or Seize the Day”; as a metaphor for their life choices and to make their lives extraordinary.

    So my question refers to the term “Bliss”; and whether since you made this film do the people you talk to understand what goes with this journey? (I realize this may be subjective to the individual interpretation; but by that I mean Joseph said that this choice was a destiny call coming out of; as he put it: “from the push out of your own existence”. And often there was a misunderstanding which at one point out of frustration he mentioned: “Perhaps I should have said: (follow your blisters).” I say this because often I think people get the idea that it just means finding what you love to do; and don’t understand the pain and suffering that can often go with this life journey or adventure; and that the hero is a metaphor for what one must often undergo; not necessarily someone who wins a victory. I think this is a critical idea because it ties into everything else concerning the life that one must sometimes live that often gives it it’s greatest depth of meaning. (Tolkien’s: “Lord of the Rings”- trilogy would be one example for instance; with the character Samwise Gamgee in the: “Two Towers”; when he says to Frodo who is down-hearted and discouraged:

    “I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something. – (What’s that Sam?) “That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.”

    (Again Patrick; welcome here; and I’ll be looking forward to hearing you this week!

    #72047

    Hi Patrick

    Thank you for sharing your story with us all!

    Is there a particular scene in Finding Joe that you get the most questions or comments about?

    (G’day to the Tied-dyed Teller of Tales)

     

    #72046

    Patrick,

    I have been asked to do a 1 hour, 12 hour and 24 hour presentation of Joe Campbell’s work.  I have a general idea about how to organize each of these.  It’s the details that are bogging me down.  The biggest is a description for consciousness vs. mind vs. soul.  I know I’ll be asked to make a distinction.  If I can’t, the rest of the presentation(s) will stall on this point.  Can you offer any help with this dilemma? I have my own opinions, but don’t they’ll hold up to close scrutiny – Scott

    #72045

    Lovely posts, All!

    Just thought I’d share a reminder that discussion boards don’t move at the pace of social media; conversations unfold a touch more leisurely here. That’s why we’ve asked Patrick to participate over the course of a week, which gives people time to find the conversation, and Patrick time to do justice to questions and comments (he’ll respond when he has a break in his day).

    In the meantime, sure wouldn’t mind if those who haven’t posted before also pop over to our Meet & Greet forum and say hello, perhaps sharing a little bit about yourself and/or how you discovered Joseph Campbell’s work. That both gives other users a chance to welcome you, and makes this forum appear a touch less static (actually, some unexpectedly profound, long-lasting discussions have been generated in that forum – might be worth your time to check a few of those out). Also feel free to take a look at the other forums here in COHO (especially the Conversation with a Thousand Faces forum, near the bottom of COHO’s main page, which is a catch-all category for whatever topics don’t seem to fit anywhere else – there are intriguing threads unspooling on dreams and journaling at the moment, and we’d love for everyone to weigh in on what Myths Everyone Should Know, and add whatever you think has been overlooked).

    (And a cheery G’day right back at you, Antoinette! It’s been way too long; much as I’d love hanging out with you in the flesh – I’m waiting till they build a bridge from California to Australia, and then I can just drive across – bumping into you in cyberspace is  better than no contact at all!)

    #72044

    Scott,
    Let me jump in the conversation and share a few thoughts about the difficulties in describing consciousness, mind and soul.

    You’re not alone. For centuries, maybe millennia, philosophers, theologians and all kind of thinkers have wrestle with the same problem. I suggest you first examine your own assumptions, conceptions and preconceptions about them. If you think that you do not have any, what it means is that they have become hidden. Find them and bring them to the surface.

    I think there are two perspectives from which one can describe consciousness, mind and soul. One is as emergent phenomena. That is, they are biologically based. Matter is first. You can research the scientific literature supporting this assumption. The other assumption is that they are not emergent but fundamental. There is also literature in support of this assumption but not in the field of objective science.

    My suggestion is not to mix the two perspectives to avoid confusion. They are both valid. I think Campbell understood both. Maybe he had a preference for one. It might be interesting to explore that.

    #72043

    Thanks for your kind words @jamesn! Your question about bliss and blisters is great because it keeps coming up in my life as a filmmaker.

    I think the definition of bliss has changed for me over the years.  I certainly had a more romantic vision of what “following my bliss” meant at age 25 than I do now at age 53.   Looking back though, my bliss was what kept me going despite my blisters.

    As an example my son is 21 and an aspiring musician. A classic example of “following bliss”. However, he’s now realizing that actually making a living as a musician is much more difficult than he thought and he shares his doubts about being successful from time to time.  He’s getting blisters.  There’s a lot of recording, writing, fighting with bandmates… and now a pandemic so no live music.  Music may be his bliss but how much is he willing to suffer the hard work and set backs (as occurs in any bliss following adventure) in order gain a measure of success??  How much is anyone willing to suffer blisters?

    I see Campbells frustration at people who mis-interpreted the words “follow your bliss”.  It’s easy to twist those words to justify pleasure seeking behavior. However, I still think it’s a great place to start.  Whether interpreted as Campbell intended or not the phrase “follow your bliss” has the power to get someone started on a path, even if it’s the wrong path.

    I’m not sure if that answered your question but that is what has been coming up for me around “follow your bliss”.

    #72042

    Thanks for having me @Antoinette Smith!!

    I get the most comments about the stories “Golden Buddha” and “Tiger and Lamb”.  Everyone loves those kids.

    my personal favorite part though is about death and re-birth.  It’s a constant theme in my life and it never gets old and it never gets easier… lol 😉

    Gratitude- Patrick

    #72041

    Hi Scott

    That is no small task you have taken on! Unfortunately, I don’t have a clear distinction for (or a clear definition of) consciousness, mind and soul.  My hunch is that those three words are highly subjective and that whatever distinctions you make between them may have to come with some pretty solid qualifications and/or proofs… just a hunch.

    I would defer to our hero in tie-dye, Stephen Gerringer.  No doubt he can point you in the right direction regarding Campbell’s work.

     

    #72040
    jamesn.
    Participant

    Patrick; thank you so much for your thoughtful response which was most insightful. Yes; I think there are different manifestations of the bliss/journey that most people identify with that you mentioned; which I think lies at the root of what we’re discussing. Chris Vogler wrote something about this years ago which has to do with a kind of general script that many writers; (especially in Hollywood); are familar with that in your documentry Bob Walters addresses when he says that there are really only 3 basic stages of the journey: “seperation; initiation, and return”; but the confusion I think lies within the individual circumstances and what the requirements are for that person’s needs. In other words as you were pointing out your son may have one set of needs or requirements for the stage of life he is addressing; where as for an adult in mid or later life may have quite a different life crisis situation. (This is a problem that Joseph describes we all have to work out for ourselves within the context of our own lives because the older ways of interpreting a myth are out of date and no longer work and the individual is thrown back on themselves to find their own way.) And I think there is a social or cultural assumption that projects a kind of: “one size fits all”; where a scripted idea of the life process says: it has to follow a certain defined set of rules and steps in a certain order.

    There is also the subject which is brought up about: “Archetypes”; which Deepak Chopra briefly mentions that I think is critical; (at least from a Jungian interpretation); that most people in the general public have little adequate understanding of which Joseph goes into greater detail in his more academic lecture series. By that I mean the psychological aspects that myth addresses as compared to the spiritual, religious,or more mythological aspects. (He calls this the 4 functions that myth serves.) In other words trying to describe to a 16 year old about: the Shadow, Ego, Persona, or Anima/Animus and what an Archetype is not the same as an adult trying to describe a mid-life crisis to his analysist or mental health professional or spiritual advisor. But understanding what a myth in the form of a “metaphor” is as opposed to a “literal” or concretized version of religion; much less learning how to read a symbol as such; I think lies at the heart of much of this chaotic turmoil modern society is up against. Or in other words telling an individual that a dark forest adventure path to: “follow their bliss in finding their own way” is a metaphor; not a set of concretized: “thou shalt” scripted commands. This Joseph calls following the left-hand path of the hero; as opposed to the right-hand path of the village compound. Here is a clip from one of Joseph’s lectures describing what I mean.

    #72039

    Hi Patrick, thank you so much for being here with us and sharing your story about your film-making and the bliss and the blisters. My favorite part of Finding Joe is the Golden Buddha story and also the Death and Rebirth, as that is a repetitive theme in my life also, almost as if at each turning of each decade there was a rebirth–and always, first the death. Big deaths, little deaths, what have you, they were there. My bliss is in story and ideas, in whatever way or form or shape they manifest. I too had my own mid-life crisis when I wondered what in the world was I doing at my job and where did all the time go? It was a good job in theory (the idea of ideas again!) but the circumstances there were not good in practice. After dealing with the work environment for 7 years, when I felt I could not take it anymore, my appendix decided to burst and due to surgery I could not sign my renewal contract for the following year. This was one situation in which something violent and terrible-seeming turned out to be the pivotal point of something good for a renewal, a rebirth, a leave/departure, then a return to home–inside myself.  Now I am doing what I have always wanted to do–write, write, write; to simply be, to simply be in my writing, to write what I have always felt pulled or called to do yet had not made much time for. One of my favorite Campbell quotes is “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” I first read it years ago and wish I would have thought more about that when I was younger before I let so many things that were not for me override who I was/am. Sometimes we hide the gold in our souls under a facade to make money, as you say. Your new film interests me very much and I look forward to seeing it. I can say too thank you for being who you are and making the film Finding Joe that touches and inspires so many people, myself included.

    –Marianne

    #72038

    Thank you for this wonderful reminder, James when you wrote, “By that I mean the psychological aspects that myth addresses as compared to the spiritual, religious,or more mythological aspects. (He calls this the 4 functions that myth serves.) Somewhere in the audio lectures topic I posted about one of Campbell’s lectures describing those 4 functions–I love that, those 4 functions!

    #72037
    jamesn.
    Participant

    Mary; your moving personal story illustrates Patrick’s themes extremely well! (I looked for your mention of the 4 functions to include them but alas could not find them); but I think these are definitely important points you raise concerning the individual’s continued experience of: “death and rebirth” on living an authentic life throughout their journey instead of just existing within society’s usual roles. To me this “is” the call to adventure; or put another way: “the individual’s response to it”; and the 4 functions that you mentioned Joseph described: the sociological; the cosmological; the metaphysical; and the psychological; are what myths as vehicles serve in helping to integrate and harmonize an individual through the inevitable hurdles they encounter of the various stages and crisis moments of their lives.

    Stephen has an interesting thread about a little known work Joseph contributed to: “The Changing Images of Man”; titled: “A  5th function of Myth?”; and actually mentions a 6th and 7th in the “Works of Joseph Campbell” Forum and a link to the listing of it in the Foundation Catalogue if you or anyone is interested.

    Saying this I should probably mention at this point that I was trying to stay within the topic of “Finding Joe” as a metaphor of the archetypal element of the “Hero Journey” by introducing Jung’s psychological themes which Joseph emphasized so strongly; and their relevance to this continuing symbol which resonates so consistently throughout the one great 1000 faces story of mankind. But since this is such a large topic I think you are absolutely right that these various features and areas that he also stressed should be included as well.

    #72036
    jamesn.
    Participant

    I would also like to add what I think is a critically important addendum which Mary brought up that I think for many of us resonates quite strongly which has to do with what the individual defines as success. This particular individualized  or personalized interpretation of the individual life story I think has enormous bearings within the “life-story” context; and often presents itself in the later-life moments of change of what I think James Hillman describes as the: (Diamond or Soul’s Code); which like a seed or destiny calling begins to surface if the individual has not answered it’s demands; especially concerning the life path that has previously been chosen. (As Joseph mentions in some of his other Jungian lectures: this is when the “Shadow” aspect begins to surface by knocking under the table demanding to be heard.)

    This demanding voice of the psyche may also I think vary greatly depending on whether the marriage; career; or spiritual demands have not been met; or that one has simply not engaged with this deep hunger or echo of the inner life that has not been addressed. And most importantly as Joseph emphasizes; when the mid-life meridian begins to pass over from the noontime of youth into the later stages of life: “these symbols begin to change meaning” as well as context. A mid-life crisis is often a major call for a metamorphic transition into a new life; which I think Marianne’s post illustrated exceptionally well!

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