In psychology, the shadow is our dark side. The place where we throw less desirable parts of our personality. Like a storage closet or an attic for the mind. I'm not sure "shadow" is the best description, though. Let's look at this definition...
In Jungian psychology, "shadow" or "shadow aspect" may refer to an unconscious aspect of the personality which the conscious ego does not identify in itself. Because one tends to reject or remain ignorant of the least desirable aspects of one's personality, the shadow is largely negative. There are, however, positive aspects which may also remain hidden in one's shadow, especially in people with low self-esteem, anxieties, and false beliefs.
Makes sense. But the shadow as a visual analogy still doesn't really feel like it nails it. It's kind of like using the word "hole" to describe a black hole. Black holes aren't holes at all. Matter of fact, they're extremely dense. I guess I don't like the term shadow because it implies air or something with no weight to it. You can't hold light or shadow. Barring heat and cold, there's nothing tactile about it. They have zero viscosity. They weigh nothing. Anyone who has had to confront their dark side (everyone) can tell you that it doesn't feel like air. It's the opposite, actually. It's dense and suffocating. Kind of like being forced to remain underwater. It's what I'd imagine hell to be like.
The longer these embarrassing traits fester in the darkness, the more rotten and disgusting they become. Like the forgotten jar of jelly lost in the bowels of your refrigerator, it can get pretty icky over time. I like that better. Less like a shadow and more like a blob. Like a big black fuckin' booger that grows every time you stick another smaller booger onto it. Eww, right?
But seriously, the emotions that come along with deciding to throw something into "the shadow" are suppressed, negative feelings (fear, embarrassment, low self-esteem). So it's only natural that those feelings rush to the surface to perform triage when something in your shadow is exposed. You don't like those traits about yourself and really, really, need them hidden. Compounded with some kind of mental illness, the shadow can become a place that exposes itself all the time. And in really harmful ways. Schizophrenia blurs all lines between your light and shadow and is usually out in the open for all to see. Depression is more of an introverted illness but just as menacing when mixed with the darkest parts of your shadow.
Anyway, this film was an attempt to depict an intangible part of our psyche in cinematic terms. And maybe offer up a more accurate and poignant visual description.
This was the film I was going to put out 7 weeks ago and then decided not to and to close the shop for a bit. I'm happy I did that because it became something much different, better and stronger than what I had originally intended.
I got a lot of inspiration from "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?". Bette Davis is unbelievably great at portraying the tragedy of an alcoholic with a mental illness who still dresses like a grotesque version of her 9 year old self. She lives out loud in her shadow. For me, Bette Davis' stock rises every time I watch it. If you haven't seen "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" yet, and you enjoy great performances from legendary actors, it's really worth a viewing.
As usual, everything starts with really good audio. I had an idea to use laughter and upbeat music to soften (or humanize) the shadow a bit. If it's too sinister and other-worldly, the idea doesn't hold for too long. So I pulled from lots of random things to create the audio track; low frequency radio transmissions, barking dogs, ragtime music, muddled underwater gurgles, a woman with a panicked laugh, slamming doors, coughs, etc. These seemingly unrelated items mixed together with really wet reverb makes "The Shadow" feel vast.
For the black blob, I poured a puddle of kid's paint onto a transparency sheet and then sprayed it with an air can. I got some nice ripples with the right amount of viscosity from that:
This footage then went through several compositing stages to create the final look:
I guess it's fitting that I had to make this film to get over a psychological hump. In it's original state, this film was lacking in any concrete thread. I just knew I wanted to make a film about the things we hide from ourselves but it didn't have any kind of "aha" and I certainly didn't know about Carl Jung's "shadow aspect" thesis 7 weeks ago. It had a door though! So, there's that.
It was a really tough call not to put it out. But aside from being sorely in need of a break, the film was being dragged across the finish line and I'm not about to start throwing shit out there just because of a self-imposed deadline.
So, now that it's behind me, I'm pretty proud of the fact that this obstacle was overcome and turned out better than before.
Thanks for reading! Now go WATCH "THE SHADOW"!