I love graphic memoirs, that peak into someone’s experiences, thoughts, and emotions. But it’s not often that a memoir hits as hard as Girl on Film hit me. Naturally, this is personal – there’s a lot in her book that I relate to, some stuff I’m envious as hell of, and some knowledge that is both inspiring and comforting with regards to my own graphic memoir.
I heard the siren call of art when I was a kid. I always enjoyed drawing and the second profession I wanted to pursue was writer.
(The first profession I wanted to pursue was garbage man, as noted here.)
Unlike Cecil, I never got to the point of even self-doubt – one event ensured that I wouldn’t even consider it. Combine that with the general Indian ethos of preferring safe & prestigious jobs and you have a recipe for decades of wandering and self-medication.
Cecil saw Star Wars in 1977 and was blown away. She decided to become a filmmaker. The book is about her journey.
And she’s had quite the journey – she had to scientist parents who nonetheless supported her artistic endeavors.
She lived in New York City (specifically The Bronx), with its’ options of specialized high schools. And in 1982, she saw the tv show Fame (after her parents wouldn’t allow her to see the movie 2 years earlier), and decided that she could go to that school to become an actor’s director.
She auditions and gets into the School of Performing Arts and Bronx Science (the best science school in the city) – and of course chooses Performing Arts.
She takes creative classes up the wazoo, dives into the art scene in New York City, and she loves film – she consumes the stuff. And learns that she’s not good at the technical aspects of film-making.
I know this feeling, of really enjoying something but not having certain aptitudes that allow you to be anything more than a hobbyist, so I related to this very strongly.
(There’s a lot more to her journey than this but I don’t want to give it away ;))
The NYC part hit home for me too – for years, it was THE place I wanted to live. I was 12 when I experienced the East Village for the first time and it was chaotic and magical. I know the pull of that city. And I’m hella jealous that she got to experience it as a creator – the ups, downs, and everything in between.
Oh – and she went to CBGB’s for punks shows.
There two other things that stuck out to me:
One is the number of successful or to-be-successful people she rubbed elbows with. Publishers, magazine founders, and plenty of people in the performing arts. Part of this is NYC – I’ve been within 3 feet of The Rapper, Matthew Broderick (trying to hide under a baseball cap & thick glasses), Alton Brown, and Uma Thurman (I was actually checking out her friend and later noticed who was with her).
My favorite of her experiences is this: she’s the first person to recognize Steve Buscemi in public.
The other factor is something that all creators of graphic memoirs face: wondering about the truth and honesty of their memories.
Memories are fickle. Memories are vague. And yet the emotions they come with are almost immutable.
How can we know that what we remember is what really happened? You know very well that asking 3 people about the same experience can result in 3 distinct sets of remembered facts.
Cecil has an ace up her sleeve for this: her dad. He’s a scientist who studies MEMORY.
So there are a number of interludes – discussions with her dad about memory and how it works.
If you’re writing a graphic memoir, you need to read this. It’s heartening and validating. So much so that I screenshotted a bunch of pages for future reference/anxiety prevention.
I have to thank Hoopla, this was one of their options for free borrows this month – I’d never heard of it before. It was a good, worthwhile read with some universal lessons that many of us can relate to and learn from.