Nina Garland / 21 April 2002

She’s been working on this movie since before I met her and I’m starting to get the feeling that our fights about it are just another waste of time. She doesn’t want to finish it, is the thing. Is what I’m figuring out now. Me, I’m a finisher. It’s one of my key titles, along with chopper and grinner and shaker. The things that’d go under the name on your life’s business cards. But Anna, I think as our marriage shows, likes to stretch things out for as long as possible, long past the breaking point. She’s all about the process and could care less about completion.

The movie is called Nina Garland and is supposed to be, as far as I can tell, a kind of alternate autobiography (the name of the protagonist being an anagram of her own [maiden] name) starring a wide range of local women in the titular role. One of our fights (27-E) is where I say the reason her “actresses” (the implied quotation marks made clear by the way I slightly tilt my head when saying the word) keep abandoning her is because they find the whole thing so ridiculous and she argues that using a bunch of different women was always her plan and she’d dig up the original high-school diary with the whole thing mapped out if she could just find the box it was in. “Each part of me has been splintered and each splinter is represented by a different woman,” she says and gestures at the laminated Gantt chart that hangs over our bed. “I’ve got it all mapped out.”

“Then what the hell was Maia supposed to be?” I ask. In that infamous five-minute segment — which I still think could use some editing and maybe some sweetening of the foley work — Maia is out on the docks, squatting, bottomless, big as life in the middle of the day, writing words on her bare kneecaps in bright red marker: blood and oil. Except she’s writing them backwards for some reason, but luckily there’s a compact mirror nearby which she (and the camera, in an over-the-shoulder shot) uses to read them — as if she didn’t know what they said. “That’s personal,” Anna says, her face closing up shop and I know to just call it quits right there unless I want to dig a trench and hunker down for the rest of the afternoon, which I never do.

The thing already runs three hours and Anna shows no signs of slowing down. I’m supportive by not being openly hostile. And anyway when she’s on the set I can watch fishing on TV. But I’m just saying I took a photography class in college, I have an eye, maybe not for color but for placement and framing, right. It’s not like I have nothing to offer.

Joshua Green Allen

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