The Classroom

I believe that the moment you almost forget what you really want, someone crossing your path will remind you of what you were meant to do in the first place. It’s up to yourself to be open to it and, if you really want to, do something with it.

About one and a half year ago I spoke to Jeanmarie in his classroom. Jeanmarie lives in an old high school where the classrooms are rented out for people to live in. I think it’s funny how someone that has inspired me to follow my heart after I’d stopped studying, ends up living in an old school, so every time I visit him we’re sitting in a classroom.

I was sitting in his most comfortable chair, which he always offers me, and we were talking about what was going on in our lives. Ever since I worked with him nine years ago we always kept in touch and we developed a good friendship. 

As I was sprawling in his comfortable chair, he casually mentioned his excitement about the fact that he was going to tour in China. As I heard him saying it, I instantly got this romantic vision of him traveling through Chinese cities and mountain villages with the Dwarf performance. I was sitting up straight within half a second and it felt like every cell in my body woke up from a long period of hibernation.

“Maybe I could come with you?!” I said.

I probably used the words ‘maybe’ and ‘could’ out of some form of politeness, because internally I said to myself: “This is it! This is what you’ve been waiting for! If you don’t go now, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life…”

I’ve been wanting to make a documentary portrait of Jeanmarie ever since I started working as a freelancer in film. But from the moment this wish declared itself to my heart I came up with all these rational reasons why it wouldn’t be possible: It would cost too much money, I don’t have the right camera, I don’t have time,  I don’t have enough experience and this list could go on for miles. They all seem legitimate reasons, but they were in fact all rationalizations born out of fear: What if I’m not good enough? What if I will fail? And then what would I be if I would fail at my attempt of achieving my dream?

What actually happened in that classroom was that my burning desire, which I had rationalized into a dozing pilot light, was ignited by the fact that Jeanmarie told me that he was going to perform in China. Right there and then my dream was so furiously sparked that not one rational thought could have stopped me from the idea that I was going to China to film it. 

Even though sometimes I’m really scared that this film will turn out to be my biggest failure – I’m investing a lot of time and money in it with no guarantees on returns whatsoever and in the past year I’ve had nights that I truly couldn’t sleep from anxiety – I take a lot of comfort in the fact that all the people involved in this journey took similar kind of risks. Creating a chain of decisions that are as beautiful as they are irrational. Starting seven years ago with Tim, Jeanmarie’s son, who made a similar instantaneous decision to immigrate to China…


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