Cameron Strittmatter is an actor, director, screenwriter, playwright, novelist, short story writer and has just finished Bible College. He has written and produced several films and plays and has recently taken up writing short stories for his blog. http://seadanger.wordpress.com/
We had a lengthy discussion that, because I don’t want to cut much out, will be published in two parts. The following was transcribed from a videochat and thus may or may not read like writing. It’s more so the ramblings of two very sad men.
My words are bolded and his words are not. Here we go:
How would you describe your artistic voice?
I would describe my artistic voice, currently, as defined by the knowledge that at the heart of death lies an empty tomb. And that that’s very exciting. So that defines everything else. Even though I’m a silly person with silly things to say, my tone and voice find their roots in horror. Even though I don’t write about horrifying things. It’s an overwhelming sense of doom is what motivates my humor.
How would you describe your short stories?
I would describe those short stories as one of two things. A. Thinly veiled fantasy writings about my feelings of women I’ve just met. B. Outpourings of my heart that don’t seem to fit into bigger projects. I usually go to write for the blog if I have thought of something while working on Battle Wizards (his newest novel), or the upcoming play that I’m working on that just doesn’t fit. It’s usually darker or heaver, or… vague. I use it to work out how I’m feeling at the time. Be it a thinly veiled mask of me being attracted to someone, or … I don’t know, one day I just wanted to write a story about a mermaid and also I’m scared of the ocean.
They’re so eclectic but there is a definite tone that’s consistent throughout your stories. I especially like your last one.
*laughs* Code Red?
It is awesome.
What attracts you to certain pieces? What intrigues you as an artist?
Darkness intrigues me. I’m very interested in what is scary, and I mean that outside of the banal slasher sense. That’s not scary. Because even in my silly things, there’s this awful unknown something that’s overbearing and… it’s a mystery… Wait what was the question?
What intrigues you as an artist?
Yeah, mystery. I don’t know, somebody was telling me the other day that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. You’ve heard this before?
Which, I guess, makes sense but there are these odd times in life where when you do the same thing every day, day-in day-out, and something seems to happen differently anyway, and its that little mystery of “Why? I got up, I ate breakfast, I went to work, I came home, everything was the same why is the result not the same?” and it’s this insanity of day to day life where even though you’re trying so hard to keep static, it changes, and it’s a thing that’s totally out of your control. So for me, in my imagination, it kind of spins out as being eaten alive by your best friend and a mermaid, and returning from a trip to the moon. So yes.
Do you believe there is a difference between good and bad art?
What separates the two? What constitutes good art and bad art?
It’s tough because the line between craftsmanship and art is sometimes difficult to gauge. Because I think mastery always results in good art, even if it’s not their masterwork. I think that time and blood spent on something is what will be beautiful. One of my favorite quotes is from Propaganda. Have you heard of him?
Yeah, he says this amazing thing in one of his songs, I think you would appreciate: “But worth, value, and beauty is not determined by some innate quality, but by the length for which the owner would go to possess it.” Something is only valuable by how hard someone goes to get it. So in the face of the gospel, something is made beautiful by its pursuer not in the work itself. So Yeah, there might be some little happenstance where someone magically does something and you’re like “Holy shit, you did nothing and this is beautiful.” But more often than not it takes blood spent to make it good work. I think you can find value in simple things but overall it’s the cost that’s attractive for me. That’s the difference between good art and bad art for me. Because bad art… I think there was a really clever boy who wrote an essay named “Implicit vs. Explicit.” And I think that really went a long way to define a lot of the feelings I had about bad art. When the desire to get your point across comes before making the art, I think it starts to come off the rails a bit. Would you agree?
I would agree. I would say that I hold to that sort of view. Good art communicates, but it doesn’t communicate at the expense of its form. That was the point I was trying to get across, that the message or the communication shouldn’t come first, the form should. Because when its all said in done, like when you go to a movie, or a gallery, like you said, you’re going to see mastery of the form. Doing something wonderful that you couldn’t do or fathom, to witnesses someone else’s imagination, not to go see what someone’s political agenda is.
Right. My favorite artwork is where form and function are inextricable from each other. It’s simple and complex.
Can you give an example of that? Because I know what you’re talking about, but I can’t think of a specific example.
Sure. Like, in a pedantic way; movies. Obvious things, like Terrence Malick, or not so obvious. As a christian you look at his movies and say “holy crap, the gospel!” And it’s laid in a way that is so intangible. So that’s cool. But a really good example would be a film like “The Prestige.” The entire movie is a magic trick. And the movie is about magic and how it doesn’t exists, but it nevertheless does exists, and at the end its almost as though christopher nolan turns to the camera and says “Ta-da!” It’s excellent. Something like that. In visual arts, there’s an abstract painter and he only uses ancient japanese techniques… I can’t think of his name, do you know who I’m talking about? He was commissioned to do a Special Edition of the ESV bible.
I know who you’re talking about, I saw the video a while back but I don’t know his name either.
He uses gold in every single one of his paintings. He just hammers it in. So in this case, the vehicle doesn’t work without the intent. All of his works might be confounding at first, but really work when you meditate on them.
Part II of this Interview will be released early next week.