Ave Maria, it’s a girl!
Reflections: Me, The Muppets and my vocation
By Claire McCarthy
Deriving from a strong Catholic family it seemed inevitable that one or more of my brothers would join the priesthood. My incredible parents have always encouraged leadership skills and emphasised the importance of being warriors for truth – qualities often less appreciated in women than in men.
I asked myself, what hope will I have being a woman in this world? How could I possibly reach people and try to inspire understanding and solace? The priesthood? Out of the question!
I dabbled in painting, had fleeting thoughts of a career in opera, and then, like a bolt from the blue, it hit me when I was in first year at university. I had recently finished a small ‘puppet animation’ (about 12 notches below what you would expect to see in The Muppets). I had grabbed a camera, filmed my ridiculous looking Muppetesque parodies, edited the images, composed a piece of music and placed sounds underneath the pictures. I screened the film for myself in a private viewing room at the uni and realised I had put together, albeit crudely, a piece of film. As I carefully carried my version of Star Wars across the uni to be assessed by my lecturer, I realised with complete serenity that God had put me on this planet to be a filmmaker.
Pope John Paul II recently wrote a very moving Letter to Artists which I was lucky enough to have emailed to me by a friend who recently joined the seminary. I had been complaining to him about the difficulty of finding money to make films that are spiritually thematic, and how easy it is to become incensed about this with so many insipid and often morally bankrupt films attempting to bludgeon us at the local cinemas.
As I read the words of Pope John Paul II, I realised, with increasing emotion, that finally my artistic mission in life was being summed up. Not everyone is called to the vocation to be an artist, but we are all “entrusted with the task of crafting our own lives”. Within the area we are entrusted to and responsible for, we must be aware of the significance of our contributions and the importance of trusting in what Pope John Paul II eloquently defines as “the opening of the human soul to the sense of the eternal”.
Essentially what he is reminding artists of is the incredible power of art to reach the divine and, ultimately, “lift us up”. Through the creative processes of the artist a level of transcendence is achieved that connects directly to the power of the ultimate Creator. Through this we can be moved through art, can find solace, inspiration, even answers.
The Pope writes: “Humanity in every age … looks to works of art to shed light upon its path and its destiny.”
Indeed, many short films later, I feel that the more successful moments within my films – be it directing actors, writing scripts or sculpting the myriad fragments of celluloid into some semblance of a film – come when I check my ego at the door and allow myself to be a conduit for something much greater than myself.
Although filmmaking is an often unhappy marriage between art and commerce, I am optimistic for the future of cinema. I am aware of the power of the medium to reach people. How often, these days, do people surrender their undivided attention for a minimum of an hour and a half, begging to be inspired?
I wish my brother James well with his vocation to the priesthood and his aim to imbue an increasingly disillusioned society with hope for the future. I, too, with God’s will, hope to reach people – through the power of cinema, in many ways the only remaining church left for some people. I thank the Pope for his rejuvenating words of wisdom and am reminded of the incredible responsibility of my vocation as a filmmaker.
Claire McCarthy, an Australian Film TV and Radio School (2000) directing graduate, has made several short films and received awards at festivals here and overseas. She completed a Bachelor of Design, majoring in film and visual communications (University of Technology, Sydney, 1997). She is making preparations for her first feature film.