I stumbled upon this fascinating film project, called You Doing You, recently. The filmmaker asks a ton of people the same questions: what’s your name? What are your titles? When was the last time you cried? Why? The last question is a little more open-ended and makes for some amazing, tragic, inspiring, and beautifully weird answers. After watching, I decided to give these questions a try. Here they are.
Dylan Max Ullman
Human, Student, Artist, Guy, Dude, Sleeper, Dreamer
When was the last time you cried? Why?
I tear up during many films and songs, but what really gets me 90% of the time is one of the ESPN 30 for 30 films. Most of the time those don’t really “count” though. So, the last time I really cried was at a funeral for a friend’s dad who really passed away suddenly. I don’t know if our minds process grief differently depending on the circumstances of someone’s death… Anyway, I was pretty fine for the first few minutes of the service, and then it just hit me like a wave. I think it was from looking around and recognizing the gravity and the reality of the situation. He was a well-liked, well-travelled man who touched many people’s lives; I could tell this by the amount of people who were there and the stories that were told. It was like I was expressing part of their collective pain, but also expressing mine about the situation in general. It was the kind of crying when you’re trying too hard to hold it back, and it just makes it worse. And I guess I, or maybe we, don’t come in contact with that gravity very often. Different people handle it differently. I think it was a mix of expressing my pain and an empathetic pain for the close friends and family members who were there. I was able to smile and even laugh near the end, so I was happy about that.
What makes you want to be alive/What gives you drive/What do you believe in/Why do you do what you do?
Family makes me want to be alive. And then a lot of smaller things, like food for example. Ideas, and how I interpret them, and then choose to express some of them through different forms of art — those are giant in terms of the desire to be alive to kind of grapple with them. I think art in general makes me want to be alive a lot, to see and to absorb works of art from other people which in turn can give me a clue as to how I should approach something that I make. It’s a very weird chain that we’re involved in — not just as artists, to be clear. Individual lives are kind of like equations, where we’re writing them, but they can be written an infinite amount of ways to produce an infinite amount of results. That’s why we’re all at least a little bit different from each other. The events that occur and the choices we make in our lives are all variables in the equation. So what gives me drive is seeing what outcome my equation will produce, and trying to exercise some foresight while I write it. But sometimes not. I think what drives me to do things past a survival level is probably relentless optimism. I don’t think I’ve ever lost that for any significant period of time — although I have lost it. But clearly not all the way. So that optimism is part of why I do what I do as well. I tend to put a lot of myself in a drawing, painting, song, etc. A piece of me is in there by default, but I think the throughline in almost all of my art is optimism. Even a dark concept or image is usually expressed in lighter visual tones. I kind of believe that it’s all love, that it’s all good too. I don’t really know what I mean by that, and it sounds “hippy-dippy”, but I think there’s an underlying direction to the whole thing, and maybe it’s an optimistic direction. So I just try to illustrate all of that, one little piece at a time.