We talk with co-writers/directors Andre Phillips and Charles Vuolo and Cinematographer T. Acton Fitzgerald about their fantastic drama playing at Cinequest!
A science fiction film that is smart, fun, sassy, and highly enjoyable! We sit down with Writer/Director Rob Schulbaum, and actor Sean Carmichael about this phenomenal flick you can see at Cinequest, premiering on Thursday, March 7!
The Wrong Todd
We talk with director Heidi Yewman about her power examination of gun violence and its aftermath, Behind the Bullet!
We chat about the short Nocturne, showing in Shorts Program 1!
I am, it turns out, an anomaly. I will write anywhere, at any time, in any conditions. While I like to write in bed, with my laptop on my belly, it's far from the only place I write. I will write in a Denny's. I will write at my desk as I research the Oral History that begins in an hour. I will write in parks, on planes, with a child on my lap, while waiting for a movie to begin.
Apparently, this is not normal.
Wade Shotter's amazingly funny film, I Will Not Write Unless I Am Swaddled in Furs is about those writers who can't write unless the stars are right, the time is perfect, the reality of the world has been bent to their will. As a guy who knows a lot of writers, I can say that this is both true, and false, but it is not because writing is something that is inherently difficult; it is because the writer demands sacrifice.
Looked at one way, it is the peak of egotism, no? The demand that the world conform to the needs of a singular being who sees themselves as above it. Viewed another, it is the complete surrender to the fear that is putting your words out there, and thus the requirement of the perfect alignment of stars is a way of refraining from putting themselves out there. It is truly either excessive self-love or excessive amounts of fear, supplemented by no small measure of self-loathing.
And that is what the film is about.
It is one of the most beautifully textured films I've seen in years. The cinematography is perfection itself, beautiful and rich, I'd go so far as to call it sumptuous. It's the product of an eye that fully understands not only the function of image to pass along the story, but to instill the sensation of viewing. Too often, that is lost in slickness, but here, it is so pointedly textured with fur and leather and wood. It's so amazing.
John Babbott's article from McSweeney's (https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/i-will-not-write-unless-i-am-swaddled-in-furs) is excellent, and the treatment on the film is even better!
You can see I Will Not Write Unless I Am Swaddled in Furs as a part of the Something Funny program - https://payments.cinequest.org/websales/pages/info.aspx?evtinfo=85260~78899376-35a9-4153-8303-e1557be2dc32&epguid=d52499c1-3164-429f-b057-384dd7ec4b23&#.XGXeKFVKhdg
What does size mean?
It's not an easy question to answer. If it is merely how much space we take up in the universe, then it's pretty straight forward, but odds are, it's a whole lot more. It's how visible we are, how many resources we require, and perhaps most importantly, how easily we are able to hide. That's a big part of the philosophy that you get watching the beautiful animation On The Day You Were Born.
George is reclusive, and it's an annoyance to his sister.
As he's on the phone to her, he begins to grow. He continues to grow, and as he does so, his point of view changes, and he comes to understand... something.
That's the basic story. It's a body horror work, but a psychological body horror work. It's got a touch of Kafka, of Alice in Wonderland. The story is told two ways - through lovely animation that follows George, and through a lovely bit of narration handled by the incredibly Beth Grant (Donnie Darko, about 1,000 other films and TV shows you've seen) that doesn't dwell on the character, but instead drives things forward.
The growth has led George out of his comfort zone, but more importantly, it has forced him to experience himself in a new way, which makes him realise that there is something to him that is of interest. That's a big deal, but it's also only a thing that happens along a path, and that makes things fascinating.
You can see On The Days You Were Born as a part of Animated Worlds - https://payments.cinequest.org/websales/pages/info.aspx?evtinfo=85257~78899376-35a9-4153-8303-e1557be2dc32&epguid=d52499c1-3164-429f-b057-384dd7ec4b23&#.XGR2GlxKi70
We live life in close-up. It is the inevitable outcome of the continuous availability of cameras, and more importantly, the continual availability of people to look at the images captured by those ubiquitous cameras. Facebook, Twitter, and especially Instagram, have brought us to a place where we can capture moments and receive nearly instant feedback, praise, dopamine hits that fuel us further into the world. This is where Followers lives, presenting us the inevitable with an image that is as powerfully telling as you'll ever find.
A close-up of a woman's face.
Let me start by saying there is an incredibly long history of having films carried by close-ups of women, probably starting with the amazing The Passion of Joan of Arc by Dreyer. Here, it is a young woman, obviously of the right-the-fuck-now, and we start on her mouth, her lips.
I could write a book about the role of the mouth in the art of the 20th century, both fine art, and body art. From the Pop Art screened lips of Warhol, the disembodied mouths of Tom Wesselmann, to the logos of The Rolling Stones and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the mouths, and the attached concepts that are implied by them, are the keys to the understanding of art since 1950. Here, our focus is the mouth that appears to be the focus of an Instagram feed. She takes photos of her putting things in her mouth.
After we experience those, we came to a life moment, and that's where things get incredibly tough, uncomfortable, painful, and most of all, completely and utterly understandable. Every movement, every expression she makes is a fully-thought and experienced emotion those of us addicted (and yes, we're addicted) to social media understand. It's a cry for help, and her eye, Sweet Jesus her eyes!, speak so amazing well to that. She continues with her performance, and we see the reaction to her steps.
Now, allow me to unpack a whole bunch of stuff here. Those of you who don't appreciate my Art Analysis should likely check-out now.
What we are given at the beginning are the moments she wanted to capture and send. Sexy images, thoughtful images, composed images. What we do not see in those is the after. We assume, we believe that the micro stands in for the macro, but we don't know that. For all we know, she's allergic to bubble gum and that shot is her suicide note. OK, there stuff that comes after, so it's probably not, but work with me here. Outside of the moment captured, we don't know. We could easily be lied to, those might not even be her lips, but either way, what we don't see is the consequences of her actions.
We honestly don't really care.
What we care about is what we are shown, what is presented. We react to it, and sometimes we ask what comes next, often half-heartedly, but we are tied to that moment, to the view, and typically that is all.
This whole thing is a lot like the paintings of Olde where there would be a participant in a painting looking through a door, or simply off-canvas, and we would have no idea what they were looking at. We are given a moment, but in those paintings, we are reminded that these works are simply a moment out of an infinity of time, a snapshot if you will.
Here, we are given those moments after, and it's terrifying. It is as if what we would be thinking as the worst case scenario is confirmed. I say what we would be thinking because, let's be honest, outside of the "Your SO Hawt" reactions, almost all of us are less moved by the before than the after, and especially than the during. Here, we are forced to come to understand the after, the during, and we are shown how the poster goes through with it, and her reaction to her own steps. She is apparently not at all happy with her choice, and the look she is giving the camera can be read as resolve to her choices, regret for them, and perhaps most of all, determination to move deeper into her gimmick, into the eyes of her followers.
There's a sting at the end that wraps everything up nicely, by the way.
The statement here might be "How far will we go to be InstaFamous?" and there's something else that's bubbling up too. The idea that we KNOW that what we're doing for clicks, likes, reTweets is dangerous, damaging. We are fully aware of what we're doing, and like the lucid maniac, we are unable to stop ourselves. We have to. That post about our Ex, that picture of us pissing on a grave, that shot of the first bite into a ghost pepper. We know the result, but we do it any way, and are rewarded it for it with the only kind of love the Internet understands.
Of course, whether or not that's real love is another, and much more difficult question.
Megan Lee Joy is amazing. She hits it out of the park with Followers, and all that above is brought about by a film that is merely three minutes long! I can't wait to see more of her stuff!
Followers shows as a part of the Shorts Program 8 - Directionals - https://payments.cinequest.org/websales/pages/info.aspx?evtinfo=85261~78899376-35a9-4153-8303-e1557be2dc32&epguid=d52499c1-3164-429f-b057-384dd7ec4b23&#.XF2lRFVKhdg
Identity. It's a super difficult matter from the inside of a shared identity, and nearly impossible when you're looking from the outside of it. No matter how confusing aspects of racial and national identity are, how often do we engage in talk of what it means to be us, and what it means to be other. That's a key question in life, in society. It's also a major part of the wonderful Canadian short film Bunny Man.
It's a scene in a Chinese restaurant, where a bunch of friends are eating, having a spirited discussion of the differences between Chinese-Canadians born in Canada and those born in China. It's an interesting conversation that is interrupted.
Interrupted by a man in a bunny suit.
That's the basic structure, and of course, things go in unexpected ways from there. The reaction to the bunny man in many ways mirrors not only the conversation the group was engaged in, but the basic idea of the Other, of Our Space vs. Shared Space vs. Their Space. There is a sense of violation, and at the same time, of hyper-protectionism. There is an understood unease about interacting with someone so thoroughly out of one's regular interaction space, and at the same time, there is a sense of unreality to it.
Bunny Man is one of those films where you see the path, know how you would handle the scenario and are looking to the characters to see if they do what you would do, or what you are afraid someone in that situation will do. It's a challenge, you see. The bunny man in the restaurant is a challenge, and Bunny Man is a challenge. How do you see the film, and why is it that way?
Bunny Man plays as a part of Shorts Program 9 - Hidden. https://payments.cinequest.org/websales/pages/info.aspx?evtinfo=85262~78899376-35a9-4153-8303-e1557be2dc32&epguid=d52499c1-3164-429f-b057-384dd7ec4b23&#.XFxFTFVKhdh
Let me talk about archival footage for a moment. I just did that, didn't I, back in my review of Double Exposed? There's just so much to say. You can literally simply put the footage out there, let it sing in its glory, or you can manipulate, fold, spindle, or mutilate, and create work that is as much a piece of collage as it is a documentary. Watching the magnificent I am Thinking of Pierre Cardin made me feel things I know the filmmaker never had in mind, and that is absolutely OK!
First off, as seems to shock everyone familiar with my image of printed t-shirt above black pants and vans, I'm actually quite into fashion, or more accurately, fashion history. The rise of Modernism in the early 20th century, coupled with technological advances in manufacturing and design, just fascinates me endlessly, and when I had a chance to chat with Avery of 99% Invisible about her show Articles of Interest, I got to talk about fashion! That made me endlessly happy!
I am Thinking of Pierre Cardin is a Impressionist work, with the medium being archival material, the canvas being the short form documentary. It looks at Cardin's massive body of work in less than 5 minutes. It does not go into detail of everything he ever did, but it gives you the impression of exactly what it was Cardin made people feel within the world of fashion. The short doesn't rely on anything other than a beautifully written narration, and editing done with all the precision of a master tailor's scissors. It is fast, beautiful, smart, emotional. I was immediately brought to two of my all-time favorite feature docs, The Kid Stays in the Picture and The Legend of Long Tack Sam. The sense of style that is imparted by I am Thinking of Pierre Cardin soaks into the frames and powers us into this sensation of the days when Cardin was both rebel and mainstream in a way few others before or after have managed. Cardin was the Avant Garde, though at the same time, he was what so many aspired to be in the mainstream. Without Cardin, you don't have Gaultier. Without Gardin, you don't have Carbaby Street. His work was a definition of Internationalism, but entirely within the concept of Western fashion, Imperialist as that can be.
The short is so powerful, and it carries with it the weight of an emotional reaction to a time we kind of think we understand. The early seasons of Mad Men, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and various other pop culture diggings into those times, here are are given nothing but the impact of those times through Impression and emotional impact, instead of being forced into the scene by putting the layer of today's norms in contrast to what we are being shown that narrative explorations of the time are forced to do. This, instead, beings you to the 1950s and 60s through imagery, sound, movement, and doesn't force you to try and fit your expectations from where you are sitting into the box containing the work. Instead, it presents you work, so much work, Pierre Cardin-levels of work, and allows it to flow over you, taking the pieces the material lands on along with it as it fades from view.
You can see I am Thinking of Pierre Cardin as a part of the DocuNation program at Cinequest - https://payments.cinequest.org/websales/pages/info.aspx?evtinfo=85259~78899376-35a9-4153-8303-e1557be2dc32&epguid=d52499c1-3164-429f-b057-384dd7ec4b23&#.XFRrP1VKhdh
The use of found footage has been an important part of the world of documentary and Avant Garde film pretty much since the beginning. It makes sense, since it's cost-effective, and it carries with it a weight of history. That's something that is almost impossible to divorce from found footage; there is an inherent weight of time captured. That is a significant part of what makes Double Exposed so powerful.
Director Julie Buck takes footage from 1960 shot by her grandfather to explore her family's history, and the footage is double exposed, we're told that only happened with this one reel of 8mm film, and it's a haunting combination of images, with the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley mixed with summer family imagery. Buck does voice over, talking a bit about the philosophy of film and its role within familial, and community, memory. Buck's voice-over flows with a natural cadence that never feels forced, as if she is simply talking to the viewer as they sit in an editing bay, reviewing the films of her grandfather. The speech never weighs down, even as the topic turns dark, heavy. We're given information that makes us confront a dark presence, we are forced to fit that into what we've already heard, what we are witnessing on the screen.
This is what being in a family with a secret is like.
Everyone knows one aspect, but you and those that are closest, know another. And often, the aspect you know is not continual, but a piece, usually folded up, hidden within for that moment when it unfurls and blistering applies itself to the situation. To the target. To you. It's this question of what is the reality of that person that hit me again and again as I re-watched Double Exposed so often. We see one thing, but we are told another that hits true and without question. The one thing we see, in the wider scene, is inconsequential in the light of what we are told, of what is recalled, and in that we are forced to question how we can take in what is shown the same way. The use of the footage, the gloriously imperfect double exposed footage, only raises a question, as Buck's narration does so well; is the experience of the footage negating the facts about the man who shot it?
The timing and pacing of Double Exposed is pitch perfect, because if it had been any other way, if the presentation had happened in any other order, it would have lost a question; how can this person give us that? And answering that question is what you'll be trying to do the moment the last frame fades.
You can see Double Exposed as a part of DocuNation at Cinequest - http://klausatgunpoint.weebly.com/klaus-at-gunpoint---the-blog/cinequest-2019-double-exposed
Klaus at Gunpoint
A Film Journal dedicated to all film.A segment of Office Supply Publishing.