jeffgrace:

Jeff Sneider of The Wrap (@TheInSneider) wrote a nice piece about Alex Karpovsky joining the cast of my first film as a writer/director, Folk Hero & Funny Guy.  Singer/songwriter, Liza Oppenheimer, will play the female lead and musician Adam Ezra will be composing original music for the film.  Ryland Aldrich is producing.  We look to be shooting in mid-February.

No Budget Film Fest ‘12 panelist Jeff Grace’s directorial debut has been announced! Congrats to Jeff and his whole production team. 

jeffgrace:

Jeff Sneider of The Wrap (@TheInSneider) wrote a nice piece about Alex Karpovsky joining the cast of my first film as a writer/director, Folk Hero & Funny Guy.  Singer/songwriter, Liza Oppenheimer, will play the female lead and musician Adam Ezra will be composing original music for the film.  Ryland Aldrich is producing.  We look to be shooting in mid-February.

No Budget Film Fest ‘12 panelist Jeff Grace’s directorial debut has been announced! Congrats to Jeff and his whole production team. 

(Source: jeffgrace)

Support a good cause and No Budget Film Fest panelist/judge Jordan Vogt-Roberts all at once! Tickets here: http://bpt.me/473006

Support a good cause and No Budget Film Fest panelist/judge Jordan Vogt-Roberts all at once! Tickets here: http://bpt.me/473006

PLANNING AHEAD

Molly and Cameron are in love. Molly and Cameron are getting married. Molly and Cameron are planning their wedding. Molly and Cameron… are a ticking time bomb of napkins, flowers and racist in-laws.

“I’m originally from Ohio, and I moved out to LA to work in the TV and film industry. For a couple years after moving here, I was producing reality television and 99-seat LA theatre. All the while I was working as an actor in the theatre, writing, doing short films, doing plays. I was trying to make art and figure out where my niche in the city and the business was. I’m lucky enough to have a strong group of people I work with that I’ve known from college or met through my work here. We weren’t planning on doing a piece, but then an idea kinda found me out of the blue. So I called up the crew.”  

       —Andrew Crabtree (Writer/Director)

How’d the idea find you?

I was having a conversation with two filmmaker friends who are engaged. They were talking to me about the planning process for the wedding. Watching them talk about it, their energy was so unique to me, so exciting and complicated. The hurdles they had to get over and how they had to get over them together was interesting to me. So I thought it would fit with my storytelling style.

It seems the true test of a marriage aren’t the years after the ceremony but the year of planning that leads up to it. Why do you think something that’s supposed to be the happiest night of your life is such a brutal undertaking?

I think that’s why it’s such a brutal undertaking—because it’s supposed to be one of the best nights of your life. As soon as you put that kind of pressure on it, it’s going to boil over at some point. That pressure is really hard, and trying to please yourself, your partner, and then your entire family? It’s a daunting task.

What was your filmmaking process?

I like to film in a very specific way. Emma Fassler is actually my girlfriend, so we’ve worked very closely on other projects, including our film Carrie: The Artist, which was in last year’s NBFF. For that project, Emma and I rehearsed it for hours—no cameras—just rehearsed the pants off of it. That’s what we did again with Planning Ahead. I got together with Emma and [actor] Phil Daddario a couple different nights leading up to the shoot and rehearsed it until we felt it in our bones. It felt real, the people felt real, the conflict felt real. So we didn’t have to toy with anything on shoot day. We just got to play. The whole thing was shot in one day at my house. We used two cameras and just rolled them and said “Go.” The actors already had it to run with it. Beginning to end—all the kitchen stuff, all the interviews—we did the whole thing in about eight hours.

I’ve asked each filmmaker about their obstacles, but it sounds like you had everything pretty figured out.

You’ve got to write for it. It’s hard, because you don’t want to inhibit yourself as a writer to only write the things that are free. But you don’t want to write yourself into a corner where you can’t create the thing you want to the level that you need. For all of the films I’ve made, I’ve pretty much had no money. That’s just the background that I have. So it matches my style, I think. I like to work in a very raw, sincere style with people being humans, running into conflicts with each other, then finding their way out and learning from it. You don’t need flashy, expensive stuff for that. You just need people in a room with something important to figure out.

Can you tell me about the decision to film it in a mockumentary style?

For me, the simple human interaction between two people is what I can best understand. As a director, it’s what I can best portray on camera. How my brain works is to just keep things simple and let humans be around each other, conflict, and maybe tell some jokes along the way because life’s funny. Some people are really good at telling their story with visual effects and graphics and crazy action scenes. I love those movies, but my brain doesn’t work that way. So the mockumentary style is something I find my writing gravitating towards, and it lends itself very well to a budget-free environment.

A dolly shot would have changed the whole feel.

It completely would have. As a director, it’s more important to me for the actors to play together and experience the scenes together, and I try to interfere as little as possible. So we didn’t have any designed shots. There were just the two cameras capturing what happened. Like I said, some people are great with dollys and rigs and fancier, cleaner, crisper shooting styles. And that’s awesome. But I find my work is best when humans are in control.   

THE GIRL IN THE CORNER

In this post-apocalyptic world, two lovers argue over their best means of survival.  Whose side will win; the man on his feet, or the girl in the corner?

“Istvan P. Szabo is an experienced filmmaker and writer, and he actually found me on Facebook. I finished my degree in acting at the Hungarian Theatre and Film Institute. So Istvan emailed me on Facebook and asked whether or not I’d be interested in doing this film. It was Thursday when I received the message, and we did the film that Saturday.”  

          —Izabella Poros (Lead Actor)

What attracted you to the film?

I thought it would be a good acting experience, and Istvan already had all the equipment—the lights, the camera—and was also able to fix the sound and colors [in post-production]. I thought the role was pretty good, too. There’s a minute to a minute and a half in the film where I didn’t have any lines to work with. I’ve always found the quiet parts in movies particularly interesting. Those are the best. You don’t have anything to work with, but you have to make it look interesting.

You often hear that some actors find their characters while filming through a costume or through the simple act of moving around a set. Considering the static nature of the film and your role in particular, was there any sort of mental preparation to get into the mind of the character?

I was a professional dancer when I was 24, but I hurt my knee. In the film, my character can’t move, because something has happened to her knee or leg. So I used my own injury to imagine what it would be like if I couldn’t walk at all. Like I said, I didn’t have much time to prepare for the role. But that’s what we always did in our acting classes. You have to pull something out from your soul quickly. You don’t always have that time to prepare. We set the whole thing up in Istvan’s flat. We turned down all the lights and filmed at night. There was a window above us, and we opened that so we could hear all the sounds of dogs barking outside. There was furniture in the room that I couldn’t really see, so I thought it was a good situation as an actor because I had to imagine everything around me.

What do you think a short film can achieve that a feature length can’t?

Short films are always more interesting to me. They usually leave the audience to think about what you’ve seen. If you watch a feature film, those are whole stories about something. You’re not usually left with questions at the end because they give you all the answers. But what I love about watching short films is that you get only pieces of information. You’re left wondering: Who was that? Who were those characters? Where were they? Who killed that girl?

SUBWAY

Omid’s well-intentioned desperate effort to catch a subway train results in a lost gym bag and a car full of confused and terrified passengers. In Subway, he tells the story in a comedic light, teaching you that sometimes, it may be best to just wait for the next train. Austin Duerst interviews Nicholas Ramirez and Omid Singh below.

“I knew by the middle of high school that filmmaking was what I wanted to do. I used to skateboard a lot with my friends, so by nature of the Tony Hawk video game era, you had to start filming your own skateboarding stuff. That’s how I ended up with my first camera. Once my friends and I realized we weren’t any good at skateboarding, that was the end of that. But the filming kept going. With that same group of friends, we made videos all the time. So I’ve heavily pursued filmmaking since, and through internships I ended up in New York. It was during that internship that I first met Omid Singh while we were both staying in a hostel.”  

    —Nicholas Ramirez (Director/Editor/Camera)

Had you and Omid always planned to collaborate?

Omid lives in LA now, but while he lived in New York we became good friends and always went to his stand-up shows. He’s a comedian, so there was always that idea of getting something of his on film to put out there and drum up interest. Subway happened while he was in town for a week and a half, and I had a slow period of not having too many projects. We decided to do something while having coffee one morning. We didn’t have a lot of time to plan big or pull a lot of things together, but we just wanted to do something. Following his stand-up material, we already had a built-in storyline. I had seen him perform the piece in the film a few times, and it was definitely one of my favorites. So I made a shot list in my head, and we went out to Bed Stuy in Brooklyn, which was the neighborhood where we both lived together. Since we were doing a subway bit, I wanted to use the above ground track because it had the source of light and looked nicer. We showed up on a Sunday morning back in February, and it was honestly the simplest form of shooting I’ve done since high school. Just a lot of me saying to Omid, “Go over there, do this, and I’ll take care of everything else.” [laughs]

How difficult was it shooting on the subway tracks?

It got very tricky in-between shots. I understood how ridiculous it was to try and do a subway scene without any control over the actual subway. I’ve worked on larger sets as a PA where we’ve done subway scenes, and even then, when you’ve got control over the train with someone from the MTA pulling it back and forward, it’s still a total bastard. So doing it with absolutely no control when I’m pretty sure there were some legal gray areas was tricky. But that was the charm of filming on a Sunday morning when it was quiet and there weren’t too many people around. We’d wait for the next train, get a shot, then wait for the next one. Very tedious. Also with this short in particular, we saved the shots of the bag catching in the door for last in case it lead to any issues. [laughs] People hold doors open for others all the time, but when you’re standing there waiting for the door to close, people are looking at you, the train conductor is looking at you. It was one of those scenarios where we said screw it, we’ll do it, and God forbid someone calls the cops on us.

A New York subway probably isn’t the most ideal shooting spot for suspicious behavior.

I’m not particularly proud of this, because I understand it’s not the smartest thing in the world, but there was one time where Omid was banging on the subway doors and it caused one train to slam on its breaks. [laughs] They thought something was wrong, and we had to briefly explain in a majestic way with our hands that everything was okay. After those moments is when we’d decide to get off the platform and go to the next stop. All the shots were on several different subway stops, because working on that kind of schedule would be impossible at one stop. So I decided continuity be damned, but I also figured you could take a lot of liberties with a funny short. That was a relief.

Stand-up relies heavily on surrealism and exaggeration, so I can see what you mean about being able to take liberties with the editing. Was that something you knew intuitively while you were creating the shot list in your head?

Yeah, when Omid and I were going through some of his bits, this one in particular we knew would work. It’s inherently funny; you could just shoot him performing it on stage and it’d be funny on its own. But living in New York, there’s a whole subtext to that joke. That perspective is the crux of it. It’s just a guy trying not to miss this train, but on the other hand it looks like something completely different. So I naturally felt like that’s what the audience would want to see. That’s what you imagine when you hear the joke. Little spokes in the joke provided narrative stuff to grab onto. Like when he “walks onto the train like a boss.” How do you show that? Well, you have a girl look at him. I couldn’t cast a whole train to look at him, so you play up the one look from a friend of ours who helped out.

Where was the stand-up scene filmed?

It’s actually a restaurant with a stage in it. It was at one of the smaller venues Omid plays when he comes to town. That same week we filmed the short [Omid] performed at Gotham, but we would have had logistical problems getting a camera in there. So the restaurant was easy. It was a late show and the owner didn’t care if we showed up with a camera. Part of me was kinda bummed that we had to shoot in a smaller venue as opposed to Gotham, but I think it actually worked out quite nicely. One of the things about a comedy club is that you’re laughing with other people, and there are always a few who are laughing harder than the rest. In a room that small, it wasn’t a crowd of a hundred with 20 people laughing—it was a crowd of 20 with 20 people laughing. So the jokes landed that much harder.

“This is one of the first sketches I’ve ever filmed. I mostly do stand-up comedy; that’s where I started from. Nick and I lived in a hostel together in New York, which is where we met. We’ve been friends since, and he’s always liked my stand-up, and I’ve always liked his film work. So we figured out a way to blend the two together.”  

Omid Singh (Writer/Lead Actor)

The narrative for Subway was a routine you already had?

Yeah, it’s the bit I usually close my show on. I’ve had that bit for two years now, and the short felt like a nice way to say goodbye to it and give it it’s due with Nick’s great vision.  

Being your first acting role, was it challenging for you to perform in the non-stand-up scenes?

It just shows how terrible of an actor I am and how difficult it is, really. It’s such a process that’s so foreign to me. Not that I hated it, but the acting part is super difficult for me. I’m not used to taking cues, but Nick is an amazing director and editor, so he came in knowing exactly what we were going to do. There was no wasting time, no asking what I thought. He had the idea perfect and I just had to stand there.

Having had this bit in your pocket for so long, what was the experience like for you to see it come to life in the final product?

It was awesome. It was amazing. I knew Nick was going to do an amazing job, because he’s worked on such great projects like Hugo. So I knew it was going to be a hit from the beginning getting him to do my sketch. I haven’t actually seen the 100% finished version yet. I’ll see it at the fest for the first time. But I’ve seen the 90% finished version, and I was really happy with it.

After this experience, what do you feel are the main differences between performing stand-up and performing comedy for a film?

Stand-up is way more fun. Even when you’re bombing on stage, stand-up is much more enjoyable than repeating the same action for 20 takes and running towards a train. I’d rather be eating shit on stage. [laughs] Acting is more collaborative, so you have to please a lot of people besides yourself. In stand-up, you’ve only got yourself and the audience to please, so it’s a much smaller group. And there’s no retake. If you want to do it again, you have to wait and do it tomorrow.

WOLF MOUNTAIN

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This short documentary shows a brief snapshot of Tonya Littlewolf, proprietor of the Wolf Mountain rescue shelter. Tonya spends her days caring for abandoned wolves who were bred in captivity, too tame to survive in the wild. She expounds on her connection with the wolves, and the strange space between wilderness and confinement these wolves occupy. Austin Duerst interviews Brendan Nahmias below.

“I’m the co-director and co-producer with Dan Duran and Sam Price-Waldman. The three of us all went to film school together at Chapman University in Orange County. Through the University, we were involved in a wildlife Environmental Film Production class when we did Wolf Mountain. We had two productions we were going to do over the summer, and we wanted to do both a serious piece and a more fun, visual, beauty-reel piece. For the serious one, I knew pretty quickly I wanted to do something about endangered animals in our “backyard,” so to speak, the Orange County and Ventura County areas. (I’m from Ventura county, Dan’s from Orange County, and Sam’s from New Mexico.) So we’re all pretty familiar with the desert environments to varying degrees. Through our research, we found Wolf Mountain.”   

—Brendan Nahmias (Director/Producer)

What was the next step?

I called its founder Tonya Littlewolf and told her a little bit about the project and what we wanted to do, and she said, “Sure, come on out!” So in March we got our gear together and had a place to stay at my uncle’s. We filmed for a day and a half over a weekend and it was just phenomenal shooting at that location. Tonya’s staff are really amazing people. “Passionate” doesn’t begin to describe their mentality. They live there full-time to make sure the wolves are taken care of to the best of their abilities. So we wanted to highlight people in communities doing important work who might not get the spotlight they deserve. With Wolf Mountain, we thought: It’s such a close drive from LA, so why have I never heard of this?

At one point in the film Tonya Littlewolf says, “Wolves don’t make good pets.” They are domesticated to a certain extent in the shelter, but they’re still wolves. So how was it filming around such powerful animals? Were you fearful during the process?

Yeah. Oh yeah. [laughs] All the wolves [at Wolf Mountain] are rescues, so they’re either brought to Tonya or Tonya finds them and rescues them herself from multiple captive situations, whether they were being kept as pets or bred with dogs. So none of them were born in the wild, and they can never be released into the wild because they wouldn’t survive. They wouldn’t be able to join a pack because they haven’t learned the fundamental skills of growing up with a pack. They’ve been under human care for the duration of their lives, so they only know that food comes from humans. There are a lot of wolves at the sanctuary that Tonya will let you meet with and pet, and they really are these spiritual animals to be around. But it’s the kind of thing where yes, they’re socialized, and yet when there’s food out—like the scene in the film where you see a wolf tearing apart a piece of steak—is when you want to be far away from the cages. You have to engage them very carefully. There’s a close-up in the beginning of the film of a wolf’s eyes. Sam shot that all within a couple feet of the wolf, just got right up there with his camera while I was watching to make sure other wolves weren’t getting too close or that we weren’t aggravating them in any way.

That close-up shot of the eyes in particular made me think: These guys have guts.

Yeah, a combination of guts and zoom lens I think. [laughs] The older wolves I think are more used to human interaction and socializing. So people see them and begin petting them, and their tails are wagging, and their tongues are hanging out of their open jaws. But they are so much more than regular jaws once you see them up close. There were certain wolves we couldn’t film—a newborn litter in fact—because the wolves were so protective of them. Seeing the wolves in these confines, the most important question we had was: If you’re rescuing these wolves for the duration of their lives, is there a time when they’re going to have the ability to run free? But it doesn’t seem like they can. At one point, Tonya mentions that they are hoping to move them to a bigger compound in Nevada where they will have more room to run around. But until they have the financial ability to do it they’re stuck. Which is still miraculous in a way, because Tonya’s been there 26-27 years.

What did you take away from the experience?

We definitely learned more about wolves through our initial research, things about their genetics, the different kinds of breeds. But when you first see the things up close, I wasn’t aware of how powerful and striking these creatures are. There’s a moment where Tonya is very much serious when she says the wolves are her spirit brothers. That might not be the case for everybody, but there is something about the wolves that when you’re in their presence you can’t help but submit to them. You can truly feel their eyes watching you, even before you realize what’s going on. They are trying to understand each and every person they come into contact with, and because they’ve received care for so long, there’s an understanding there. I believe they truly do love Tonya. She’s the one who will get into the cage no matter how vicious they look because I do think they view her as their mother. But I think that’s only with her. So when they look at you, they are looking to see whether or not you’re that kind of person.

JEFF

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Jeff is - unique - to say the least. When his girlfriend dumps him, he begins to think that he’s just too different to find happiness. But after meeting Molly, Jeff learns that true love is not only blind, it has one hell of a sense of humor. Austin Duerst interviews Jeff Addiss below. 

“I used to mainly act. I was a student at NYU in New York, and about five years ago I started writing and making films. I’ve worked on other people’s shorts for NBFF before, and I really liked the festival and Cartel. I think they all consistently do good work. So I saw that they were putting on the festival again, this time at the Vista, and I just walked into my living room where my roommates were and I said, “I’ve got an idea about this puppet who tries to kill himself.” And they were like, “Yeah! Let’s do it!” So then we stole a puppet.”  

       —Jeff Addiss (Director/Co-Writer/Producer)

You stole a puppet?

Well, I guess we didn’t steal a puppet. This isn’t the No Budget Thievery Festival. We borrowed the lead puppet from a friend of a friend. The giant bunny puppet in the film we again found through a friend of a friend who generously donated his time and his talent to make out with a girl through a puppet. There was a lot of making out with the puppet.   

Not since Peter Jackson’s Meet The Feebles have I felt such pity and revulsion for a puppet.

That was our goal. So I’ll make sure to tell everyone good job.

Were you depressed and watching Sesame Street one day to come up with a concept like that?

It’s a combination of really weird, sad factors. I became an actor because I wanted to become a Muppeteer. I knew for this short I wanted to play this puppet or do something in that arena. I don’t know where the actual idea came from. It was really just the image of him walking up to the bridge and then throwing himself off. From there we started to think: How would you kill yourself if you were a puppet? It doesn’t work. You can’t swallow, so you can’t use pills. You couldn’t afford a gun, and even if you could, you’re just stuffing. We had a lot of fun with that.

What was the biggest obstacle making the film?

The hardest part was that I was directing and I was the puppet. So there was a lot of directing from me wedged behind the couch. Or me lying on the ground underneath an actor’s legs, doing this puppet while trying to direct them. There were a lot of weird moments of “Okay, so step on me, and then I’ll reach up between your legs.” That was tricky and odd, and we got a lot of weird looks walking down the street with a puppet. But mainly it was how sore I was from holding up the puppet for two days. Otherwise, it was a fairly simple shoot. I think the scariest moment we had was when we made a stunt puppet to throw off the bridge. Obviously, we don’t have any permits, and we’re walking up the bridge holding what looks like a full-grown child with my buddy down below holding a camera. Two men, carrying what looks like a kid to a bridge, and then throwing it off. So there was a definite moment where we thought: “We might go to jail. I can’t imagine how this looks.” And the sound it made when it hit the ground was crazy loud. This CRACK! So yeah, we thought we were all going to jail. But otherwise everything went smooth.

You hear about actors who request to be shot a specific way, the “I look good from this angle” kind of thing. What’s the best way to shoot a puppet?

The hardest thing we discovered were eyelines. Puppet’s eyes have a natural tendency to tilt to the right, which is odd but true. So it’s tricky, because there were a lot of great takes where we’d then look at the footage and it’d look like the puppet was staring at the actor’s cheek or breasts. There’s all sorts of cheating we had to do to make it look like he was looking at her. It’s an unnatural way you have to twist your hand. It really feels very much like you’re looking behind her, and you have to cheat the puppet’s chin up, because it naturally wants to look down. But it was a good puppet. That puppet is a pretty good actor.

  

HEART

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As she begins college, Samantha reluctantly leaves her childhood home—and her beloved stuffed bear named Heart—behind. But Heart knows the difference between growing up and moving on, and decides to follow Samantha on her new journey. When Heart hitches a ride with a somewhat cynical man named Daniel, the two help each other to remember their pasts and follow their hearts. Austin Duerts interviews Peter Berube below.

“I’m a writer and director originally from Connecticut, and I’ve mainly been working in the theatre world until I started getting back into film. This is kinda my coming back into it. Heart actually started out as a short that I wrote for one of those rideshare companies. The budget fell through, but I really liked the story. I love that kind of old-fashioned filmmaking of telling stories without text and telling a simple story well. It’s very much like the opening of a Pixar movie. That’s kind of how I attribute Heart.”  

  —Peter Berube (Writer/Director)

What was it about the story of a teddy bear in particular that appealed to you?

I was dating this girl who had a teddy bear named Heart. So Heart is based off an actual bear that exists. It reminded me of this magic relationship people have with stuffed animals, because when you look at them, you have this non-judgmental relationship, which is why people will talk to them. But you also put so much emotion into them. When they look at you, they have some sort of personality. While making Heart, that was my focus—making sure every single shot with him seemed like something was going on underneath. Like he’s being sarcastic in one scene, or he’s really sad. You have to do that all by positioning him in these slight, subtle ways that convey emotion, because obviously it’s expression doesn’t change. Which was really great, because he did everything in one take.

Not too fussy? Wasn’t asking for extra honey in the craft service line?

He didn’t ask for anything. We set him up and he killed it. [laughs]

You have stuffed animals, and then you have teddy bears. The latter is its own category. Why do you think they receive special attention? Did you have a teddy bear growing up?

I didn’t have a teddy bear. Well, I guess I had a kind of bear. I had a polar bear. That was my go-to guy.

I had a panda bear and put a Michael Jordan jersey on him. I called him Air Bear.

Awesome. [laughs]

But in all seriousness, I ask because I think it’s the answer to why many people will find the film endearing. Heart wouldn’t have worked if it were about a plush caterpillar.

I think there’s this wonderful, passed-on nostalgia that you have with a bear. No stuffed animal quite picked up the way the bear did. Teddy bears came out around the time that Theodore Roosevelt was president, which is where they got their name. I’m full of useless information like that. [laugh] It was something that blew up ever since they were released on the market, and since then they’ve become this staple, stuffed animal hand-me-down. Other than sock monkeys, which are the teddy bear’s rival. But the thing about sock monkeys is they always have buttons for eyes, and I think it’s the eyes that really capture the emotion and build that personal relationship with a teddy bear.

What was an obstacle you had to overcome filming with no budget?

I’ve done a couple other shoots with no budget, but Heart was a pain in the ass because it’s a road trip movie. There were a ton of locations, and since it’s a bear, we had to get a hundred things on the shot list because he never moved. So they were really long days of shooting, and we had to move to so many different locations with so many outside circumstances all the time. Like shooting in the car while driving, then pulling over to set-up the camera for the next angle. Then continuing to drive somewhere else. It’s really draining. I would have loved to have cops holding traffic and all that jazz.

What’s some advice you’d give to an aspiring filmmaker with no budget?

You have to just get out, get a camera, and start shooting. My best recommendation if you want to start simple is to make something with no sound. Shoot music videos, where you don’t have to worry about the outside factors. If you shoot in black and white and shoot a music video, you don’t have to worry about lighting as much. Approach every project with the idea that if you can’t do it one way, then try and do it a different way.

  

TWIN(S)

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A simple story of sibling rivalry told through multiple mediums. Part personal reminiscence, part documentary, part home movie, and part cartoon. Austin Duerst interviews Matthew Kaundart below.

“I’m originally from a town called Fort Smith, Arkansas. I am a twin. I moved to LA to go to film school at USC. For the most part, I was studying live action. I’m really interested in non-traditional narratives, and diverging from typical narrative filmmaking. But I’m still really interested in story. I think story is about an emotional arc. Good narrative filmmaking has an emotional arc, and I think a good art film (or the things I’m into) have the same thing. I’m not interested in the chronology of events but the chronology of emotional events. That sounds a little more pretentious than I wanted it to sound, but I’m interested in emotional evolution. Those are the kinds of stories I want to tell.”

                             —Matthew Kaundart (Writer/Director/Editor/Animator/Sound Designer)

Tell me about how you came to make Twin(s).

Twin(s) came about while I was doing an Animation Minor at USC. You have to make a film for that class and produce it all yourself. At that point, I’d already made my live action film and didn’t have the money or the time to produce another live action film. So that forced me to take a different approach with Twin(s). As I told you, I’m interested in non-traditional narrative films, and a filmmaker whose work I enjoy is Sadie Benning, who did these pixel-vision, artsy films. It’s not something you’d study at USC’s film school, but I ended up assisting in the art classes to earn money, and was introduced to all these art film people. So Benning was a filmmaker I responded to. I think a lot of films you see in museums and art galleries don’t really involve you, and that’s narrative film’s speciality. So I was trying to combine the two. Basically, I was trying to make this film that was sorta like a diary entry or something, reflecting on some of these things that have happened in my life through the theme of what it’s like to be a twin and have a shared identity. I didn’t want to use actors; I just wanted it to be from me. I knew that I had this video that my uncle had made when my brother and I were born, and I got my hands on that. That was really an afterthought. It was really about trying to figure out these little moments from my past, write about it in a reflective tone, and then figure out the images to go with it. So a lot of those memories are anecdotes I’ve been told my entire life by my parents. I was incorporating that stuff and finding imagery to go with it. So there were photographs my family had; drawings and animation; and trying to make everything from the perspective of a younger version of me but with a more contemplative, older voice. The other big thing was the sound design. It’s not apparent in the current cut the way the sound is mixed by using the real-life voices from the VHS tapes. I let that play as the score, so the VHS imagery exists throughout the whole film in the sound state. Those were my intentions, and I’m not sure what I was successful at. I’m interested in the line between documentary and narrative, truth and fiction.     

You mentioned your film had a diary quality, and it reminded me also of the baby scrapbooks my family keeps of all the little memories they have of me growing up. Random photos to drawings and scraps of information. So I thought all three styles you incorporated really complimented each other, especially coming from the perspective of a growing child.

I was tutoring first graders at an afterschool program, and they had these drawings hanging up on the wall that I took a bunch of photos of. First of all, I loved what they were doing, because in some of them the kids were restricted to one line. So here was this amazing imagery that was so unpretentious. You go to a gallery and see these artists just trying so hard to get back to what these kids do intuitively. I was trying to embrace that as well, which is the reason why I was using crayons. I found out crayons are pretty difficult to use. I was just amazed at how quickly a crayon dies. You have to draw very fast when you’re doing hundreds of animation notecards. And those aren’t cheap! The Crayolas aren’t cheap.

I’m getting this image of you sneaking into the afterschool program at night to ransack the crayon buckets.

To be honest, I needed blues and reds. There was this big tub for the lost crayons, and I definitely borrowed quite a few of the blues and reds. I couldn’t buy pack after pack of crayons just to get blues or reds. But the kids still have the purple and the greens. I was giving them more reason to be creative.

Creativity through limitations. Isn’t that what the festival is about?

Yeah. I’m glad I could do that for them.

I always get an eerie impression from the aesthetic quality of old camcorder footage.

I agree with you 1,000%. Anyone born in the 80’s have a very finite period of time where our home movies were on these bigger camcorders that had built-in mics. The sound isn’t bad audio, but it’s definitely not anything you’ll see in normal movies. I think the sound has a very eerie feel, and that’s why I used it as the soundtrack. It has this really specific tone that’s super eerie, but I also think the VHS image speaks to a certain generation and reminds them of their home movies. I’ve watched other home movies, and its a genre that’s particularly hard to get engaged in, because if you don’t know something about the family, they’re more like art in the sense that you have to involve yourself with it. 

It reminds me of a quote by William S. Burroughs when referring to why people have a hard time listening to other people talk about their dreams: “There’s no context.” I think that’s why home movies and dreams seem strange to anyone who doesn’t know the context.

That’s exactly how I feel. When you watch 16 mm or 8 mm film home movies, that’s nostalgic, because the image is warm. Our memory recorder is through this very cold mechanism that doesn’t feel real; the way it handles light makes it look burnt out. So I don’t know if I’d say [camcorder footage] makes people feel nostalgic for a period of time. I think in a way it makes people recall their own home movies, and it creates this even bigger counterpoint, because you’re not watching your own home movies. It’s as if someone has invaded your own home movie space.

thephoblographer:

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thephoblographer:

New Footage From Digital Bolex D16 Shows Stunningly Film-Like Characteristics

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So excited to have a rep from Digital Bolex on our tech panel tomorrow. Check this out.