Nov 292011

I like long haul projects, the films you plan for months and spend years finishing, but I’m always trying to figure out how to retain a certain level of spontaneity during a shoot, and by the time you get everything prepared on a big production, and everyone is assembled, it can start to feel a little militaristic.   I keep trying to simplify the process, to get everything extraneous out of the way.  A lot of people tell you all kinds of things are needed to make a film.  Really I think you just need a sense of story, and imagination.  They’re not the same thing, but the one helps the other.  Cameras are increasingly lightweight, and easier to use.  With the right kind of approach – an open one, maybe – you can get at interesting things.

We filmed this short in an afternoon.  Rather than plan a character over a long period of time, we looked in our closets, and put something together.  We tried to figure out who this woman is as we shot.  We filmed in our back yard, with what we found there.  It made me pay attention to the space we were in a lot differently, because I wasn’t necessarily trying to make it conform to a preconceived idea.  We used the weather we were given.   A dog roamed into the yard and we used him too.

We’d been talking for a while about making a silent movie.  I still have plans to shoot a larger one, something a little more ambitious, but this is good practice.  I think of films like this as sketches.  And we had such a good time I think we’ll keep following this woman, whoever she is, to see where she takes us.  Last weekend we went back out into the yard to pick up where we left off.  We invited another friend to create another character.  I made some notes and drew a storyboard a few days in advance and we loosely followed those.  I’ve been looking at comic books, which seem to me to have a lot in common with silent films, the ratio of image to text and the way these little bits propel a story.  I’ve been thinking about serialized stories, too, because I like the way they give you an opportunity to think a lot between each segment or episode.  So we’ll maybe follow this woman with no real agenda and see what avenues it leads down.

 Posted by on November 29, 2011
Nov 212011

Coffee with Savannah Bearden and Betsy Taylor.  Savannah smoked Pall Mall blues.  She was drinking iced coffee – her second.  Betsy had just visited her mother and said her mother would probably like Savannah because she smokes, a lot, and generally that’s all Betsy’s mother needs to know.  Betsy’s mother had seen a plane flying overhead and went into an obsessive thought cycle.  She detailed where the plane might be going, the fact that it would land when it got there, and all the baggage would have to be unloaded, the passengers disembarked, then they would refuel the plane, then new passengers would board, new luggage would be loaded, and – whoosh.  Off again.  Savannah talked about the show she’d be hosting later that day.  A kid sitting next to us was excited because he had an i-pad and a Butterfinger.  The Butterfinger was all over his fingers, and the i-pad.  His mom said he needed to get a haircut before Thanksgiving.  She sounded worried.

 Posted by on November 21, 2011
Nov 172011


About ten years ago, I went over to visit Melissa Dunn, one of my favorite painters, and saw a stack of vintage magazines sitting out on her table.  They were mostly decor things geared at housewives, and seemed to date from around the 1950s.  The illustrations were amazing, especially the colors: pea greens, bird egg blues, yellow golds, dusty pinks.  There were pictures on almost every page, of bedrooms and kitchens and living rooms.  Boudoirs.  My favorites were always the boudoirs.  The women in these rooms – and it was always women, as if in their fantasy lives men stayed out of the picture – seemed high on some idealized fantasy of solitude and technicolor saturation.  I’m not really sure why I liked those old magazines so much, but I haven’t stopped thinking about their palette ever since.

Melissa is one of my most frequent collaborators, though until the other night we’d never actually worked together on anything.  I feel like her paintings and my films are engaged in an ongoing conversation, mostly about color, but about the effect those old magazines have on us too.  We both spend a lot of time trying to find the right colors and the right way to use them in our work.  We both ask the same kinds of questions.  What happens when you throw up a color field?  What kind of emotion or response does it produce?  What happens when you go from one color to another – or contrast two or more within the same frame?  What is it with pea green?  Maybe one of the reasons colors are so important to me – specific colors – is the fact they can bring back the past.  Like scent or music, a color has stealth.  It smuggles memories.

Melissa asked a few weeks ago if maybe we should actively collaborate on something.  Maybe bring the conversation into the same project and talk with instead of at each other.  We started talking about what we could do.  We didn’t want a story.  We just wanted it to be about color and mood.  We looked through Melissa’s paint samples, hundreds of them, stored in a heavy carrying case.  We found six shades we liked.  We decided to invite five or six women we know to come over and stand between a camera and these colors as if they were one of the women in the magazines, gazing into the mirror, living somewhere between that fantasy space in the magazines and the real time space of their own bathrooms.  We’re calling the film project Ladies’ Home Journal, after those magazines, and because it seems like if you could run through a series of those moments in front of the mirror taken from various points in time, it would be something like a journal.



 Posted by on November 17, 2011