Jun 182013
 

I’m finally working on the second episode of the White Shoulders silent movie series.

I forgot how challenging these shorts can be. The style is very specific; the rhythm pretty tricky. Everything has several filters on it, so any infinitesimal change requires several minutes of rendering time. The White Shoulder shorts are probably the most difficult editing work I’ve done – which is weird because they end up feeling light and maybe effortless.

Evelyn Avenue regulars Savannah Bearden and April Novak return for episode two, and the tone is slightly different than the first. I have no idea how long the series will run. I try to keep it as open and flexible as possible. However hard the editing is, the filming itself is meant to be casual. I come up with the story the week before we shoot and draw out preliminary storyboards. Coming up with the dialogue is one of the last things I do, usually during the edit. I do have some idea where the series is headed – I know it will have a few breaks in style and story – but I keep myself in the dark from episode to episode.

Episode 2 was shot by Erik Morrison, with some additional footage by me.

If you haven’t watched episode 1, or need a refresher:

 Posted by on June 18, 2013
Jun 102013
 

marshall 3

I met Marshall and Parker Mulherin about two years ago, when their father was helping me record piano cues for Woman’s Picture, my second film. Like their dad, the twin brothers have more than a passing interest in music. Until recently, music seemed to be their primary focus.  Now it’s taken a back seat to sartorialism.

I was shocked when their sister Savannah, a regular Evelyn Avenue collaborator and a close friend, told me they’d been keeping an Instagram diary of their outfits. The kids I remembered (15 or 16 at the time) didn’t seem the least bit interested in fashion. I can’t even remember what they were wearing. I think hard and come up with a sum total of brown.

The palette of their Instagram page is impressively diverse, and the way they approach clothing feels more like art than fashion to me. They use their bodies as walking art installations, basically, and they curate the Instagram page like a gallery exhibit. They put a lot of time into selecting, tailoring, and coordinating their outfits, then they put them out into the world, not just online but on the street. This kind of thing is maybe a matter of routine in larger cities like Manhattan. You don’t see a lot of it in Memphis, and even less of it at their age.

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They say their style is classic American prep meets sportswear meets dandy. I haven’t heard an 18 year old use the word dandy in a pretty long time. To hear one saying it in pink pants gives me a lot of hope.

They acknowledged their style has British influences as well, so I asked them whether they’d ever looked into Mod fashion or, say, ska culture. What they’re doing seems wider than preppy and dandy to me – it’s more original than that, with tentacles extending in all different directions stylistically. They’re taking references from many different places, and in some small way their dress becomes social observation. It’s a kind of refined kaleidoscopic commentary on ideas of the Southern Gentleman, fantasies about leisure, chivalry, adulthood, masculinity itself.

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Being twins, they’re a united front in this socioartistic enterprise. Watching them put outfits together yesterday afternoon, while we filmed the short above, I wondered whether they’d be doing this if they didn’t have each other’s support. It takes balls to present yourself this way – and if two is better than one, four balls have got to trump two.  They’d never really considered it – not the balls thing but strength in numbers – but they’ve never been in the position of needing to, maybe. They did say that it’s something they’ve always done together – the entire process, from conception to execution. Doing it alone is probably unimaginable.

People joke about trying to tell twins apart. I had trouble remembering who was who (“Marshall has glasses,” Savannah kept reminding me). Every time I turned around yesterday the one was wearing something the other had just had on. They’re impossible to color code. They probably wouldn’t see what they’re doing this way either, but I love the idea that they inject a little extra bit of friendly anarchy into social interaction, a constantly mutable which is which of shifting color and pattern. Knowing one had glasses and the other didn’t meant nothing to me, I guess because I imagined they must be trading those out too.

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They told me that, aside from it just being fun, dressing the way they do is a means of communicating various things to the adult world. To me it seems like a way of demanding to be taken seriously as a presence, a person, and an intellect. I can’t imagine the take-away ever being “brown” again, after yesterday. It’s also somehow a perversion of classic acting out – doing what you’re not supposed to be doing at your age. It’s turning that Youth in Revolt thing on its head, restoring a sense of the unexpected to the now exhausted social rite of acting up. Any guy their age can break into his old high school and vandalize his former calculus classroom. For the real rebel, wearing pink is a much more revolutionary form of graffiti.

(Photos of Marshall Mulherin taken from his blog, The Modern Prep; Group photo is of the band the Specials)

 Posted by on June 10, 2013
Jun 072013
 

In 2008, I made my first feature film here in Memphis and in Arkansas with a crew of three. It’s been a while since I’ve watched it, but it’s available now for streaming online (information below), so yesterday I revisited it, and a slew of memories came rushing back.

I met cinematographer Ryan Parker right before I was going into production on the film. Before this fortuitous meeting, I was convinced I could teach myself how to shoot the film. I didn’t allow myself to see the folly in that at the time. I was determined to shoot, regardless of my circumstances, and had set the date. The shoot was a real education and I’ve used everything I learned on every film I’ve made since. It was a stressful shoot – I think they all are – but while shooting Only Child, our latest feature film together, both Ryan and I realized we’ve been trying to get back to that place ever since – a place where you have very little but think expansively, where things are quiet and still enough to recognize the wealth of possibilities you’ve been presented, where your relative inexperience makes every obstacle on set feel like an opportunity.

Experience is great and I can see clearly, editing Only Child, how I’ve benefited from it. As an independent filmmaker, I doubt I’ll ever have everything I need on a production, but on each successive film I’ve had more resources, more knowledge, more support, and more confidence, and I’ll never truly experience the sense of discovery and exploration I did during The Way I See Things. Lacking what you think you need can enforce a certain kind of imaginative flexibility, and I’ve tried to keep in touch with that, to think outside the box as I’ve moved forward making films. That gets harder to do with each film. On Only Child, I had a crew of twelve and a revolving assortment of volunteers. I had a truck full of equipment, compared to the single light we used on The Way I See Things. It was a daily effort to remind myself that just because I had something on a truck outside the set didn’t mean I had to use it. It became increasingly difficult as well to hear my own voice clearly with so many others speaking. The moment Ryan and I shared on set, pretty early on, when we acknowledged the value of our first shoot together, its simplicity and purity, helped me keep things in perspective.

The Way I See Things was adapted from a story I’d written right around a time of pretty significant loss for me. During the preceding two years both of my grandmothers, a mother figure, a friend, and my uncle had died. The film was a way of handling that, an effort to move on by transforming an emotional dead end into a creative wellspring. The film’s protagonist goes on a road trip a year after the death of his long term partner and ends up in a wooded commune full of what his close friend calls Looney Tunes. We were basically living the experience we shot, in that none of us knew each other that well and all had, to put it charitably, pretty quirky personalities. Take that out into the woods and lodge it in rustic cabins and you’ve got some kind of magic, on if not off screen.

The Way I See Things was an important film for me in so many ways. I’ve worked with a few of those collaborators ever since. Every film I’ve made since I shot with Ryan. It was a real benchmark moment.

The film is available on Amazon Instant Video, free with an Amazon Prime membership, and on Epix, also free, where you can get a 14 day free trial of the website’s inventory.

(Pictured above: top, the poster designed by Evelyn Avenue regular Jessica Jones; Center, Ryan Parker and Brian Pera; bottom, Pera, the cast, and Bard Cole on boom)

 Posted by on June 7, 2013