In this Area 52 series, I've been trying to swim into new, uncharted waters for myself as an artist. I find the more I push into new and bold directions, the freer and more improvisational the work becomes. The M.O. the last few months has been: Come up with an idea on Thursday, have no idea how I'm going to pull it on Friday, then sit down on Saturday and just GO! And I go until five minutes before midnight on Sunday and wish I had more time ;) There's no time for mull or fuss.
The discoveries and connections I make as I go along are partly luck and partly my brain needing to make a connection between one thing and the next. It's kind of like making jazz music. You feel something and you run with it and you worry about the structure later on. Very literally, one thing leads to another. It's improv! And it makes for some of the best work. Or at least the work I enjoy the most.
So after about 17 films worth of this, I'm falling into a realm of absurdity meets reality, tied not so neatly with a bow. A real life idiosyncrasy or a mundane human behavior gets paired with seemingly unrelated visuals. Which then gets paired with an even more seemingly unrelated audio track. The combination of these three things is magic to me. Usually that's a comedic device so I guess some of the work this method produces is dark humor. I'm fine with that!
This film embodies all of that...except for the reality part. Not every film HAS TO be a statement piece on a real topic. Some films can just be studies or true experiments. But they have to make sense. Or do they? Don't they? Shouldn't they?
In film school, you learn a very rigid method of making a film. It might be a good foundation if you're making a TV show or something where you need to be formulaic. But making a one-off film needs to be more of a process of self-discovery. You can't always be in control. The magic is in the metaphors, not in the semantics. If you believe the reverse, it's going to hurt the work. Guaranteed.
Orsen Wells said this about planning too much:
"If you have a master plan for what you're going to do, exactly where the camera's going to be, exactly what the scene is supposed to state...if you are locked into that, you are depriving yourself of the divine accidents of movie making. Because everywhere there are beautiful accidents."
As artists, we care so much about our ideas. But it sometimes leads us to being stubborn about that idea ONLY existing in it's original form. And it's because we went through the toils of pre-production (a writing process and a storyboarding process) where other people usually are involved and very invested. You've spent weeks and months tossing ideas around with each other until you arrive at a logical consensus. And therein lies the problem for me. TOO much logic. So much concrete logic that you've created a concrete box for your creation to live in. Meanwhile, all the fun is happening outside the walls!
Think outside the box, they say. I say, fuck the box. There is no box. The box is only there because you said it had to be. It's just you making sense of events, stringing them along and showing it to people. "Look at how logical we were!" Logic doesn't always mean interesting. When directing Jack Nicholson for a scene in 'The Shining', Stanley Kubrick said his performance in certain takes was "real but not interesting." This quote has been a guiding light throughout my career. Interesting is always better than real.
But, I admit, I fall into the logic trap every single time I sit down to make a film. Thirty times so far. One of the things I've learned after 30 of these, is that using your limitations or constraints to your advantage is your most powerful tool. And logic sometimes is a big constraint. Especially if you're stubborn about it. Even in the real world this is true. Steak and eggs wouldn't exist if everyone thought that steak was only eaten at dinner time and that's that!
So for as much as this film seems to be off the cuff and random and haphazard, my brain absolutely had to make sense of the juxtapositions. Ass lead to donkey, which lead to giraffe and pronged horns, which lead to pronged plug banging the ground like a hammer, ok well then a hammer is next, then a pecking chicken, then an egg, then an Easter egg and bunny, then Santa Claus, then Tooth Fairy. Well they don't exist and neither do UFOs! So let's do a UFO next!
It's word association meets word disassociation and creating a pattern out of that. So even though it comes off as complete nonsense, is it really though?
I've been staying away from storyboards lately but this film needed one. It helped with the "logic":
I decided to draw with a fabric marker instead of a one I'd normally draw with. Turns out it didn't make much difference in the look but it was good for injecting the ol' experimental spirit. Plus the soft brushed tip of the marker made for a free flowing line:
There was lots of collage work too. "Frankensteining", I like to call it. And some of that happened in the edit as well. I used some academy film leaders (the 10 second countdown before a film reel starts) as transition points and background art. Some of that yielded some strange bits of live action footage to be mixed into the film. Also, real human faces which I don't typically like to include:
This is my favorite image in "Nonsense?". It doesn't really live for that long in the film so here it is in it's full glory. This one actually makes a lot of sense to me:
Hope you enjoyed this film as much I did making it. If you read this first and haven't watched the film yet, what are you waiting for?