Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Ry Russo-Young

Article originally published in The Pictures Zine issue 2

It’s two years since the New York IFC’s “The New Talkies: Generation D.I.Y.” screenings, a programme that collected ten low budget features, all made by a group of loosely knit friends and accquaintances. The films were low key and naturalistic, dealing with everyday lives, youth and relationships. Though each was in itself a distinctive work, the friendships between the filmmakers - often working on eachother’s films - and their sharing of casts, crews and some stylistic features (many of which arose due to low budgets) led to talk of a new film movement. Owing to their understated, conversational aesthetic, the term “mumblecore” was coined to describe the films and their makers.

The class of 2007 has come a long way in the past two years. Budgets have increased and projects become more ambitious, and the mumblecore term shed once and for all. Ry Russo-Young, who directed sisterly drama Orphans and featured in Joe Swanberg’s mumblecore who’s who Hannah Takes The Stairs, has just released her second feature, You Won’t Miss Me, which premiered at Sundance to wide acclaim.

“I think it’s great that we are all still friends and care about eachother’s work,” she says in reference to the mumblecore years. “I think being grouped in with some fellow filmmaker friends didn’t really help or hurt me, it was just part of a moment in time that has now passed. There will be more moments like that. Seems like everyone is doing good, we all have many years ahead of us still to make films and progress, and I’m looking forward to being there.”

Orphans, released in 2007, always stood a little apart from the other films, whose plots generally focussed on romantic relationships. Instead, Orphans is a tale of two estranged sisters whose birthday party reunion prompts the unravelling of secrets and long held deceptions that threaten to destroy both siblings. Heightened by the strong performances of stars Lily Wheelwright and James Katherine Flynn, the film is often tense, claustrophobic and surreal, and always heartfelt. The games played by the two sisters, both mental and real, reflect Ry’s own childhood, much of which was spent inside her own head.

“I would constantly play what my parents called ‘imaginary games’, this would often involve costumes and elaborate stories of princesses being taken away and sent to orphanages, train rides and narrow escapes and rescues…school wasn’t easy for me, I was dyslexic and had a really hard time learning to read. The school I went to tried to kick me out on account of my not being able to read but my moms fought tooth and nail and hired a tutor to teach me. I studied with this lady Nita for years and learned how my brain worked. I learned to be very disciplined.”

Ry went about putting this discipline to good use, finding a love in acting. “When I discovered acting as a tween, I realised there was a socially acceptable term for what I had loved to do my whole life.” Taking parts in school plays, getting head shots, begging her mothers for an agent, she was determined to fully explore her passions and make them her life. A class in high school awoke her love of photography and she took a series of dramatised, episodic self portraits, damsels in distress (“when my photography teacher showed me Cindy Sherman I was deeply disappointed that somebody had my idea before me.”)

Before leaving for college her passions coalesced. “I made a film with my best friend from childhood, the same one I used to play imaginary games with as a kid, and all these things clicked. Acting, images, narrative and fantasy gelled into one medium that felt right in my bones.” Guided by her college tutor, “an Iranian filmmaker named Amir Naderi [who] made great big films in Iran and then came to America and started making lower budget films with tiny crews”, Ry began making her own films. Amir was a great influence on the young filmmaker. “He would recommend films for me to watch and then we’d meet and talk about them. He helped my develop my taste and confidence…when I had an idea for a movie about a boy who can’t read and enters a dream world with his teacher who is a ballerina, he pushed me to go out and make it for no money.”

Ry continued experimenting and working, releasing Marion in 2005. An eight minute short on three screens, the film wittily deconstructs the shower scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho, showing three alternate versions of the event. The film won awards for Best Experimental Short at the 2005 Chicago and 2006 SXSW films festivals, setting the scene for the production of Orphans, which was made with the same spirit of experimentation. The film reflects different mental states by segueing between different formats and aspect ratios. It’s an idea that’s taken further in You Won’t Miss Me.

“The whole film is shot on five different formats,” Ry explains, “each format expresses the character’s psychological state. When she’s feeling very bad about herself we shot on a 1 chip flip camera that looks all pixelated and crappy. We also shot on Super 8, 16mm, HD and DV.” But crucial to the effectiveness of this mix of formats is the flow of the film, reflecting the flow of genuine feeling. “The formats are constantly changing and yet it all feels fluid, like the broken pieces of a mirror being slowly glued together. I love each medium for what it brings to the table.”

You Won’t Miss Me follows Shelly Brown, a 23 year old actress recently released from psychiatric care. She wanders through New York situations and social circles, from a psychiatrists office to coke fuelled loft parties. The film stars Stella Schnabel and “other notable New York personalities” – actors and non-actors, friends and accquaintances – and has been praised for its mixed aesthetic.

It’s an aesthetic that seems particularly suited to modern times, and one which is being explored on multiple fronts. See Harmony Korine’s Mister Lonely or recent films by Lukas Moodysson. It is perhaps particularly suited to (and influenced by) recently available technology and the plethora of different media available both to view and to work in. Internet distribution is a big and growing part of this picture. “The internet is definitely becoming a viable form of distribution as more people go there for content,” says Ry, “I think we are going to see a lot more creativity and fluidity between internet and film content. We are going to see films more directly having a gaming and web based component to them.”

But this is just one of the fronts to keep an eye on for Ry’s work in future. The door from DIY to multiplex is not closed, and so it shouldn’t be. “I would cast known actors and work within the studio system and get more traditional funding. There are advantages and limitations to every budget and mode of filmmaking. Working in the way that I have has given me a lot of creative freedom but it’s not the only way to make a movie. I think you can still be creative and work within a system.”

But even as budgets and audiences grow, that D.I.Y., low budget, mumblecore – whatever – spirit, manifesto, remains, in Ry’s work as it does her contemporaries. Voices remain raised and ideas and feelings still hold true. “The manifesto is that you believe what you want to make is important, that it’s necessary and that it belongs in the world. Does cost reflect quality? I think most people can take a look around at Hollywood movies and say absolutely not. I think what is necessary is that we make sure that the films we do make (whatever their budget) are important, necessary and truthful.”

However high the budgets grow, it seems that Ry Russo-Young’s experimental nature and unique perspectives will stay firmly in place. Up next is a family ensemble feature in L.A., “kind of like The Ice Storm meets The Long Goodbye, it’s a very sexy movie.”

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Tom Moore

Article originally in The Pictures Zine #2

Sleeping Beauty carefully folds a note, 'I AM WAITING TO BE FOUND BY YOU X' and lays down surrounded by tissue paper roses, their petals stained red by her lips. Aeroplanes pass over her gothic palace. The credits appear.

Tom Moore's DV films are steeped in mythologies and haunted by fairytales. Each short, succinct scenario resonates with a very old kind of romance. Old Hollywood melodarma mixes with defiant punk rock sloganeering in a sleepy world inhabited by a reverie of costume characters. Circus people stranded in a town, a tentacled kid in a tree, a man wearing Jackie Curtis' eyes, all moving through the film's psychological space and owning it at the same time, projecting into it. It is of them and belongs to them. Though each film, character, is in itself a world, the films together constitute a larger world - carnivalesque, surreal and filled with icons.

The world of Tom's films is familiar from the mythologies that inform it, be it demonology (The Devil's Eyes), pulp crime (Ding Dongs) or, in one of his most personal films, his father's football career (Equalizer).

Like silent movies made by punks, the films move through deceptively simple narratives, whole images made up of parts invested with histories that tell the story of their characters, seen to in the detail and care put into each expressive makeshift costume or mise en scene. Tom's characters stand glamorous in despair and optimistic in shit. A murder is commited with a sword and not a gun. The tentacle kid faces parliament to protest his lovers' incarceration in bracelets. Each isolated character draws on their history and heroes for strength.

The films are about romance and heroism, or the search for these things though they seem elusive in modern times. They're about the hope to overcome, and the original, very old, notion where films equate to dreams.

THE PICTURES: What first drew you to filmmaking?

TOM: Well, I was writing songs that had stories in them and some of them you couldn't set to music and I always watched lots of films so there was this one story that I decided to make into a film which is The Devil's Eyes and it was, it went OK but there are certain things like, it's harder to say with films but when I started making music I heard Suicide's first album and it was really like wow, I could make music that's like this, I love this music. With films it's harder to pinpoit although there are some, like I saw some of the Warhol films and I saw fragments of Kenneth Anger ones and the Jack Smith films and it seems really, like, friends of mine who'd made films before, I'd acted in some of their films, I don't know, I know someone who's trying to make a film at the moment that I work with who is making, it's like they're making it as if she were a Hollywood studio and is looking for a cinematographer... Just seeing people make films that they were doing all on their own and they knew exactly what they wanted and every step that they took was something that they could do and something that they could do well and they came out with really beautiful films and you don't need to be like the head of this big organisation to do it. It's slightly more complicated than some things but it's really not a difficult thing to do once you know what you want.

TP: How would you describe your aesthetic? What are your influences?

TM: I'm interested in drama quite a lot but also other things. I was talking with a friend of mine abut my camera the other day, and my camera is actually quite a big influence in that it doesn't have a viewfinder, so all of the things have to be looked at on this tiny little screen, so everything that I shoot tends to be in closeup, which when I discovered that most of my films are in closeup and this is why I was a little embarassed, but aside from that, the aesthetic, that is heap, quite cheap but also I mean it's quite cheap in that the first thought is the best thought in a lot of ways and a lot of things that aren't thoughts are important, like just I hesitate to say what's natural, but a little bit what's natural and a little bit of what's not thought out. I really like drawing and so things tend to tend towards that, like movement and that kind of thing, caught up in this art practise and the kind of Warhol films fall into that, but I have a few films that don't really have any actions in, just a set of situations which follow on from watching those. And kind of themes, are a little bit to do with glorification. I like glorification and I like affirmation, affirmation of, even if it's like affirmation of tragedy, it's still something, it's making things real, I think it's important to me, making - I've been thinking about making longer films for a while now and adding things together, like The Devil's Eyes had a plot whereas I don't think any of the other films have a plot as such, there's just a series of things presented, situations that happen.

TP: How important is the DIY aspect to you? Would you consider working another way?

TM: I've thought about instructing more than actors before, like having someone shoot things and having another person do this and that and it's awfully complicated and the films really don't need to be that complicated because they're not, they're very simple...although I love big budget films. Yeah, see it would be great to have just a bunch of people do stuff for you as well. I don't know. I don't think I'm quite egomaniacal enough to deal with too many smart people at once. But I've had people build costumes for me before and I asked them to do it and it was really simple, they did it and it was really good, if I had like... If I had a team of like 30 people building hundreds of costumes that'd be awesome, and then loads of actors who could wear them that'd be really good, and ven the Jack Smith films have quite a large cast it seems, although they're all friends, I mean I have a handful of friends, but it's hard to get them together all at once.

TP: What's your filmmaking process?

TM: I tend to have like an image or an action in mind and then set about the easiest way to do that and then all the kind of moments of technique are just what happens as it progresses, like I don't really think about getting good shots until they're there or, like I hate editing, hate it because I don't know why. It just seems very unnatural. Maybe I should stop editing, maybe I should hire an editor...

TP: Where would you like to be in 5 years time?

TM: Really famous. Like really, really famous! But still don't what I'm doing really.
Photo by Ryan Van Winkle

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb Sunday

(whole film as a playlist)

Nicola Probert

Article originally in The Pictures zine #2

Watching Nicola’s music videos, films and animations is like watching an expressive and engrossing argument. Thoughts and idea tracks fight for attention, different mediums struggle for dominance, images fight images. People emerge triumphant from abstract shapes only to be smothered by ink and paint and new ideas, ideas in turn superseded by the new patterns and images that grow organically from them. See the monochrome Ipso Facto multiplying and marching geometrically in constant momentum in her video for Six and Three Quarters, the Skip Theatre troupe swimming in a sketched lake and eaten by an animated crocodile in Lunch, or the paper hearts-tears in The Charlatan’s Mis-takes video that fly away with minds of their own. Working in numerous mediums from super-8 to paper cuttings, video to paint, live action and animation, Nicola imbues every element of her work with its own energy and its own consciousness. Every image is a new idea or opinion growing out of, complimenting or obliterating the one that came before, restless, multiplying, changing direction. Nothing is still.

These arguments, conflicts and variations in Nicola’s work bring to mind the music that her work often illustrates, like synaesthetic compositions on the screen. Her restive tone poems are born from her thoughts and then given the space to evolve of their own accord, to find their own way from beginning to end so that their narratives are unpredictable and their characters (both human and otherwise) intrigue. While their elements feel as familiar as a pop song, the films themselves set out to surprise and to explore. If the films portray arguments, then their outcome is ever undecided.

THE PICTURES: Of all the different mediums you use, do you have a particular favourite to work in?

NICOLA: i like working across mediums. for example transferring an idea from a sketch into something 3 dimensional and back again. i use words, sound and sketching as immediate formats to record and visualise ideas. these initial ideas develop and may end up in some form as part of an animation or a painting or a film.

THE PICTURES: Logistically, how do you go about making a video? Like the Charlatan's Mis-takes video, how did that one come together?

NICOLA: the process is organic and different every time. obviously for a music video, i start by listening to the track and the lyrics, the way they're delivered, the feeling/emotion, rhythm and approach of the song, visual responses to these elements form in my head, images or image sequences, characters or situations...

i sketch out these images, and experiment with different materials; ink; pencil; 3d; paint; photography...

this process defines the aesthetic, I find the colours and approach on paper which i have in my head. it's quite instinctive and not too deliberate.
for the Charlatans Mis-takes video i used some dancers who helped visualise some of the shapes and ideas physically and then a lot of time on this one was spent after the shoot, drawing and animating elements that layered over the bodies

THE PICTURES: What things inspire you? Is there anything that heavily influences you?

NICOLA: so many things - stories. atmospheres. characters. spaces. literature is a big source of inspiration - currently I'm reading Angela Carter and recently read Roald Dahl's Kiss Kiss collection, both of which had a big resonance. i get a lot of images / situations from dreams that make it into things in one way or another. myths, history, animals, the way painting can be used to create an impression of an atmosphere/energy.

i love jan svankmejer, he works with film and animation in a very physical way. - i think materials and the physicality of things are important. I like the approach of Billy Childish - trying not to try to do anything in particular.

THE PICTURES: Do you like working for yourself, as opposed to working for an ad agency or that kind of thing? What do you like about it?

NICOLA: very much. having the space and time to work on ideas, and create something which develops like a conversation as a body of work. i find it impossible to get excited about something whose beginning/goal is commerce. art for me is not about this, although obviously there are cross overs, and pop culture is a big part of this, but it doesn't begin there.

THE PICTURES: What’s next?

NICOLA: At the moment i'm directing some short films for the Tate on art and music. the series is set to be released in September through Tate Shots. This has been a really interesting project to work on.

i've got a couple of short films in development at the moment, one is a character study through a live action narrative, the other is animation based - that i'm planning to produce over the next few months. I am working on painting and drawings also which i hope to collect together in an exhibition later in the year.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

short film special

music from 
Johnny Saw Horses and Pets In Heaven. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Alexandra Roxo

Article originally from The Pictures Zine #2

The term ‘psychodrama’ was often used in the 1940s to describe the films of Maya Deren – films in which a single protagonist travels through the film’s often surreal space as if in a dream, everything around them an extension of their consciousness, loaded with symbolism, weight and unsettling significance. While Deren’s ideas have been appropriated by everyone from student filmmakers to David Lynch, and have in themselves become a common (and often poorly thought out) part of film grammar, it is rare to find a modern day filmmaker who uses these techniques in such a pure, stripped down form and with such emotiveness that they feel fresh and moving and every bit as effective as a film by Maya Deren herself.

Alexandra Roxo has made two films in this vein – Out Of The Blue and The Heart Is What Remains. Both are exquisitely shot on Super-8, foregrounding all the grain and texture of film, and both are soundtracked by gorgeous minimal electronica. In both films a young woman finds herself in a picturesque graveyard and wanders in a state of captive trance, negotiating resonant obstacles and evocative traps in a bid for freedom. Horror is never far beneath the surface.

Out Of The Blue is the earlier of the two. Our heroine is bound to trees in a spider web as the blue filtered film throbs gently, slightly over exposed so that white creeps in from the edge of the frame. She frees herself and rushes, frantic, across the graveyard, stopping and weeping at the feet of an angelic statue. On the statue’s plinth she finds her prize, a pomegranite, which she takes, disrobing before biting into the fruit – an almost pastoral naturalism is a feature of both of Alexandra’s films to date. Red juice from the fruit’s flesh drips onto her body like blood and she rubs it, newly sexualised, wonder in her expression. The film begins to flash abstract and red, and our heroine has moved to another stage.

The Heart Is What Remains revisits some of the themes of Out Of The Blue, but with added depths and turns, and the addition of a lover to our heroine character. Both the film and characters are more mature. The story here is of a serious relationship, starting out in rich, warm colour. From a sleeping beauty kiss in a graveyard, the lovers begin to share their lives, bodies framed spooning nude. Dark imperfections creep in, the music becomes tense. The two sit opposite eachother at a table, bursting eggs with one hand and filling cups to overflowing with greasy yolk. Crockery is smashed. Our heroine drags a plastic bag from their house, her boyfriend’s body inside. Demonstrating Alexandra’s history in the theatre, the woman’s movements are specific and precise, nervous and almost choreographed, yet not quite in control - entranced. From here on she’s alone, cutting out his heart and taking it to the beach. In what might be a direct reference to Deren’s At Land, we see a closeup of her bare foot on the sand. She burns the heart, and others she’s collected. She walks slowly out to the panoramic sea which seagulls circle above.

The other definition of psychodrama, the psychiatrist’s term, is the use of roleplaying and immersive dramatism to resolve an issue, to reach a point of understanding. The amount of emotional investment in Alexandra’s films, and the complexities revealed by the most humble symbols, ensure that this is as true for the audience as the characters within and, you suspect, for the filmmaker. These are the most personal of films, all the more affecting for it, and well worthy of the best of the tradition.

THE PICTURES: What drew you to filmmaking and, particularly, to making films for yourself (as opposed to say working in a studio)? Were there any particular influences or inspirations?

ALEXANDRA: Having originally gone to school for acting, I decided after classical theatre studies that I wanted to create my own work. From there, I wrote two plays, “Reading Between The Lives: A Thousand Lonely Liberations” and “This Little Light Of Mine”, and directed one of them. As much as I love the theatre, I felt I needed to move into filmmaking because of its proximity to people and popular culture. Before picking up a motion picture camera, however, I decided I needed to work on photography for a few years. After developing a visual style, I spontaneously borrowed a Super 8 camera and went from there.

TP: Practically speaking, what’s your filmmaking process And once they’re finished, how do you go about putting them out there so an audience can see them?

AR: My films either start with a simple image or an idea and go from there. “Out Of The Blue” was completely spontaneous, and shot linearly with no editing. “The Heart Is What Remains” involved more preparation but no script. I had an idea and with the help of friends pulled it together. Since I shot the film I felt it essential that I storyboard for myself which was very helpful on set. On the feature I directed my process took a whole new direction as I was acting in almost every scene. Luckily for me, we had a monitor so I could play back the scenes. The only way I was able to handle acting and directing was due to the work that DP Magela Crosignani and myself had done as we spent a lot of time preparing before shooting the film so she knew exactly what I wanted.

I submit my films to carefully selected festivals and galleries which seem like they would be a good fit for my films. Festival submissions are very expensive and time consuming, so I‘ve had to pick the ones that suit my work the most.

TP: What do you like about working with Super 8? Would you ever consider video or another medium?

AR: I love working with Super 8. It has a texture and simplicity that allows a lot of spontaneity during shooting. I first picked up Super 8 because I knew it was user friendly and wouldn’t require an AC or anyone but myself. I had never worked with video until a month ago when I started shooting my first feature film. I would have loved to shoot it on film, but due to budget constraints I shot it on HD with film lenses, and I am quite pleased with the look. However, I look forward to the day I can make a feature film on film!

TP: The music in your films is lovely. Who makes it, and how important a part of film do you think music is?

AR: Up to this point the music in my films has been made by colleagues of mine. I am very fortunate to have many friends who are talented musically. The music in my film “Out Of The Blue” was made by my friend who goes by the name Poison Ring. He loops old tapes and records and comes up with the most amazing sounds. The music in “The Heart Is What Remains” was made by three different music projects: Dormant, Valet and Eluvium. All the music I use is an integral part of the film, the film and the music really become one unit in the end that I can’t separate.

TP: What are you working on next? Where would you hope to be in maybe 5 years time?

AR: Having just finished my first narrative film, a feature called “Mary Marie”, which I co-wrote, directed, and acted in, was a leap for me coming from more experimental work. In 5 years time I hope to have directed at least one or two other feature films that have shown around the world. I also enjoy working on my colleagues projects, and hope to have produced some of their films as well.

Sunday, 25 October 2009


Article originally published in The Pictures Issue 2

“I’m afraid I don’t consider myself a filmmaker, or anything specific for that matter.” Parisian Angélique Bosio does not like being tied to labels. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, she made one of our favourite documentaries of the past few years. Llik Your Idols tells the story of the Cinema of Transgression, a moment in New York time when artists like Richard Kern, Nick Zedd and Lydia Lunch came together to form a loose movement of extreme filmmakers, their work inspired by poverty, nihilism, sex and drugs. At the heart of the film are a series of interviews with the main protagonists of the scene in which they paint a vivid portrait of their lives and loves in squalor and talk openly about that fertile period when some of the most shocking, gruesome and salacious scenes ever seen in underground film were committed to Super 8. Angélique’s open, almost naïve interview technique allows her subjects the ability to reminisce freely and undirected where a more experienced and routined filmmaker may have prompted the opposite effect.

“To be honest, I started work in the cinema abut 10 years ago now,” explains the quiet, unassuming young réalisatrice, “because I knew what I did not want to do – namely to work in music labels, publishing companies, galleries, banks etc. I didn’t know a thing about cinema, or not enough, therefore I felt absolutely free.” But if making Llik Your Idols was a labour of freedom, it was a far from easy process. She worked on it in what little time remained outside of what she calls her “official job” for the best part of 5 years in a production process fraught with difficulties.

“I started in the summer of 2002 and finished it in July 2007, then it ran festivals. The whole thing started quickly. I decided to work on the project in the spring of 2002, wrote a few e-mails, got a few answers, booked some tickets. I wasn’t even sure I was to meet with these people with I booked the tickets, it had to happen, that’s all. Then I got lucky, somebody gave me 1000 Euros and I went to New York in August.”

Angélique flew to New York and conducted the official interviews, getting on with her subjects “quite well” and returning over the following years to revisit, ask more questions, or interview new subjects, slowly but surely completing the jigsaw of the finished film. She befriended Jack Sargeant, author of Deathtripping, the Creation Cinema book about the scene, and modelled for Richard Kern. But as the project grew, funding became an issue, and it was here that the difficulties began.

photo by richard kern

“I tried to work with different production companies that would stop the shooting, waiting for financial support from a French TV channel, which never came of course. So I would alternate periods of shooting and periods of waiting, patiently.” Production continued on blind faith, and editing commenced in 2006 “at home with Aurelie Cauchy. Then another production company, and the editing was stopped.” The stop-start production process was almost enough to curtail the project altogether, but again naïve optimism won through and the film was eventually finished in 2007, “with people I’d rather not talk about,” That wasn’t all. Even with a completed project to hand, securing a release proved difficult - “a production company tried to block everything and it was a mess for another whole year.”

Finally in late 2007 the film hit festivals, and now, two years later, the DVD is available in several territories, with the European edition available October 20th, a welcome pay-off for Angélique, and one that more than compensates for the time and finance put in. “I will never earn any money out of this documentary,” she says, “on the contrary, I have lost some. But I had to do it anyway. I was not motivated by money, I really needed to create something. I never hoped that I would sell it.”

The finished film has proved a deserving hit with critics and the audience it has so far found, owing in part to its openness and accessibility, and has achieved another of its aims (that it has in common with this zine), to bring these works to new audiences. Unlike many documentaries on the subject of underground film, which are often abstracted to the point of being avant garde themselves, Llik Your Idols needs no foreknowledge. “I hope I don’t make films for myself,” she says. “I have tried to make Llik Your Idols a documentary that could interest people who wouldn’t know a thing about this scene. The idea is to spread the word.”

It’s an attitude in the film that chimes with Angélique’s overall outlook towards the creative process, particularly when coming up against production obstacles or negotiating such dark subject matter, as she did in this documentary and her upcoming portrait of Bruce LaBruce. She approaches her work and stays motivated by “being stupid, dreamy and pretending to be naïve…do I sound like Cinderella?” As seen in Llik Your Idols, this naïve, questioning, curious presence wading through stories of bondage, torture and hard drug abuse is more Lewis Carroll’s Alice. You get the sense that this kind of investigation, of involvement, is why she prefers documentary to fiction.

“I don’t think fiction is a natural penchant of mine,” she confirms. “I have had one single valid idea for a short film but gave up too easily when told there was a feature film doing the same thing already. Documentary, [though], allows me to work with music, play with the edit, travel, get into funny situations, meet some people. I can be the control freak I truly am and follow the tide at the same time.”

Angel’s investigations are about to yield two more documentary features, partly the result of a productive (in total contrast to her past experience) partnership with independent producers and distributors Le Chat Qui Fume – “amazing people to work with” – who have given her as free a reign as possible in their production. The first chronicles the work of controversial gay porn-art filmmaker Bruce LaBruce, and the second follows French designer lingerie icon Fifi Chachnil.

“I would like to spend more time trying to learn photography after I have finished them I think,” referring again to her reluctance to be any one thing for long. You suspect though that, even in a different medium, Angélique’s inquisitive world view will shine through. Any investigation is about making connections, and Angélique’s films to date show this particularly, her subjects as pieces of a large and slowly emerging picture. Richard Kern or Fifi Chachnil, “to me there’s a link between all these people.” In the five years of making Llik Your Idols, she proved she has the patience and the curiosity to never stop looking.


Here are the two excellent finalists from our Sexploitation filmmaking contest, as shown at last week's birthday party - LOVE, ACTUALLY! by Tom Moore and The Story Of My Conception by Jack Barraclough.

LOVE, ACTUALLY! (click on the photo to view, it's the first video embeddded on Tom's page)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US. A ton of thanks for everyone who came down to celebrate - next one is November 18th, hope to see you all there!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

His Name Is Jonas

(originally published in The Pictures zine Issue 1, mid 2008)

Since the 1950s, Jonas Mekas has lived the life of a film-maker, his ever present camera capturing every shade of the scenes he passes through, be they John Lennon's birthday party, Warhol's factory, late night cab journeys or walks in the park with a girl. In his diary films, Mekas brings out the poetry in living and shares with his audience the travels, thoughts and experiences of a man completely devoted to capturing the essence of life in moving images.

Over the decades Mekas has played a central role in the nurturing and development of underground, personal, experimental film - call it what you will. His film column in the Village Voice famously championed the likes of Warhol and Brakhage as the vanguard of a new film movement that he dubbed the New American Cinema. Mekas' Film Culture magazine was launched as an American response to the French Cahiers du Cinéma. By co-founding the Filmmakers Co-operative, Mekas and his contemporaries sought to create a community - a family as he calls it - to work on, produce, appear in and screen eachother's work. When questioned about his patronage and work in the avant garde film world of the '60s and beyond, Mekas likens his role to that of a midwife, working to care for and to nurse a film movement that is still proving its significance and influence today.

Mekas' work rate has not diminished over time. Last year he produced 365 films, one a day, which were distributed over the internet. They range from explorations of Scottish castles to conversations over the breakfast table, but his voice and filmmaking spirit are present in all of them.

The Pictures was lucky enough to get the opportunity to spend an evening with Jonas and his friends, crawling the bars and restaurants of Soho. By the time it came to sitting down for the interview, (many) drinks had been had and connections made, and perhaps it is not the most solid piece of journalism, but stands well as an artefact of the night. I should add that Jonas finished the interview with a joke, but my tape ran out and the joke was lost. His musings on romanticism, Youtube and the determination of a Capricorn, were caught in full...

THE PICTURES: About the filmmakers co-op, you had this idea of a new American did that work logistically? How did all these individual filmmakers find eachother, and how did you go about setting something like this up?

JONAS MEKAS: It was very easy, already getting together, creating a co-operative, New American Cinema group. That was in 59, 60, 61, 62. We got to know eachother at the screenings. There were various places in which we screened our films. Everybody was always there. If there was a screening for the avant garde, experimental, what they used to call independent, personal film, everybody was there. They knew, then they were there, so it was very easy to meet and to know eachother. It was our, you know, we were all interested in the same kind of, more or less, cinema, so we knew eachother. So when it came to the creation of teh filmmakers co-operative all we had to do was let everybody know, come on that day, and we were meeting to discuss the possibility of creating our own distribution centre, everybody was there, like a large family. And in those days it was not thousands, there were only a few, couple of dozen filmmakers, not thousands like now. Millions.

TP: When you were writing the Film Culture magazine, writing for the Village Voice, you championed what was considered, at the time, underground film-

JM: Passing information, yes yes.

TP: Do you think that kind of filmmaking still exists in modern times?

JM: Modern? Modern? What kind of expression is that?

TP: I mean, just, now. Now, do you think there is such a thing as underground film, or do you think underground film has become more a genre than an actual thing?

JM: Underground today is on the internet. Not in cinema, because film does not practically exist anymore, so it's video, video, it's all in certain. Underground today maybe is Youtube. If you look for some equivalent I would say Youtube.

TP: I think that's different though.

JM: Well of course, different medium, different dissemination.

TP: But everybody is far apart, nobody meets eachother the same way.

JM: Yes.

TP: Do you think it's an important thing, for people to get toether?

JM: They get together through the medium of the internet.

TP: But they never meet eachother.

JM: It's different, they don't have to meet eachother.

TP: Do you not think that's a little sad though?

JM: When you have one million of them, how can they get together? It's a different, completely different situation. You can always invite on your website, locate say a place in Soho in London and at a certain hour, time, be there, I'm there, I would like to meet you, those who are in close vicinity.

TP: That's true.

JM: I challenge you...

TP: There's no need to challenge me, I already tried.

JM: OK, OK, so you, now... so it's a different time, different medium, somewhere else and you cannot recreate the past. You could make find examples if you would go back to, OK, we are talking about what we did in the '60s, so now you go back to 40 and we are now 40 years, 50 years from there. Now go back 50 from the '60s and we are in 1910! In 1910 it was unimaginable, it was not what happened in the '60s, 65, so it was, I don't know maybe not such a big gap as 65 and 2008, but I mean 1905 and 1965 there was an immense gap, almost similar to this one.

TP: Speaking of 1910, the film we saw tonight, your "Birth of a Nation", it had a scene where you filmed Charlie Chaplin, and it seemed to me like maybe your films had something in common with Chaplin in that you had these cameras and you just figured out what to do with them by yourself, there was no 'I'm going to be a filmmaker so I have to stick to these rules', it's a case of working out what you want to do...

JM: I don't get what you're saying now.

TP: Well, when Charlie Chaplin started making films, all he had was a camera and himself and his friends and he figured out how to make films...


TP: And when you were making films, you had a camera and you figured out what to do with it yourself, and along the lines various people have done that. Do you see any of that happening now, or do you think-

JM: Yes, people are still, only now it's a different instrument, now it's a video and different varieties of digital taping, little cameras, whatever, telephones, different means of capturing moving images, and it's happening and everybody's doing it, there's no... Only now that it's so easy and for Chaplin it was not so easy and cost a lot of money.

TP: I really liked that actually, where he was sort of kissing everyone from the balcony, it seemed like a nice reference... I wanted to ask, your films always seem a little bit romantic to me, like the way that you film people and the world, it's obvious you have quite an affection for it.

JM: Yeah but still they're real, what I film is reality, they're real, the camera is real, the lens is real, the recording's real, so it's reality. The idea of romanticism is in your head.

TP: Maybe romanticism is the wrong word, maybe optimism?

JM: Even that is only in your head because what I film is reality.

TP: That's true, but the way you film it...

JM: Haha, try to get out of that.

TP: It's subjective, it's not in my head, that's from your head.

JM: What I choose to film, you mean that the moments which I'm filming, the people during that moment are very, in a very romantic situation?

TP: No no, not a romantic situation. Let me try to phrase it in a different way. You make the things that you film look very beautiful.

JM: Beautiful? No, I don't make them beautiful. The camera catches what there is. I don't make, I don't ask them to put on make-up or behave one or other way, a sweet or beautiful way, I catch reality as it is!

TP: Maybe it is in my head...

JM: No, no, we are discussing a very important subject, because I have been, I have read many times people write this, I'm a romantic, da da da, but still, I film only what there is, I don't make it up. No directing there, only life as it is.

TP: But you choose what parts to film.

JM: Well, you have to choose, otherwise I'd have to film 24 hours non-stop. I don't do that, I just choose certain moments that say, moments to which I react that I feel like I should record for myself those moments. I don't say you're wrong but I'm trying to understand how this works, why people refer to it as romantic.

TP: I think because you film some people on a day out with their babies, or you film children learning to do things, or swimming in the sea...

JM: Yeah but that's all real, I'm filming life, daily, realistic. I'd even consider the possibility to call myself a realist, naturalist filmmaker.

TP: Yes, it's entirely realistic in that those things are real and do happen, but there are a lot of other things that happen.

JM: Yes but I'm not interested, I cannot cover all, I'm not interested in absolutely everything, you know I cannot film or be interested in everything, I would have to film 24 hours a day.

TP: But the parts that you do film seem to be the more optimistic parts. I mean, I haven't seen all of your films so can't say.

JM: Optimistic, that's a very very... I mean, what you mean probably is parts in which people are happy and they're celebrating and alive, they're singing or you know, there is no...

TP: Yes, they celebrate life, but not life as being happy, but you know the interesting parts, even if somebody's sad, it's interesting, they're not just sitting there moping.

JM: No, I'm not interested in recording miserable moments. That doesn't mean that I'm a romantic.

TP: I guess what I'm getting at is, a lot of people my age who've seen your older films, it's like what you were saying in the talk today about how you don't want to get nostalgic about anything. People look on these films as kind of nostalgic visions of a time they weren't born...

JM: Yes.

TP: Do you still see the same things now? When you made your 365 films, did you still look at the world the same way, do you still see the same things as interesting?

JM: Yes, in that respect there is no change. I don't see any change. I'm still recording those moments when people are happy, singing, dancing. I see no difference, no change, and actually maybe increased- No, no change. I want a copy of this. Can you send me a copy of this?

TP: Of course. I was going to ask about politics, and i know you said up front you've got no interest in specific politics in a sort of Godard way-

JM: I am and I am not. My understanding of what, to me there are positive politics and negative politics and I'm not interested in negative politics. Negative politics to me are all those politics that are now considered as politics. Positive politics are the politics of Buckminster Fuller, of the beat generation, of John Cage, of Fluxus and many scientists and poets, those that change our deep, they have contributed more to the change of style of living, of attitude to life, to what we are than all those others, the negative politicians, the real politicians are only contributing to it negatively.

TP: That sort of answered the question I was going to ask. I was going to say the films you make are very personal, and this reminds me of your films, you know the Truffaut quote about the films of the future will be filmed by one person and they will reflect their experience to the whole world but-

JM: But he said that at the time when that was happening. He was a little bit out of touch with what was happening, but that's OK, we can forgive him.

TP: I always found his films not that interesting...

JM: 100 Blows is a great, great movie still. If he would not have, he did not have to make anything else after that, and I don't care about all the other films that he made after that.

TP: I haven't actually seen that one...

JM: You haven't seen it?? That's why you don't like Truffaut. That's the only film that you should see and forget all the rest. And that film is a masterpiece.

TP: I'll make sure I do.

JM: Do that in the next 10 days.

TP: So your films are obviously made from a very personal point of view.

JM: Every film is.

TP: But the times you were filming in were very politically active times, and the times and people you were filming, there's inevitably an element of those politics in your films. Do you think that film in itself, and you've sort of already answered this, do you think it's passive and records what's going on, or do you think it's-

JM: Film, or a piece of videotape or film, and there is a camera, it's of course passive, but you use it. It's you who does something with it. Of course it's passive, but then you take it, put it in your camera, you point at something and you do something with it and than it's all you. The camera of course is always passive, but what you do with it...

TP: Do you think it can affect change?

JM: There is nothing in the whole universe, absolutely nothing and it has been proved by the scientists, I think all of them agree, that there is nothing under the sun that doesn't affect, that doesn't have an effect on anything else. Is there something?


JM: Black holes?

SM: When something enters

JM: Then it does not have an effect?

BENN NORTHOVER: But doesn't time come into the effect, it happens?

JM: Yeah, but we are so far away from black holes.

BN: Well, (inaudible) films...

JM: Forget it, we don't want to get into the black holes, which they are going to create in Geneva, the little ones...

TP: In terms of ways of getting films out there, I don't know if they're up there with your consent or what, but quite a few of your 365 films are up on Youtube.

JM: I don't know who puts them there and I don't care. Sometimes I notice they're putting parts of them there, they're not in their entirety, but they're there, and I don't know how the system of Youtube works, and in my case I don't care because I don't have millions of people buying my work, and I know that some commercial filmmakers are very concerned and they have forced now Youtube to, there is right now a big something going on about the copyright and how to stop this, and I'm not very interested, but it's going, something is happening, they want to prevent it, or get money from it, or stop it, take off, whatever. That's not my concern because I'm too small.

TP: Maybe it suits a certain type of filmmaker. I read an interview with Harmony Korine where he said he wanted to use Youtube.

JM: But unfortunately his films are not produced by himself, there are producers of his films and they would not do that, they want money back, so if he would produce himself, he could put it there, like I put everything there. I have no producers, I am the producer, Korine has a producer. But I like him.

TP: Is it true that you have hundreds of hours of footage produced with him?

JM: Not hundreds, but at least 50 hours of footage of Korine, maybe more.

BN: The last time we saw Harmony he was saying that you would release it together.

JM: The last time was like only a month ago, he was signing a book.

TP: What you're doing at the minute, I watched a lot of videos through Youtube, the progression in style is quite noticeable, especially I think that your literal voice comes through more, you speak more. How do you find that, and where do you see it going?

JM: I don't know yet, I don't know yet.

TP: Doing the 365 films in 365 days too was very impressive.

JM: And it was challenging. And I'm a Capricorn. When I put my mind on something I don't want to give up and I don't want to let people down, I want to, I'm sticking to it, so it was to do it and not to miss a single day, a Capricorn cannot miss a single day, and I had to do it, no matter what.

TP: Being a filmmaker, you've said that some people are artists and some people aren't and either you're born one or you're not...

JM: One cannot produce an art movement artificially, neither with money nor schools.

TP: But do someone who said they wanted to be a filmmaker, what would you think would be the most important qualities?

JM: Those who really really are artists, filmmakers, they don't say that, they don't say "I want to be", they just do, they know, they are, and that's the only thing they want to do. The same in music, the same in poetry. "I want to be a poet". You either are a poet, you are a filmmaker, you just do it and you don't say "I want to", you say "I am". "I want to", they won't say that. So those that say that, put a cross on them, finished. They are not filmmakers.

Illustrations by Katherine Hardy

Sunday, 4 October 2009

SEXPLOITATION - filmmaking contest & our next London night

The Pictures night is 1!

To celebrate our first birthday on October 21st, we're launching our first ever filmmaking contest.

Contact for entry address and details. Films can be anything on, around or in response to the theme - no restrictions at all except those in the rules. Get working, get in touch and get your entries in!

Entries will be screened and judged at our FIRST BIRTHDAY PARTY!


Yes, we have made it to the tender age of one, and to celebrate we're having a sexy party!

Our hottest lineup is...

One of our favourite bands to play this past year come back, fresh from supporting No Age (!) to lead the dance with their fantastic pop tunage. With an album out soon on UTR, Trashkit have had an amazing year too.

really this time.

the results of our SEXPLOITATION filmmaking contest where you vote from for the prize winner from our shortlist, plus a screening of Russ Meyer's MONDO TOPLESS - one of the strangest films we've seen in a little while. Part Carry On style camp, part Nouvelle Vague-esque psuedo-documentary, part excuse for Russ Meyer to showcase his buxom friends on the screen. Contains much nudity - adults only!

DIY SHORTS from around and about and everywhere.

another round of our MYSTERY GAME, details to be revealed on the night


DJs and Dancing til late - it is afterall a party!

and because it's a party, FANCY DRESS is encouraged and requested - dress sexy! Prize for best costume!

back on a Wednesday October 21st at Bardens Boudoir,

Next Month: The Pictures cleans up its act...

Invisible Adversaries (Valie Export, 1976)

Anna, an artist, is obsessed with the invasion of alien doubles bent on destruction.

"The film feels a little as if Godard were reincarnated as a woman and decided to make a feminist version of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers." - Amy Taubin

watch it on Ubuweb.


(article originally in The Pictures Zine Issue 2)

Beth Murphy and Rebecca Loar – Bang Wash Productions – are interactive movie stars. Hailing from Columbus, Ohio via Godard’s Paris, the duo have so far shot, directed and starred in three short movies, with a fourth on the way. Through each, the two filmmakers are a constant presence, avatars in blonde wigs and mini-dresses, mirror images performing, equal and opposite, on either side of the screen. Bang Wash movies are about games, equations and patterns; rituals, language and colour.

Rabbit Vacuum One and Joy Divisions are list films (like list songs). The first tells a disjointed, nonsensical tale through the oration of punters in a bar – a series of cutup interviews ostensibly about a wild night at a gig. In the midst of the list of anecdotes, Beth and Rebecca illustrate, counterpoint and act out parts of the scenario using props and centred shots – foaming at the mouth, hair in buns, a gun, t-shirts that read ‘Hate Core Kids’. These staged sequences form the psychic space behind the storyteling, a mental picture game prompted by words and played out by the two women, the secret agents of the story, working for the film.

In the second, the mental space takes over and all is illustration. Disembodied voices relate experiences, half thoughts and memories of joy that are then playfully demonstrated by the film and the Beth/Rebecca avatars who show us empty boxes, equations on chalk boards, slogans on gym pants and arcade game rain. The two women know secrets and tease us with didactic clues.

Bang Wash’s third movie, The Scandalous Lamella, is the first to take us into these secret agent’s world. A narrative film – a lo-fi musical – follows the two women as they decorate a flat and become acquainted through paint charts and party games. The duo relax with wine. They play a board game: each pulls out a tooth and places it in a cup. The players roll the dice and move that number of spaces to find out which liquid to add to the tooth. Different liquids rot the tooth at different speeds. Whoever’s tooth disappears first wins. Tension builds. Sequences are interspersed with hand crafted title cards and, as the two eventually decide to play at murder, numbered visitors bringing poison. The colours of the film change, cycling through the paint chart. The games become ever more complex. We try to follow the poison’s path, we pick a winner. The soundtrack swells until the duo break into song.

Bang Wash films draw us in to their new wave games, with Beth and Rebecca as our twisted hosts. They lay down their challenges and ask whether we can resist to play.

1.How did the two of you meet, decide to make films, get started?

we both lived on furniture alley in washington beach, ohio. most people thought we were one person because we have similar bangs and chins. eventually we mistook each other for each other after drinking a lot of shots of bulliet at the bar. then we decided we wanted extra slashes after our name .

2.What's the significance of your characters within the films? Do they mean the same thing in each?

girls usually are blond, unless they are black or us. sometimes we are us. boys wear baseball caps.

3.What are your biggest influences? How much of an influence is music on your filmmaking?

abba, lacan, champagne, "home movies", "persona", donnie monaco. crucial bun does all of our music. crucial bun is us. we are signed to "try an hommelette today" records. "try an hommelette today" records is us. sometimes we cover "the better beach boys" songs. "the better beach boys" is us.

4.What's the process behind making the films? Like, taking Lamella as an example, and speaking logistically, what would be the stages of production?

one of us says something funny and then the other person says thats totally a movie. then we draw pictures on notecards at the bar. then we buy food coloring, pipe cleaners, jello, sequins, alize, korean food and fake nails. then we get the wigs because we don't like other people. sometimes we get cake. we have a shitcamHD450 that we ducktape to a tripod. sometimes you gotta use the old on/off trick on it.

5.What are you working on next?

we are finishing a closet splitscreen movie using manual special effects about two girls on house arrest. next we are summering in detroit for a romantic comedy about stalking with Candies. and we are getting lip tattoos for a party trick.

6. in our free time we literally enjoy jigsaw puzzles, fucking shit up, buying fools gold at giant eagle, laughing, telling people we are not related or that we are, putting things on them-shaped things, making lists of things we don't know the name of, hanging out with the puffy mope and the spikey mope (the puffy mope's punk rock girlfriend) and making fun of new york

7. our three favorite signs ever are: kids eat free $1 mimosas, world's largest miniature village & on this site in 1881 nothing happened.

8. we are looking for a sandwich man to drive us around.

9. the worst elvis impersonator? thanks for asking garry. we think he is an 8 year old boy in somalia who has never heard of elvis.

Zine #2 Now Available

The second issue of our mother zine is now available either by contacting us, coming along to one of our nights, or from Rough Trade East where there are still a few copies.

40 illustrated pages, colour and b&w, and including interviews with - Angelique Bosio (Llik Your Idols), Ry Russo-Young (Orphans, You Won't Miss Me), Nicola Probert, Tom Moore, Bang Wash Productions, Alexandra Roxo and Garry Sykes, plus fiction by Michael Reid and artwork by some of those featured.