Thanks to the tireless efforts of my friend Ned, five of my new short videos are now conveniently available for viewing online. I had a deadline of Friday for entering these into the Northwest Film & Video Festival, so luckily it was a chance to put them on Vimeo as well.
Three of the five films are travelogues, while the other two scrutinize everyday household environments. Of the three travelogues, one takes place in Beijing, one in Kyoto, and the third in London, all made using footage I shot in the last year or two while visiting these places.
The Beijing video is called Forbidden City Rewind and consists of footage I shot in one evening. Although the production values are low, and the action just a few staid shots, I think of this film as symbolizing the past, present and future of China: its imperial, Communist and democratic/capitalist eras. The piece is comprised of three parts: first in the Imperial Ancestral Hall inside the Forbidden City (where I attended a fancy banquet last year while on a press tour for a museum opening), then outside the Forbidden City at the famous Mao portrait overlooking Tiananmen Square, and finally outside a row of small retail outlets.
In the first section, I used some repetition and backwards-footage to render the costumes and pomp of China's ancient imperial times slightly absud. That techniqe stops in the second portion, although the key shot is a long zoomout from the Mao portrait, with the iconic dictator fading into the distance.
The Kyoto-based video, called Kyoto Diner, is humbler in its ambitions. It simply captures about three minutes inside a 24-hour restaurant where I was eating during a trip there last year. All the shots are taken from my table, and offers a very localized focus on the wait staff and kitchen workers. (Update, 10/8/08: This film has been chosen for the Northwest Film & Video Festival at the Portland Art Museum/Northwest Film Center in November.)
The London video, Battersea to Chelsea, is more like a montage of sites we visited along the Thames, from a ceremony at St. Paul's cathedal to skateboarders to a view of the stunning Battersea Power Station. I particularly like the St. Paul's moment in which the priest, unseen by the camera, asks everyone to pray for the world "...in all its glorious diversity." Christianity can be so much more attractive when it's inclusionary and not privy to an us-or-them mentality. Even so, the film's long shot of Battersea Power Station, decaying and empty, feels just as spiritual to me.
Web Swingers is the smallest idea and shortest of the films. Last winter, I happened to notice one day several huge spider webs outside my house, swaying back and forth in the wind and rain. So I spent about a half-hour filming them, and voila. There is the least amount of editing and filmmaking in this short, but its simplicity and subtlety, the way it captures nothing but pretty webs and then stops, has its appeal.
My favorite of these five shorts might be Range of Motion, which is the one I spent by far the most time making. A couple years ago I got the idea to try and film the burners on our kitchen stove coming on and off in the dark, so as to render them as an abstract pattern of four circular forms. Later, I wound up filming various foods cooking on the stove as I cooked dinner. The food you see in the film wasn't created solely as video props. Valarie and I ate all of it. Although I think I consumer all the bacon myself. The music was done by Elias Foley, who has composed music to several of my past shorts as well, including Above & Beyond, Hello Nassau, Avenue & Interstate, and Electric City.
Watching these shorts online, some of them look darker than I intended, especially Range of Motion. But it always feels very exciting to see the little video pieces I've tinkered around with for so long see the light of day.