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Tag Archives: Stephen Taylor

OLM_2012_Film_Fest_Laurel

Arrived back from more or less six months on the road, with a small bit having to do with film festivals, screenings and the other chores of the filmmaker life, and settled into my “home” in Butte, and began the final work on two new films – ones mostly shot last September, and November.  Features.  Both looking pretty good.

The trip involved a number of screenings, of older work and new.  For the most part the audiences were sparse, and talk with those showing them suggested this is now the norm.  To my glance the audiences were also generally rather older.  White hair or none.  None of this was a surprise for me – I’d been noticing this trend for a decade and more.  I have my thoughts on it, of course, and shortly I’ll be writing in more depth at http://www.jonjost.wordpress.com.

For the moment though, in anticipation of completing these new films (and proceeding on to the other 3 or 4 awaiting editing to completion, not to mention shooting some others and preparing others, along with the Mt. Everest of photography to tend to, painting when the weather shifts, and recording some music), I decided to go ahead and do something I’ve been considering for a while.  Today  wrote the following letter to the Locarno festival, and sent along the same to the Venice festival.

Hi

As a past guest of your festival – long ago in the 70’s, and more recently (!) with OUI/NON in 2003, I write to say a few things.

Having made films for now 51 years, and having watched with others the drastic changes in the world of cinema I have decided for myself a few things:

1. I will not fill out festival entry forms, pay entry fees, or other things time and energy consuming; I will  inform festivals of new work and if they wish to see it they can do so on-line (Vimeo with password), or pay for a DVD or preferably BluRay to be sent to see it properly.

2. As for the kind of work I do there is no longer even the hint of a “market” and festivals have become more or less the default “market,” when my work is shown I will need some kind of payment.  A ticket/hotel for some place I might want to go; or money.

I know this may sound arrogant or whatever you wish to call it.  So be it.

I am continuing to make work – by my estimation, and that of some others, certainly up with my best, and hopefully even better.  This year’s Coming to Terms is certainly one of my best. (Ask Mark Rappaport, or Jonathan Rosenbaum.)  Still I’ll be lucky if several thousand people, world-wide, ever see it.

I have two new films virtually finished:

BLUE STRAIT, likely around 80-85 minutes, about a middle-aged gay couple breaking up (though this is hardly a “story” film.)

GENTRY COUNTY STORIES, close to 90 minutes, an exploration in genre, literature, story-telling.

If you are interested in seeing, let me know.

Thank you

 

I have no idea how this will be received by the festivals – perhaps they will actually understand, and if not generally, then at least individually, make a change.  Or perhaps they will regard it as the whining of a disconsolate old filmmaker fallen from the day’s fashions.  Perhaps they’ll wonder why my secretary can’t do these things, not comprehending that I have no secretary and never did, and that the simple process of filling out ill-designed entry forms is far more hassle than they imagine.  Or myriad other things.  I’ll have to wait and see.

The simple reality from their side is that there are thousands of people willing to go through the hoops chancing for the brass ring, so if my little kvetch irritates them, it’s no problem for them.  From my side it is that whether my film (and I) go to a festival, it will make little difference in tangible terms – perhaps 50 or 500 people will see it; perhaps someone will write something about it.  But almost certain, in the tsunami of films cranked out these days, it will be swept away and out of view and consciousness in a matter of weeks or a month or two.  And I won’t accrue a penny.  There will be no “sale.”  At best I can scribble that the film showed in festival X.   For others it may be that the applause of an audience, or positive words from viewers provides “something” but in my case it really isn’t so.  I need no pats on the back or words of encouragement.  I need to make a very modest “living.”

 

GENTRY CO. .Still023Blake Eckard and Roxanne Rogers in Gentry County StoriesTHE TALK 2.Still001John Manno and Steve Taylor in Blue Strait

In the next week or so I hope to post a longer, more considered essay on where things seem to stand with regard to this kind of cinema in the current world, and whether there is any more seeming point to it at all.    As you can imagine, I have my doubts.

 

Sequence 01.Still007Frame from Canyon

 

Note:  I am in process of setting up a VOD Vimeo channel of my work.  Not being Hollywood or able to anticipate high numbers, my price is $10 to stream, $20 to download.  First one up is Angel City from 1976.   You can buy DVDs for $30+ shipping and processing by PayPal, and BluRay disks for more (I recommend for the HD films and a few others.)

[An update now on June 10 2104:  neither the Locarno festival, nor the Venice festival gave me any response to my letter.  In the case of Venice, I know its director, Alberto Barbera, personally, and addressed to him, along with his staff, my letter.  Whether this signals that my never-more-than-modest leverage with festivals is now in the minus range (some time ago I was instrumental in getting Joao Pedro Rodriguez' film O Fantom into the Venice competition when Barbera was director earlier, in 2002 or so), or whether raising the topic of the, uh, well, exploitation of filmmakers in the name of "supporting" them was too hot a matter, or whether my missive was lost in the shuffle, I don't know.  No information at all is not exactly a useful standpoint for speculation - I "know" only that neither festival sent me a word in response, which, at minimum in my view, was "rude."]

Hell’s Gate, near Missoula MT

The last two months have been hectic with preparing and then shooting one longish (80 mins?) and complex film, Coming to Terms, and then, on a whim, another, Dead End.  (See www.jonjostcomingtoterms.wordpress.com for a diary on these.) These wrapped up a few days ago, and I’m in the mixed process of catching my breath, slowing down, and preparing to hit the road for 3-4 weeks in Wyoming to take video and still pics of nature, human mucking around (strip mining, fracking), and to try to get into the frequency needed to draw and paint.  See how that goes.

Kate Sannella and Steve Taylor in Coming to Terms

This film was a very serious one, about, well, dying.  It involved some demanding acting, and a lot of technical stuff with green-screens, tight shots, and, said the actors, it was difficult.  I may try for Sundance with it, or if not that, then Cannes.  Wishful thinking, I know.  It has zero to do with present day art/film fashions.

Roxanne Rogers and Ryan Harper Gray in Dead End

This one was done a kind of lark, impromptu, as we finished the other a week earlier than anticipated, and since they were here, and we had the time and stuff, we rolled the dice on another.  Totally different thing.  Actors did a great job, though I am not (yet?) sure it’ll add up to a film.  Maybe with some editorial magic of some kind….

Now it’s on the road to let it all go away for a while before getting into the final editing (both were rough edited as we shot).  Autumn has arrived in Montana, with brisk nights, and for the moment very smokey skies thanks to a mess of forest fires.  Hope they soon subside.  I’ll be going to Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Devil’s Tower, and many places between, shooting nature and man’s assault on it – strip mining, fracking, and all the rest.

Walkerville, MT.Butte, MT.The Berkeley Pit

Walkerville, Montana

Back in Butte, where in 1987 I came to town, a stranger to all, sat at a stool at the Silver Dollar Saloon, and the person next to me inquired, “What are you doing here?”   To which I replied I was there to make a film.  They asked, “About what?”  And I replied, “You.”   That night I had a free place to stay, and 3 months later I had a new film in the can, Bell Diamond.   Despite the subsequent mangling by the now defunct San Francisco Film laboratory, Leo Diners, which trashed the original footage on processing, and then ran one edited reel of originals over a printing sprocket wheel on making the second print, the film did get in a nice handful of festivals and garnered some very nice critical comment.  And if I recall correctly it was broadcast on New York’s PBS station.

I liked Butte back then, for many reasons, and have returned a few times since.  And on decamping from 4 and a half years in Korea, with an itch to do a narrative film, I decided I’d head that way again.  Though with the thought I’d shoot in nearby (25 miles) Anaconda, the town that smelted the ore that Butte dug up.  While the town of Anaconda itself didn’t leave a nice visual imprint on me, the adjacent landscape of slag heaps did, and it seemed to suit my purposes story-wise.   About a week ago, coming into the town from Missoula, I was disappointed to find that a Superfund clean-up had grassed over most of the black and chemical signs of the slag heaps.   Which had me pondering.

Walkerville

Staying with my friend, Marshall Gaddis, who played the lead in Bell Diamond  (only non-local in the film), up in Walkerville the last days has seemed to turn my head.  While a little of the earlier film had been shot up there, most was down lower in Butte, and nosing around here, the visual qualities,  juxtaposed to the odd social ambiance,  has convinced me to shoot here.  Part is practical – it saves a 30 minute commute to Anaconda and it seems time will be short with some of my actors.  But most is aesthetic and visual: this place just has “something” and it nicely happens it has something to do with the underlying content of the film I’m out to make.  Butte was a rich mining town at the turn of the 19th century, the Berkeley Pit being one of the largest deposits of copper and other metals in the world.   It drew miners from around the world, leaving traces of a rich ethnic mix.  And, as it is America, when the ores ran out, the place was basically abandoned.  Money wasn’t kept here to build a sustainable future.  It left.  What remains here is the collapsing skeleton of a culture which revolved around real work and making things, and what’s left of the working class that didn’t flee as the owners and managerial class did.  The money went to a handful of “industrialists” and bankers.   When the utility of the mines ran out, the money ran away.   Sound familiar?  It sure does to me.

So there’s about a month to research, sort out what needs sorting, and to form enough of a clear idea to accommodate the realities imposed:  two of my actors can only give me  5-9 days, not sure of another, and two can give me almost a month.   As usual for me I’ll find the jig-saw pieces available – people, places to shoot, weather, light, circumstances – and see how I can fit them together.  The core “story” or event is clear in mind, as are a few images.  My usual kick-off point for these things.   With a bit of luck and some enjoyable “work” hope to have another work, well, not “in the can” but on a hard disk, come the end of August.  In the film are a handful of what have become my “regulars” – a little troupe which I happily work with as they appear to do with me:  Roxanne Rogers from Slow Moves (1984), Kate Sannella from The Bed You Sleep In, Frameup and Homecoming; Ryan Harper Gray from Homecoming, Over Here, and Parable; and Stephen Taylor, also in the last three mentioned film, lead in Parable.  And then there will be James Benning, the filmmaker, whom I have known since 1978, acting as well in a significant role.  I hope we all have a good time.  The film’s title will be Coming to Terms.  It’ll be kind of serious.

In about a month we’ll be taking a shot at a Kickstarter campaign, trying to raise some money to help pay for the travel and living costs while here for the actors, and a bit to pay them.  They’ll deserve it.  For the moment it’ll come out of my erstwhile “retirement” pittance.  We’ll post it here.

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