"Alt.pictureshows" @ the MCASD
by David R. Stampone
The creative interplay between the worlds of music and cinema will again be evident at the fifth annual "Alt.pictureshows" event happening tonight (8-23-07), at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's La Jolla location.
Almost half of the 25 (mostly short) films slated are song-driven.
They range from recent pro videos by 1990s SDSU film grad Darren Ankenman (who's worked with diverse underground music artists as well as bigger acts like the Black Crowes, even lensing a tour documentary of BC frontman Chris Robinson's solo project New Earth Mud – dude also used rad Drive Like Jehu tuneage in his student film, and screened its premiere at a bar in North Park on a bill including sweet Swiss indie-pop masters Sportsguitar and then-ascending still-indie Portlanders the Dandy Warhols), to NYC auteur Michael Paul Britto's provocative recasting of the Britney Spears' hit "I'm a Slave 4 U" -- complete with an ante-bellum South setting and black dancers dressed as slaves picking cotton. (The edgy Britto also offers "Dirrrty Harriet Tubman," a funked-up trailer to an imaginary '70s Blaxploitation flick positing the revered Underground Railroad abolitionist as a gat-packin' freely swearing vigilante.)
Nathan Gulick is a local filmmaker currently working with San Diego bands who contributes his video for country-rock band the Beauty Shop, which he shot on location in Champaign, Illinois. "Even though the budgets have been miniscule, I've always gravitated towards working with musicians and artists in terms of film," noted Gulick. "You can get away from that sort of cynicism that can come along with the film world."
MCASD Film Curator and "Alt.pictureshows" founder Neil Kendricks agrees with Gulick and was impressed enough by his clip to feature it. "I want to show work by people who are passionate, who have something to say, or have an interesting way of looking at things -- who make films because they have to, who aren't just doing shorts as a career move up to working on Hollywood features." (This includes old as well as brand new -- Luis Bunuel's influential 1929 short "Un Chien Andalou" will be projected in the Sherwood Auditorium along with his longer "L'Age d'Or" from the following year.)
Kendricks, a veteran arts critic and filmmaker himself who has taught drawing, photography and other media classes at SDSU, Platt and Southwestern Colleges, began doing "Alt.pictureshows" at the museum in 2003, starting off at their downtown location. (It eventually lead to his hiring as Curator there two years ago.) He has done versions of the event in the past with multiple live bands but tonight's focus is on cinematic projections, some of which will be very fresh indeed.
Bringing on Gulick recently as a filmmaking collaborator, he was still finishing a piece last week inspired in form and theme by the 1962 French sci-fi/memory-study short "La Jetee" ("For me, the greatest short ever, something I saw years ago that's never left me" says Kendricks, who especially champions short films). Everything was shot at the museum: "You use what resources you have, and I had the opportunity to shoot it at one of the places I work, a great setting, so ..." He will show it tonight in one of the five museum locales where the fest's thematically grouped selections will respectively loop for three hours.
"I guess you could say it's site-specific," elaborated Kendricks on his film. "We're editing a series of still photos together like a movie, exploring memory. And we did it with a crew of five, actors and makeup artist included; you find when you go through programs at film schools, they indoctrinate you to have all these crew people who don't actually do much --
talkers, people who say they want to make a film but who don't commit. I'd rather streamline the process and work with a dedicated few."
To score the short, titled "Still Life: A Motion (less) Picture" (five mins.), Kendricks is using a piece of music submitted by local SD electronica act Rise of the Speedmen. "It was one of those things where, I got the music, played it with the film -- and it fit perfectly in mood and length, everything. Of course, it reminded me of when I scored my short "loop" a few years ago, when the Album Leaf piece I used just fit so well."
-- David R. Stampone