Production Book for “A (Gutai) Film” –final film
This film had no objective. If I have to state an objective, it would be to surpass a mental annihilation in the failure of my other attempts at a final film. It would be, quite simply, to give something to present on the last class that wasn’t horrendously dull. It’s just, in contrast to my other films, where I had a drive to present a certain type of films, I think I was undone by the lack of prompt or exercise and simply could not find a means to care. I took the camera, called Charlie, and I told him, “anything that comes to mind, we shoot it. The point of this is to have no story or filmic ideas. Just think of stuff to do. Anything.” I wanted an anti-film, almost. Mostly, I had spent so much time being anxious and depressed and near paranoid about impressing people with these films and making strong films, that I did not care anymore and really just wanted to have an absurd amount of fun. And we did. It was a bizarre creative process, because it was devoid of intentionality. Nothing was made, except the introductory scene, with the thought of being something in particular that was cohesive.
Somehow, the film took that shape and became a film about not being a film. It became despite itself. It became about the process of making THIS film, as opposed to a film that discusses other films. Hence, why I called it, when all was said and done “Gutai”, because it mirrored the Japanese art movement of Gutai, of the “splendid playground”, that interested itself in the interaction of the artist and the art object far more than the piece itself. It was about play and this film was just us two playing. But this thought is very retro-analytical, because I wasn’t thinking about a statement or an ideal. I was far more interested in shooting the camera at anything that would be in the slightest bit interesting and hopefully we, Charlie and I, could make it interesting as real people. I didn’t want acting. I didn’t want staging. I wanted verite. But I didn’t to make a cinema verite film. I didn’t want to make a narrative film. It just happened. It could’ve been boring. But it wasn’t.
The film is introduced with me awkwardly talking about how this isn’t my final film. We then go to me baking a cake. There are several different takes of me at different portions of the cooking process. After baking the cake, Charlie and I go out into China town to get chinese food. We go to the restaurant, lie that we’re making a documentary, get our food and return to the dorm to eat it. We finish the cake, it came out horribly, but we eat it anyways. I wake up the next day, go get Charlie. We get Gator. We head out to Dominique Ansell’s. There’s an interview between Gator and me with a phony britsh accent at the end and that’s it. That’s the movie.
Long story made short: I had an original script. It was a dark psychological narrative with character development and a soundtrack ready and locations and all I needed was some approval of some things and it was ready to go. I was discussing it with Letícia as Art Director. It was looking to be in good shape. Then my locations started backing out. Then emotional hindrances throughout the semester kept me from pursuing doggedly on these things and kept me from approaching Risk Management to get cleared for the action sequences. Slowly, but surely, my film was falling apart. With a week to salvage it, I was in class and inspiration struck me and I formed a new idea. I wrote the script to it two days later (Wednesday) and began location hunting that day. I realized how difficult location scouting really was when I got rejected from around 20 different locations for a basic proscenium theater stage. Eventually, I settled- I could have paid $140 for one in Brooklyn, but opted not to- on the black box theater in Rubin.
The shoot was riddled with disaster from the moment I woke up. Rain became horrendous that day, so the transportation of materials was very problematic. We lost our tripod in a taxi snafu. We had to push the shoot back by three hours because I neglected to actually reserve the space and someone else did and I had to wait on them to finish. My costume design was compromised from running around all day and getting sweaty and that one of my crew forgot to bring a vest I requested. All in all, given these shortcomings, I tried to get the film shot anyways. Principal photography was a mess, but I wasn’t aware of this yet, and I was emotionally distant in the acting and couldn’t feel the energy I wanted for myself. I reviewed the footage at 8pm that night, after helping another crew on their shoot, and realized that none of it was even useable. I was at my end. I believe I felt the neuron pathways in my mind crumble as I sat there, staring at 1 hour of technically poor footage. Lighting was bad. The angles I decided on were bad. Acting wasn’t great. It was just a travesty, and I felt my last chance to make something powerful had evaporated in that room. So I stopped caring.
As I said earlier. I didn’t care anymore whether anyone liked the film I made, because all in all this is a class for me and my development as a filmmaker and I thought no test would prove more trying to my ability than to make a film out of thin air, of an unorthodox nature, in less than 36 hours. But I didn’t want to make a film. I didn’t want to make a story or anything. I just wanted to get the camera and make something of any nature. It’s difficult to describe my mindset so far detached in time, because I felt at a point of near delirium. When I walked up to the front of the class and stated that I had finally “lost my mind”, I was not exaggerating so much. And, because my default setting lies outside conventionality, my gut reaction wasn’t to make a story. I wanted to be stupid. I wanted to avoid avant-garde. I wanted to avoid everything filmic and just, sort of, play, and present that as a piece of work, despite what my peers thought of it.
Everything in the film was part of the principal photography, pre-production, and post-production process. Anything that occurred was not scripted. Radar Love blaring over the cream cheese frosting being whipped was because Charlie was singing Radar Love for no reason. I forgot the cake was in the oven when we went out for Chinese food. I made an accidental racist remark (not in the class version) because I almost stepped on a dead rat. We didn’t expect people to answer us in the elevator. We expected to be kicked out of the restaurants we attended. Everything happened and we were so fortunate that we had the common sense to leave the camera on and just let life happen that 12 hour time frame. Now, there is a discussion on simulacra and performativity here about people and their behavior on and off camera, but nonetheless, none of it was intended.
Editing took me a lot of time, but only because I became obsessed with watching the 80 minutes of footage we had in its entirety more than once and because I used iMovie (if I was going to reject professionalism, I wanted to do it at the most basic sense) which crashed every hour. Also, I edited my fourth film on Sunday and THEN went to edit my fifth, and so I spent all night editing, but I had three different 5 min. takes with 3 different “stories” and just chose the one I felt best comprised the entire event.
I feel weird saying I’m immensely proud of this film, but I am and I want to keep doing films like this in different places. I want to test how environments react to this direct cinema approach and I how react to said environments. I am curious that the class enjoyed it, but immensely glad that they appreciated my editing and person, because I wasn’t acting in the film. All those threats I made to Charlie and absent stares and awkward exchanges and enthusiasm for stupid things are truly myself. For a film I cared nothing about, it’s my favorite film. It’s so stupid. I love it.