Image & Illusion will screen at the Straight Jacket Guerrilla Film Festival
How did you get into making films?
At a very young age, my parents introduced me to filmmakers such as Jim Jarmusch, Agnès Varda, and even more transgressive filmmakers like Lars von Trier (specifically Dancer in the Dark at the age of thirteen or fourteen, which I remember absolutely annihilating me emotionally). But beyond the emotional resonance, I always recognised film as a sort of "ultimate art form," combining text with image with movement and performance, and so on. I began to regard it as the most fully fleshed out art form of them all, or at least the medium to marry the most other mediums within its own innate structure. When I was seventeen years old and found out that my dad had terminal esophageal cancer, I started to make films of my own. I started to think about death more than ever before, and knew that I wanted to leave something behind on this earth when I died myself: what better than art? So during my senior year of high school, I directed my first two short films, Dancing with Shadows and Nobody (2012). The rest is history.
What inspired you to make your movie?
Over the last couple years, I've become obsessed with the notion of films as dreams. Whenever I watch a great experimental film, I always come out on the other end as if I've just awoken from a dream or been released from a trance. This effect is something that I've always wanted to achieve and, with both Mirage and Image & Illusion, I was interested in attempting to straddle that line between ambient, contemplative cinema and the world of the unconscious.
How has your style evolved?
I would say that my style has evolved quite noticeably over the years. While Dancing with Shadows is rather impressionistic, my other debut short film, Nobody, is a hyper-realist video diary of a film, documenting a day in the life of a severely mentally unstable teenager. I play the lead role in the film, and it contains not only dialogue but a rather clear A-to-B-to-C narrative (while still hinting toward some experimental techniques that I would implement later on in my career). The jump in aesthetic from Nobody to my next short film, Vanished (2013), was huge, not even necessarily in terms of quality but more in terms of taking a leap from pure realism to pure non-narrative expression. And I've definitely explored the realm of the latter more so than the former, over the past half decade of filmmaking.
Tell us any strange or funny stories while making the film?
I can't specifically think of anything strange or funny that happened during the production of these two features -- I know, I'm so boring, haha -- but there is something unorthodox about the way that both films were shot/created. Both Mirage and Image & Illusion had over a half dozen cinematographers on board. Not in the sense that I kept having to fire my DP or anything; that was the idea from the beginning, to structure a film comprised of segments shot by several different cameramen and camerawomen across the globe, and then fuse all of those visions into one, anthological dreamscape. Mirage was shot by ten individuals across four countries (France, Italy, the U.K. and the U.S.): myself, Ben Danzi, Nadin Mai, Pietro Agnoletto, Seb Karamayar, Andre de Nervaux, Ted Parks, James Slaymaker, Reece Beckett, and Ian Flick. Image & Illusion was shot by seven individuals across three countries (the U.K., the U.S. and Canada): myself, Alex Davies, Andre de Nervaux, Dov Doviak, Susie Brancaccio, Jesse Rolfe, and Ben Danzi.
The Misrule Film Movement & Pink8 manifesto bring what to mind?
I think that any attempt to break the rules of typical cinematic conventions is a good thing, so the U.K.'s Misrule Film Movement & the Pink8 manifesto bring's to mind the hopes (and, to an extent, the reality) of rewriting cinema's language through the artists of the underground. I love the idea of going against the grain, going against what "film school" teaches and creating, instead, with a micro-budget, a cast of unknowns, little to no preparation, little to no technical advances, and the experience of making something on one's own without the interference of institutions. Directors I admire that seem to have adhered to these kinds of ideas in the past include Giuseppe Andrews, Jonathan Caouette and, of course, Harmony Korine.
What can we expect from your next film?
I've spent the summer in Tallahassee, Florida, where my girlfriend is working a summer job and, over the course of the last two to three months, have been suffering from the extremities of my clinical depression. I was diagnosed with severe depression years ago, long before my father passed away, and the experience of being here in Tallahassee, essentially alone most days without anyone to really talk to or hang around, has been extremely difficult for me. Thank god I have my dog here, but it's been difficult to leave the apartment and actually function in society while suffering from such intense anxiety & depression. The handful of times that I've left my apartment have been to go out and shoot, as the original plan for this move to Tallahassee -- even though I wouldn't have a paying job here in Florida -- was to make a DIY landscape documentary over the course of these few months. As of right now, I've shot and cut 53 minutes of the film. I'm not sure how much more shooting that I will do before I decide that the project is complete, but there are a couple other locations that I'd like to capture before closing the door on this chapter of my life and moving back to Nashville, Tennessee.