Cut to the Chase

Okay, here goes.

In 2006, my friend Chase asked me to do him a favor. He was making a film for his final project in the acting program at the U, and he wanted to do it on super-8 film, and he wanted me to shoot it for him, since I had a fair amount of experience shooting super-8.

We ran around the University for a few days putting together his film, a simple, absurdist, existential narrative revolving around a Chaplinesque character played by Chase. We got the film processed, he edited it, and it turned out fine.

In 2007, Chase died in a car accident in Los Angeles. In the days between his death and the memorial service, it occurred to me: I still had the footage of him, which had been transferred from super-8 to digital video, on my hard drive. I had contemplated deleting those files, for the sake of additional hard drive space, just a week or two earlier.

I knew that there was something I needed to find in that footage. So I went through it carefully, really only about 25 minutes total, and salvaged the heads and tails of shots, the discarded takes, and random moments that I had captured without his permission, “wasting his film,” which was expensive and pissed him off.

I discovered that he was in there, in the moments around the edges more than anywhere else. I put together a short non-narrative composition from those scraps, like the Native Americans using every part of the buffalo, and to me it was stunningly beautiful, and true – not a documentary, not a fiction, but a vivid elegy built out of fleeting, momentary impressions; the shape of his knuckles, the texture of his hair, tiny idiosyncrasies of his posture and gait.

That experience catalyzed a profound shift in my sensibility as a filmmaker, away from the top-down, neatly organized and perfected constructions of mainstream industrial cinema, and towards an approach that’s far more subjective, personal, and ephemeral – and which, paradoxically, comes much closer to accessing an archetypal visual language, with rough imagery that seems as though it was discovered on a cave wall deep beneath the earth, illuminated by flickering torchlight.

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