Sign-ups are live for our 2017 DIY Day! DIY Day is a free, all-day Fest exploration specifically designed for high schoolers to have experiential learning in areas they would not normally encounter in schools. Students have the opportunity to participate in workshops spread the North Village Arts District where they will learn “tricks of the trade” in a hands-on fashion from professional filmmakers, artists, and musicians who are part of the Fest!Students will meet in a central location for a FREE lunch, attend self-selected workshops, and then reconvene to reflect and rally for the March March, our annual parade through downtown.
This year, we’ve got a fantastic line-up of workshops with some of our 2017 T/F favorites including “songmentation” (experimentation + songs) with musician Thana Iyer, documentary animation with digital animator Boaz Balachsan, audio adventures with Andrew Leland, host of The Organist podcast from KCRW and The Believer magazine, and storytelling with Voice of Witness, an oral history organization whose mission is to amplify the voices of people impacted by injustice.
And that’s just the beginning… for a full list of workshops happening on Friday, March 3, head to our DIY Day sign-up: bit.ly/DIYDAY17. Faculty volunteers and students are encouraged to apply by February 10th (Hurry! We try to keep workshops small so students can get the most out of each experience which means space is limited!).
True/False is excited to announce that I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO will play at True/False 2017. Just nominated for an Oscar in the Best Feature Documentary category, I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO is an elegant appreciation of the brilliant and prophetic 20th century author James Baldwin.
In 1979, James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his next project, Remember This House. The book was to be a revolutionary, personal account of the lives and successive assassinations of three of his close friends—Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time of Baldwin’s death in 1987, he left behind only thirty completed pages of his manuscript.
Now, in his incendiary new documentary, filmmaker Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished. The result is a radical, up-to-the-minute examination of race in America, using Baldwin’s original words and flood of rich archival material. I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO is a journey into black history that connects the past of the Civil Rights movement to the present of Black Lives Matter. It is a film that questions black representation in Hollywood and beyond. And, ultimately, by confronting the deeper connections between the lives and assassination of these three leaders, Baldwin and Peck have produced a work that challenges the very definition of what America stands for.
Producer Hébert Peck will be attending True/False 2017 with the film.
In 2016, we introduced a new aspect of our growing transmedia program, an immersive storytelling experience known as LOST LETTERS.
Building on that first foray, reimagined to tie into the 2017 fest visual theme of “Out of the Ether,” True/False proudly announces ELEMENTAL. While LOST LETTERS went hyper-narrative and flavored the world of live immersive theater with escape-room puzzles, ELEMENTAL will take fest-goers to a minimalist, language-free world through a deconstructed adventure about the building blocks of matter.
Once again, groups of up to eight people will be given one hour to explore and solve puzzles. With ELEMENTAL, however, the space begins as one big empty white room. Spare, wide open, but full of hidden wonder.
Due to the intimate nature of the experience, reservations for ELEMENTAL are ultra-limited. Tickets are $35 for all passholders and non-passholders alike. Ticket purchasers will be able to reserve a time slot to attend for a specific hour. The event will run nine times per day on the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of True/False (March 3-5). Time slots may be selected starting at 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 13, following the announcement of the film schedule. As this is a team event, attendees are welcome to sign up with friends or will work as a team with others who have chosen the same time slot.
ELEMENTAL pulls together much of the same technical team that helped make LOST LETTERS a success, including art direction from Mid-Continental Art Collective, sound design by Tim Pilcher, lighting design from Taylor Shaw and electronics and 3D fabrication by Ben Harris. Puzzle design comes from Jon Westhoff with help from Connor Hickox and Josh & Gary Oxenhandler.
ELEMENTAL is produced as a partnership between True/False and Breakout Como, the city’s premier escape-room facility, located at 218 N. Eighth St. in downtown Columbia. For further ticketing details and sales, visit our passes page.
The indomitable Rainey family, featured in the new film Quest, have been selected as 2017’s True Life Fund recipients. The fund, True/False’s yearly philanthropic initiative, serves as a tangible way of thanking documentary subjects.
“The True Life Fund represents us completing a circuit,” T/F co-director David Wilson says. “The film subjects share their stories, and this is a small way to repay that gift.”
The Raineys’ home studio acts as a creative space and community refuge in North Philadelphia. Christopher “Quest” Rainey hosts Friday night recording sessions and mentors artists in the community. His wife, Christine’a, a.k.a. “Ma Quest,” works at a local homeless shelter.
Quest was shot by director Jon Olshefski over the course of a decade, bookended by the elections of Barack Obama and Donald Trump. We witness the Raineys raise their children, PJ and William, while working to transform their community.
What starts as a tender portrait of an American family undergoes a slow-burn transformation into a stunning look at race, class, and community. With the country’s turmoil ever-present but muted, Quest is a testament to love, healing, and hope.
Last summer, the film was fine-tuned at the Rough Cut Retreat, organized by T/F and the Catapult Film Fund. Now, Quest is set to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival before coming to True/False. The film is Olshefski’s stunning nonfiction feature debut.
The Rainey family and Olshefski will attend all of the screenings at True/False. Before the fest, Olshefski will visit all of Columbia’s four public high schools. At each school, students will watch clips of the film and engage in discussion with the director.
True/False 2017 marks the 10th year of The Crossing church’s sponsorship of the True Life Fund. The Crossing has committed to continuing to sponsor the fund for the next five years. The True Life Fund itself comprises thousands of individual gifts, matched through a generous grant from the Bertha Foundation. In 2017, True/False aims to raise more than $25,000 for the Rainey family. To give, visit www.truelifefund.org, text any amount to (573) 818-2151, or donate at the True/False screenings.
In 2016, Sonita Alizadeh, the star of the film Sonita, was the recipient of the True Life Fund, which raised $43,500 to underwrite her music aspirations and ongoing campaign against child marriage.
The True/False Film Fest will take place March 2-5 in downtown Columbia, Missouri.
Our generous friends over at the Blue Note gifted us with four tickets to Andrew Bird on January 16th, which means we’re giving away a ticket a day to four lucky pass purchasers. With your purchase of a Lux Pass (or higher!), you’ll be entered to win a FREE ticket Andrew Bird at the Blue Note! Act fast, we’ve only got four tickets and four days. Winners will be notified January 14th, 6pm. Comment on our Facebook if you purchased a pass (today-Saturday) and want a ticket to the ingenious Mr. Bird.
We’re taking our nonfiction showcase on the road! True/False presents a special screening of Thy Father’s Chair at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago for one night only: Wednesday, January 4, 2017. As with all of T/F’s film events, the stage is set with a band: the wide-ranging Mar Caribe will play at 7pm. Then stay for one of 2016’s best documentaries (and T/F ’16 alum) THY FATHER’S CHAIR beginning at 7:30pm followed by a post-film conversation with director Antonio Tibaldi.
A chamber piece par excellence, Thy Father’s Chair profiles aging twins Abraham and Shraga, forced to open their derelict Brooklyn apartment to professional cleaners. The crew turn out to be counselors of the higher order who seek to rescue the brothers from themselves. Both wry and warm-hearted, Thy Father’s Chair has a clear-eyed appreciation for life’s contradictions. Plays with “Balloonfest” (dir. Nathan Truesdell, 6 min.) in which civic pride comes untethered.
We’re thrilled to announce that we have recently received a $6,800 grant from the Missouri Humanities Council (MHC) for our Filmmaker Education Ambassadors program. The MHC is the only state-wide agency in Missouri devoted exclusively to humanities education for citizens of all ages. It has served as a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities since 1971.
The T/F Filmmaker Education Ambassador program exists to connect students and community members with expert documentary filmmakers and scholars. True/False consistently brings world-class filmmakers to Columbia, Missouri who explore all manner of subjects. In the last few years, films have ranged from Sonita, about child marriage in Afghanistan, to Something Better To Come, an anthropological portrait of living in one of the largest dumps in Russia, to Western about a town on the US-Mexican border, to stories that cover the lives of writers, and more. We believes in the power of pairing film with the experts who made them to ignite dialogue. Together, we learn to reimagine what’s possible.
For the 2017 installment of True/False, Filmmaker Education Ambassadors will consist of four major components: a Filmmaker Discussion Series for the general public, Filmmaker-Designed Workshops for high school students, Camp True/False for high schoolers from Columbia and beyond, and the Student Symposium for students of all ages. These events will take place over the course of the four-day festival. The goal is to facilitate interactions between Missourians and humanities experts and scholars. Through these interactions, we aim to explore ideas and deepen our understanding of the world around us.
The filmmakers participating in the Filmmaker Education Ambassador program as well as the specific times and locations of the events themselves will be finalized by early 2017 and advertised then.
For more information about the grants program of the Missouri Humanities Council, call 314.781.9660 or 800.357.0909 or write to the MHC: 415 South 18th Street, Suite 100, St. Louis, Missouri 63103. You can also read more about our educational initiatives, here.
One year ago, True/False’s hometown suddenly became the focus of the entire nation’s attention. Its major institution, the University of Missouri, was rocked by historic protests by the student group Concerned Student 1950. Last year also saw the launch of the Jonathan B. Murray Center for Documentary Journalism, an exciting new program overseen by Stacey Woelfel and T/F multi-alum Robert Greene. Three students from this new program, Adam Dietrich, Kellan Marvin and Varun Bajaj, embedded themselves in the Concerned Student movement in order to tell its story from the inside, capturing the rapid acceleration of events surrounding Jonathan Butler’s hunger strike, climaxing in the resignation of UM System President Tim Wolfe.
Dietrich, Marvin and Bajaj then began a collaboration with Field of Vision; a new documentary initiative led by nonfiction luminaries A.J. Schnack, Laura Poitras and Charlotte Cook. The final result was Concerned Student 1950, a powerful short film which had its world premiere in front of a rapturous crowd at the historic Missouri Theatre during True/False 2016. The film is now available to watch online.
Shortly after the 2016 fest, we got the chance to chat with Adam, Kellan and Varun about this whirlwind film…
True/False: To begin, could you tell me how you first got started covering this story?
Adam Dietrich: We were in class talking about some of the footage from the protest at the Homecoming parade that happened a couple weeks before and then looking at an article about the first day of the hunger strike. We had (Western co-director) Bill Ross in class guest lecturing that day. Our professor Stacey Woelfel posed the question “if you were going to try to make a movie about this, how would you do it?” Bill said you should just grab a camera, go shoot and figure it out as you go along. That started it for me. Right after class we got cameras and tried to go shoot. They didn’t let us in right away; they just gave us an email. I went through my Facebook friends and tried to find a connection to Jonathan Butler or one of the other original members of Concerned Student 1950. I found a woman who I used to work with who sent him a text message saying I was legit.
True/False: Can you tell me about how you built trust with the members of the movement in order to get access?
Varun Bajaj: We were very worried from the beginning about whitewashing this story, and we were very upfront about that worry and that we wanted to tell their narrative from their perspective. We maintained our access with our subjects because we put down our cameras as much as possible. We would help move water or set up tents, or stop to eat or pray with people. It was about those moments when we were we said “we’re students too and this affects all of us. It’s not just about us and our cameras. We’re students that are here supporting you as well as people who want to tell the story we are experiencing.” Just sharing a meal and praying with someone can go further than anyone can imagine.
T/F: I really like the way the film opens with juxtaposing the campus tour and the mock tour. Was that something you found right away?
Kellan Marvin: They rehearsed that tour of “the Real Mizzou” a couple times at the Black Cultural Center and then went out and performed it a couple times around campus. We had originally been playing around with the idea of cutting through that, from this location to this location, showing that they repeated it so many times. But it was never at the beginning. We originally wanted everything to be linear because we couldn’t really imagine telling the story working in any other way. The idea of placing that scene at the beginning was a cool thing that Erin Casper, the outside editor from Field of Vision, did when she came on. She had this outsider’s perspective. It didn’t really matter to her as much if things were out of order.
T/F: Could you tell me more about how the collaboration with Field of Vision began and how it worked?
AD: So Field of Vision: A.J. Schnack, Laura Poitras, Charlotte Cook. The day before Tim Wolfe resigned A.J. called up Robert and asked if he could make a movie about what was happening. Robert said, “I’m not going to do that because I already have students out there filming” and A.J said “that’s even better, we want to see what they have.” Up until that point we had been filming, not for no reason, but with no endgame in mind. They kind of gave us a clear purpose.
VB: Once they got involved, things went from 0 to 60 pretty fast. We officially got Kellan on board, although she had already worked with us some.
Once we stopped shooting we put together an assembly for them and then it became a very collaborative process. At first Robert and Kellan were going to edit the film, but then Robert his film (Kate Plays Christine) into Sundance the same week, so they hired Erin out of New York. The three of us pretty much had final cut on everything, but between Laura, A.J., Robert and Stacey we had centuries of film experience working on this movie. It was really incredible. Just the concept that Laura Poitras is reading our notes and watching our film and helping us put it together is crazy.
AD: Erin and I would talk at least an hour a day for the last two or three weeks. She was sending us a new cut or at least scene edits every two or three days. Working with this group of people it was hard not to make something great. It was a lot of fun for sure.
T/F: Going back to that “Real Mizzou Tour” opening scene, I think it gives a good sense that this movement is an ongoing thing that isn’t just starting here.
VB: I think what I really like about that scene is that you get to see that these are students. They are practicing and learning every step of the way. You get to see the first time they perform it and then the last time, when they’ve done it four or five times. That last time they performed right after someone shouted “white power” at them.
We also wanted to something that showed our access. We had a lot of good footage that was shot outside that anyone could have had, but because we were the only ones who had access to the movement, we needed something right up front that showed that we had both the inside and the outside.
T/F: It is kind of interesting this idea of filming a performance, but shooting it in a way where the camera doesn’t just become part of the audience. Do you have any thoughts about that?
VB: I shot both of those scenes. When I shot the first one the thought in my head was “oh, they’re practicing? I can practice shooting.” That’s why I shot that first morning, which thank God I did.
The scene I’m most proud of shooting is that second protest, when you see them actually performing. As soon as they got there they lined up in the hallway, which was unusual. I figured out they were going to one at a time speak up front, and I figured screw it, I’ll be up front too to get the audience reaction, because I’ve already got them saying it five times, and it was a group of white women watching them. By the time the first two people went I realized how much more emotionally charged this version was going to be because they had just been berated by someone yelling “white power”. As soon as Taylor says “I’ve got a high GPA, I do what you want me to, but you still see us as just a bunch of the N-words” I immediately realized I needed to get the black students reacting to it too, because that’s not just an experience she’s had, that’s an experience that they’ve all had. So that’s why I walked over and filmed everyone else.
AD: I wasn’t in that specific room, but I had filmed all of the other protests up to that one. Being in those other rooms when they did that same protest, by the third one you’re kind of on autopilot. You’re not really hearing what they’re saying anymore, which kind of changes filming a documentary I think. Part of filming a documentary is that it’s always live and on-the-fly, but having that performance aspect, you get to refilm the same scene multiple times and fine-tune the pacing with them, it’s kind of like what I imagine filming a fiction film is like. The way I read that scene, especially not being in that room, I can feel Varun’s gut instinct, not listening, focusing on the framing and the mood of the room and everything else going on.
KM: And it’s more of a cinematic look. We shot on the (Canon EOS) 7D which I’m not a huge fan of because the zoom sucks. If he had been shooting as part of the audience you never would have gotten those shots of someone’s face while they are sobbing and sharing their story. That was the one thing that really impressed me, that he knew what his camera was capable of, which I think a lot of people don’t take into consideration. It’s not just an artistic eye, it’s knowledge of the equipment you are using.
T/F: Did you have an overall philosophy to doing interviews in the film?
VB: We didn’t do any of those interviews until a couple weeks after we stopped filming. Those interviews are all afterwards because we wanted it to be completely observational but we did not realize what we needed to do to make that happen.
T/F: Why did you feel like you needed them?
KM: We talked to Field of Vision, and they thought it was still not clear and that we had to use too many title cards. We were trying to get them to actually say out loud “this happened with Melissa Click, this happened with the media, this happened on such and such a day” so we didn’t have to use title card after title card after title card.
AD: For me, it allowed us to create a deeper sense of character. We had a lot of the same faces of the people who became our main characters in some of the earlier cuts, but we never really got to know them.
VB: The way we framed them talking directly to the camera, in the way I thought about it, they are not talking to us, they are talking directly to the viewer.
T/F: It is interesting inserting footage into a film that the audience is already familiar with, such as the scene of Wolfe in Kansas City interacting with protesters and particularly the Mark Schierbecker/Melissa Click video.
VB: I think those things are very familiar to an audience here in Columbia, I think the people watching this nationally and internationally would not be as familiar. The Tim Wolfe footage I don’t think people outside of Columbia have seen at all. The Mark Schierbecker video we didn’t have in there for a long time.
AD: There was a weird restructuring where we originally introduced that Melissa Click footage through some of our main characters watching it on a computer and talking about it, but we eventually decided to get rid of that and just use the footage itself because it is a little more immersive.
VB: I think that Schierbecker footage really plays because it’s almost a montage of journalists interacting with the protesters at that point. You have the build-up of the first kid outside the circle say “Bro, what are you doing, why are you blocking my camera?” And the second one in the circle says, ”You’re going to respect us” “Why are you turning your phone on?” “I’m just checking my notes”. And then the last one: “I’m just here to tell a story” “No you’re not”. I think it puts that one video in context of everything that was happening that day, especially because you see Melissa Click get manhandled earlier by that other reporter.
T/F: I really like the scene of Wolfe’s resignation and how you captured the weird energy in the room in the lead up.
AD: It’s awesome that you touch on that because that was something that we fought about and talked through and changed and restructured up until two days ago.
KM: What actually happened was that the conference call wasn’t working, so he actually resigned twice. Also, one of the curators stood up and said “Mr. Butler’s father is in the hallway if you want to talk to him.” And Wolfe was like “No, I just want to give my speech.” We originally wanted him saying that he resigned twice, but it made more sense to build the tension throughout the scene. Only we would find it funny that he resigns twice.
AD: It was about, like you said, the energy. Kellan and I were there that day and being in that moment was incredibly weird and uncomfortable. Restructuring the scene and moving things around was about trying to rebuild that energy without losing context, because to play that scene as a whole, him getting up and resigning, the conference call cutting him off and the technical difficulty, the curator talking about Mr. Butler in the hallway, and then another resignation, makes absolutely no sense in a storytelling sense. It doesn’t get any of the information to the viewer in a proper format; it’s just a mess. It is a pinnacle point of the story, but we also let the resignation be more than just “I resign” and tried to portray what that room felt like. So I’m just really stoked that you felt that energy.
VB: I wasn’t there, but my favorite part of the scene is when Tim Wolfe says to the guy on the phone “Can you hear me now?” because this is all about a lack of communication. That’s probably my favorite line in the movie.
T/F: I also think the final scene works really well. Can you tell me about deciding to end there? Because obviously this story is still going on, there are still things happening.
KM: We really didn’t really know when to stop. We were still filming stuff this semester. Originally we had another protest in Greektown and Jesse Hall, the “we are not afraid march”, in mind as the ending, but it was too much of a bookend. Too much of a happy ending.
VB: It’s still happening. We didn’t want an ending where it seemed like it was happy and it was over because it is not over and they are not happy.
Having it end with that town hall, DeRay (Mckesson) was in the room who is running for mayor of Baltimore, Netta (Elzie) was in the room from Ferguson, both huge activists, Jonathan was done with his hunger strike so he was feeling back to a hundred percent, but it was still so scary. I don’t know how to describe the emotion of that room other than powerful. So when you have Ayanna (Poole), who is one of the most powerful people I’ve ever met, leading that, with me right in her face. I didn’t know I had that footage at first, but I don’t think there was anything else we could have ended with.
AD: After going through it so many times, Erin sent us that idea in one of her cuts and it just stuck. I don’t think we even needed to talk about it. I don’t think it was ever disputed.
T/F: To finish, could you tell me about the experience of premiering the film at True/False?
VB: The way we got accepted to True/False is that Pamela (Cohn) reached out and then Kellan cut together the silent piece (featured on 2016’s The Great Wall). Once they saw that they were like “Wow, let’s see what else you guys have.” We had something to show them on Friday, told us they programmed it on Sunday, announced it on Wednesday morning and we finished the film Wednesday afternoon to play Saturday.
Eight days before our film premiered that we found out that True/False was interested.
AD: It was crazy.
T/F: How about the screening itself on Saturday night?
VB: It was like watching a home video with 1200 of your closest family and friends. People were cheering during it. And then when it ended, we had all eleven of the original (Concerned Student 1950) members and they just stood up and started chanting. It was chills and cheers. I kept crying and wanted to throw up. It was amazing, the fact that the students that allowed us to film them and did this amazing thing on campus could be a part of showing the film. We made it, but it has nothing to do with us is was about them. The fact that they could be a part of that screening was really, really special.
AD: It was insane. It didn’t feel real. The whole weekend of True/False it didn’t feel like it was actually going to happen and then sitting there in the audience watching it it didn’t feel it was happening. And then afterwards talking to Charlotte, who was the former programmer at Hot Docs, she said she didn’t think she had ever been in such an electric screening ever.
Concerned Student 1950 is now available to watch online.
Boone Dawdle 2016 fundraiser for True/False Film Festival. Photo by Stephen Bybee for True/False.
Bill and Turner Ross, two brothers from Ohio who now call New Orleans home, drove five states north to join T/F for one hot summer afternoon. The Ross brothers’ third feature film, Contemporary Color, was featured at T/F’s annual Boone Dawdle, a bike ride and blufftop screening along the Missouri River. Contemporary Color finds creative ways to document an unusual concert of new, original songs written for the nation’s top color guards, organized by David Byrne (Talking Heads). T/F’s Allison Coffelt sat down with the filmmakers while they were in Columbia.
True/False: Can you talk a bit about the decisions you made when you were thinking about how to approach this project as a version of a concert doc, or an event film? It’s not oriented around a single person’s experience or following one person through; how did you come to the structure you have?
Turner Ross: You’re working with David Byrne who’s responsible for one of the greatest concert films of all time. You don’t want to just delve back into that straightforward approach. Nor did we want to make a emotional journey you know, with one character– let’s isolate this person– because it was such a collective experience: the musicians, the stagehands, the kids on the floor, our team making the movie. It was such an egalitarian experience where everybody was involved and everybody was invested. So, to truly isolate any of those one things for too long– I think what would would have WEIGHTED it down, and really would have done an injustice to the actual experience of being there.
And so we chose to take vignettes, little pieces of those things, and share them, and sort of ride the currents of these experiences. So you can have this emotional uplift with music, or you can have this emotional uplift with a character who goes through this valley with somebody, but it’s quick and passing. The music is fluid, these interactions are fluid and allowed us to go into these kids’ heads for a brief period of time, but then also to be present.
Our inspirations for this thing, although they sound comical, really did feed into what we wanted to do, which is things like professional wrestling from the ‘80s where you’d have these really heavy-handed narratives, but you’d only have a little bit each time you went to the show– you know, just be a little piece of the narrative, and so if you dropped into that world that was just crazy; or “The Muppet Show” when you go backstage with Kermit and he’s just frazzled and doesn’t know what to do, and then all of a sudden you’re with Statler and Waldorf up in the stands, and then all of a sudden you’re on stage and then maybe you’re in the audience blowing yourself up. It’s just all these little pieces moving around—
Bill Ross: This was our actual pitch to David–
TR: –Who was totally into it! (laughter). He was the first person to ever say, “guys that sounds great; your rambling nonsense is good stuff!” But we love that in those environments that you are completely welcomed in, absorbed and sucked into the life and current of these moving spaces. And that’s what we wanted. We didn’t want to create this artificial structure; it already has a structure. You’re already in the space for this period of time, and we wanted to allow that to happen, but also to drift in and out.
T/F: I wanted to ask you about how you made editorial decisions about the drifting. For instance, I noticed sometimes we would meet someone, like a musician, and then we would see a couple of songs. Then, maybe three acts later, their song would come on. What were you looking for when you looked at different pieces?
BR: Well, anything that we do is to present the feeling that we had while we were there. So wandering those hallways, you would bump into people throughout the show. We didn’t want to set it up in the film like, “Okay here’s this guy, and then we’re going to see them perform and that’ll be that.” They are existing just as we are and we’re all floating through the space.
Editorially, we really fell in love with all these folks, and we wanted to continually pop in and see them, and see, where are they now? Are they up in the stands watching? Are they In the back goofing off? We wanted this very circular thing.
TR: It’s kind of a stream of consciousness narrative rather than a predictable one, because the problem with the show, and then the interludes, and moving in-and-out is: if you started to develop a consistency, you start to develop an expectation, which just took you out of it. If we showed a performer and then the performance, showed a performer then the performance, it could just become really tedious. As frustrating as it can be to occasionally pull away from a song or wonder where the hell this is going, it’s like, well, you can go anywhere you want and try to create some unpredictability so this is a journey in which you can be surprised.
T/F: I really like the idea of having the viewer go on the same journey that you’re on as you’re doing it. Of making it experiential and having the viewing experience mimic the actual experience.
BR: I mean, we all work in the same office in New Orleans, and you’re sitting there watching a performance and you’re like, “I wonder what Ad-Rock is up to right now? I would love to come backstage and see what he’s doing”, and so we shot it like that. Those options could be had and so that’s the way the film was cut.
TR: We had an interesting conversation a couple weeks ago –we were at an event on a panel of people who want to talk about VR, virtual reality– whether that’s the death of what we’re doing, and all of that. This is kind of our own virtual reality experience.
What would happen if you dropped yourself in the space? Where would you go? Where would you look? What would you want to do? For me the difference between the two is, yeah, you could put on a headset and fly into this room and move around space at will, but the actual experience of being there and really feeling the energy of the space, getting to know these people, and feeling it out really dictated the way that we constructed the film, the choices that we made and certain rhythms we adhered to. It is different. You really that like the sense of being in that space with these people, and the emotional kineticism of the space. It was something that stuck with us for a long time and really dictated how we did things.
T/F: How would you describe the feeling of being in that space in that moment, personally?
TR: It was awesome. It’s a stupid word, but—(laughter), but in the real sense, it was awesome. We make these small movies together. We go out in the world with our little cameras, and the two of us and sort of recklessly find things that we like. And in this experience we were in the f***ing Barclay Center with complete control of everything. And a team working around us, and permission to do everything. That permission was access to this incredible event where you have hundreds of kids for whom this might as well be the Olympics. It’s the same energy, the same emotional outpouring- they’re invested, they’re waving flags at the Barclay center…that’s insane! People are paying attention to them and it’s not piped-in music on stage– it’s St. Vincent, it’s David Byrne. So you think of how these people were feeling, and the response the give and take. And just having access to be able to float around that world. Aside from what we do, my favorite spaces is dream space. You can do anything you want there. You can create anything you want, and this was a situation where we were very much in that dream space. We had everything at our disposal and this wild universe was swirling around us. We had all the tools in which we could say: “Send the people this direction, send the people that direction. I’m gonna go climb up on stage right now.” Just kind of drifting through and allowing everybody to be themselves and capture this environment. It was profoundly emotional for me. What about you Bill?
BR: Well, I’ve never been in the circus but I would imagine this was fairly close to what that experience must be like. It was very athletic; we played sports growing up and it felt like a lot of nervous energy– you have one shot to perform, to do well, to kill it. And that was on the kids. That was on the musicians. That was on us, making the film. So there is this very heightened sense-of-being for three hours, and when it’s all over everyone rushed backstage. It was this outpouring of emotion because we had all pulled off the show. There was a lot of hugging, the kids were crying, we were high-fiving and talking about what we’re gonna do after the fact and it was just… Like the next day I remember like we all woke up and started texting each other just like: I’m so sad, like profoundly sad, like summer camp was over. This great journey that we’d all gone on –a very intense journey we’d all gone on– was now over, and it sort of felt like a very, very bizarre dream. I think that’s what we had hoped the the film would feel like as well. I think it does. I think we made what we wanted to make anyway; I hope it comes across.
If you missed it at the Dawdle, keep an eye out – Contemporary Color will be released by Oscilloscope in 2017.
You’ve seen the pictures. The numerous bike helmets, bright smiles, the big tree, the color guard…but this year, we captured the T/F Boone Dawdle another way. If you’ve never been, this offers a glimpse into the day’s events: the fun, the energy, and community. If you were there, this should help you reclaim a bit of that 2016 Dawdle delight. So, put on your headphones, take a sip of your Schlafly, close your eyes, and reminisce with us for the next 4 minutes: