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2012, 90m, drama, mystery, thriller
A young filmmaker uses his camera to transform the banality of his hometown into art. When a friend goes missing, however, his footage exposes a disturbing mystery . . . one he might be inventing.
Stylistically, Frames is a narrative exploration of performance and stasis. The film is intended to provoke questions regarding character identification, the limits of expressiveness, and the aesthetic function of reduction/restraint.
10 questions with Frames director, Brandon Colvin at the half-way mark.
Monday, September 5th, 2016
1Hey man, glad I got your movie to talk to you about! I saw it a while back, but re-watched it again before writing down some questions. Can you talk a bit about how you constructed Frames? Like traditional script, storyboards, whatever else you use to get your head around what you want to do before principal begins? Yeah, a traditional 90-page script. The original cut was over 2 hours, so we ended up cutting out quite a bit of the script in order to arrive at a 90-minute runtime. The final cut of the film is probably 70 script pages. I definitely did storyboards for every shot in the film and stuck about 90% to those storyboards.
2The plot and the mood, the atmosphere building, all share screen time; they coexisting well. Did the story inform the mood, or did you start with atmosphere, or abstract images, and work from there? I never start with a story. A story is more like a way of uniting and contextualizing the images, feelings, and moods that form the core of a film. That core develops and elaborates over a long period of time, allowing for refinement and reconsideration. Certain moments or details will stew for months and months before I know exactly how they fit or relate to others. Once the film's emotional, visual, and tonal parameters are sort of solidified through thought and reflection, the narrative connections naturally form. So, yeah, there is probably more of an equal balance than in more narratively-driven work.
3Tell me how you came across your actors in Frames, and what is the casting process typically like for you (do you write with an actor in mind, or no)? Casting has been different for me on every film. With FRAMES, I cast locally after the script was written. I used Craigslist and other broad casting calls to find local performers, most of whom had very little screen acting performance. We saw lots and lots of people. On SABBATICAL, we cast established professional performers by directly asking them, but the parts weren't written for them. For my next film, I actually am writing for certain performers. I've found that the concreteness of that helps the writing process.
4How much of the sort of muted performance style in this film (and I do think that films should have a unique style of performance) was planned by you, the writer and director, or was this kind of a meeting of the minds between actors and filmmaker? It all came from me. I was pretty rigorous about getting the actors on the wavelength I wanted. I asked them to go against their instincts in a certain sense, as I was pushing them away from naturalism and the sort of expressiveness they were perhaps used to seeing. It took weeks of rehearsal to fine tune the pacing and tone.
5The earlier, more “meta” movie-in-the-movie moments, about capturing the town which “has no personality” for “mood” seems to be a running theme. Is this your take on filmmaking in general, turning the banal into something more? It's more about how putting a frame around something, bracketing it off, crafting it into a composition transforms the object. It gives it a new context and possibly imbues it with a different sort of intentionality or curatorial consciousness. I think that process can render the everyday into quite striking aesthetic experiences. It can also betray the reality of the object. That's sort of the crux of the film, in a certain way. Does recontextualizing something facilitate the uncovering of a more fundamental truth or does it obfuscate the truth of the object? It's a question about aesthetic form and storytelling in general. It's the dilemma that consumes Peter. Does art tell the truth or does it lie?
6Do you use other movies, or other works of art, as references for your actors and crew? If so, which ones were references for Frames? Or, what films, in general, do you find you keep going back to when in need of a filmmaker recharge? I have used certain films and paintings as shared reference points, definitely. I don't remember if I shared them with my collaborators on FRAMES, but several Antonioni films (L'AVVENTURA, L'ECLISSE, BLOW-UP) and Michael Haneke's HIDDEN were certainly in my head as I wrote the film. When I need a recharge, I turn to Robert Bresson, always. Lately, Miyazaki and Aki Kaurismäki have been very important teachers for me.
7I’m kind of a nut for thick, saturated color in my own work, whereas you seem to dig the more muted pallet. Can you talk about that choice in terms of its complimentary nature with the story in Frames (and even in Sabbatical)? I don't think there is a huge thematic relationship between the color and the narratives. It's just an emotional choice. The color has to feel right for the film, rather than having coded meaning or anything like that. Certain characters or locations will have particular color ranges, but it's about an overall tone, with the color extending or complimenting certain moods or feelings. Maybe my lack of saturated color just says something about my general temperament? I'm a pretty low-key guy.
8Can you talk about the Micro-Wave Cinema Series, in terms of where the idea sprouted, what drives you to keep doing that (it takes a lot of work to program any film series), and what you take away from programming. Like, how does that inform or inspire your own ideas or film concepts? Programming is important to me, because it is a way of supporting independent cinema and building communities of audiences--not for my work, but for the work of filmmakers I value. Being a micro-budget filmmaker involves asking for help and favors and engaging in self-promotion. It's a lot of taking. I wanted to use my knowledge and relationships to give back that energy and contribute to the formation and contextualization of a larger film culture. It's very hard for uncompromising filmmakers to get their work to audiences. I want to bridge that gap in the way I can, which is through local screenings. I'm not sure the programming directly inspires my work, but it does lift my spirits and makes me feel less alone as a filmmaker. I just believe it is the right thing to do. If not me, then who?
9Do you have other creative endeavors, outside of filmmaking or film programming, that you spend time doing? Do these other endeavors cross-pollinate in terms of inspiration for film? Hmm, not other creative endeavors, but lots of academic work. That's my bill-paying career. There is a considerable degree of synergy between my filmmaking and my research, teaching, and academic writing. The two areas of work are sort of different aspects of the same mission, which is to understand and attain some degree of mastery over the art form I love most. It's a pursuit without end.
10I know you made another film, Sabbatical, which is a great follow up in terms of style, approach, and growth to Frames (I recommend people go watch it). Do you have a future film cooking that you care to talk about? Yes, my next film is called A DIM VALLEY. I plan to shoot it within the next year. It's a sort of mystical, metaphysical, melancholy sex comedy about bumbling biologists and stoner forest sprites.
About the Interviewer: Matthew Wade
Matthew Wade is a freelance 2D animator / illustrator by day, filmmaker by obsession, and culinary enthusiast by night. His feature film debut, "How the Sky Will Melt," is now available to buy or rent digitally, and on VHS for a limited run through the new distribution company, Weird Life LTR. It also pops up on occasion at a festival likely not near you.
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