5 questions with The Expanded Universe director, Christopher Bell at the half-way mark.
Wednesday, April 19th, 2017
1Hey Chris! Thanks for being a part of our festival. First, what inspired you to make The Expanded Universe? Thanks for having me!
I met a filmmaker at a festival who had made a Star Wars themed short film. He was so excited about it that he wanted to do a series of them, so then he asked me and a few others to do whatever they wanted so long as it represented their feelings about Star Wars. It didn't sound like anything I would ever do, so I did it.
I like Star Wars but, for the most part, I'm pretty indifferent to it. I figured cats are the most indifferent beings on the planet and that helped form the story. Then being able to work with Carl and Matt, incorporating video games and emulators, etc. These were all elements that I wanted to work with that I wasn't previously able to due to the nature of the other projects.
Also, I don't think anyone else ended up making their Star Wars themed films.
2Your feature, The Winds That Scatter was one of my favorite films we screened on Fandependent last year. That film felt so carefully considered. It felt like the framing and everything you did was very intentional. This films feels a lot more loose and probably a lot of fun to make. What made you decide to switch gears and what was the difference between making those two films? Thank you! I love Winds. Both films were pretty pick up and go, but yeah, there's absolutely a difference (in many ways) between Winds and Expanded Universe. I used to do comedy sketches in junior high and high school so it kinda felt like going back to that, in a good way. An extension of that. This was the first time in awhile where I was shooting and cutting based on performance and comedic timing, so the shots would tend to be simple close ups or mediums. Also, since the genesis of the film was "just go make this thing," there was no money at all, so my cinematographer/producer and I just shot the thing with what we had. Which is nothing.
At the same time, we really didn't have much for Winds, but I figured this short wouldn't go many places. I was more into using, uh, illegal elements, such as scores and video games I didn't have rights to. Though I did the same with Winds, to a different degree, and hoped nobody asked any questions.
I guess they're really not that different.
3How long did it take you to get that cat shot and what did you do to get it? Surprisingly not that long. Kiwi is my best bud's cat and we lived together for awhile, so I've known him since he was a tiny thing. He always makes stupid faces. Constantly. We figured out that if you let him bite you and move your hand away quickly he'll keep his mouth open. We shot it a couple times but the take in the film is the only one where the zoom worked and, somehow, his jerky head movements and eyeline matched up really well with the narrative.
4Star Wars made a huge impact on me when I was a kid. Was it big for you? What are your thoughts on men in their 30's and 40's who are still obsessed with Star Wars? I liked it a lot as a kid, but I wasn't super crazy about it. I mean, it was cool, it is cool, and I'm not about to pretend it's not. Shadows of the Empire was great. I was kinda just into anything as a kid. This was pre-internet so you couldn't really explore. I took what I got.
As for dudes in their 30s and 40s, there are way worse things for them to be into, so if they're enjoying lightsabers and shit, why not? I don't think people should be ashamed of the art/entertainment that gives them joy (unless it's really shitty and cruel then yeah, fuck that). I love video games, "japanese RPGs" especially, and I'd be full of shit if I ripped on people into someone else for liking something that people think is only for children.
5What's next? My feature, "Incorrectional," is done! And a few other shorts are on the way. I haven't shot anything this year but I hope to soon!
About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time which was selected for the 2017 IFP Narrative Lab.
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