I am working tirelessly to finish my final projects for my Master’s degree, which will include a digital visual storytelling project about Neolithic sites in SE Türkiye (Turkey), namely Göbekli Tepe and Karahan Tepe. More on this in a bit.
Since July 2022, I’ve been studying in Greece and South Africa for my degree program, and I’ve taken trips to various areas within Greece, & South Africa, along with trips to Romania, Türkiye, and I’ll visit Serbia. While in these places I have taken copious amounts of photos and videos, some of which would do well in experimental film format. 😉
Stay tuned for more updates coming this year about these film projects, a new visual blog, and possible film festival entries.
I’m excited, if a little exhausted LOL.
In the meantime, check out some footage from Thessaloníki and northern Greece, which I edited into like 4 mini films 😀 for a class assignment.
Time has flown since I started my master’s program. I didn’t realize it had been 6 months since my last update on here!
To sum up: I decided to take the leap and enroll in a master’s program in International Development and Service which started in January of this year, and I spent July-September in Thessaloníki, Greece (check out my photo essay blog from there: thessoteriki.wordpress.com) and I’m currently in Cape Town, South Africa until mid-December (new blog featuring content from there is forthcoming).
I return to Greece in January and will stay there until at least March 2023 to finish my final project and degree by end of April 2023. My main research in Greece is exploring components of sustainable communities & circular economies, and I’ll be doing a case study on an NGO in Thessaloníki that serves refugee populations by training them to make upcycled goods for sale. I’ll also be interviewing producers and business that are committed to zero waste/sustainable practices in northern Greece.
In Cape Town, I am doing a study on homelessness interventions in Muizenberg, a town in the Western Cape on the coast of False Bay (it’s also a surfer’s paradise!) This past October, I guest taught a tutorial on mobile/documentary filmmaking at the University of Cape Town, which was really fun! I like teaching, and may look for ways to do that after graduation.
I’ve done some traveling to Romania (July/August), and will to Turkey (December), while I’m overseas. I’m trying to fit in as much wandering as my budget (and energy) will allow while I have this opportunity to travel and live abroad.
I have been filming some video, but it is much easier to take photos for my master’s degree blog projects. I have some interesting footage, though, and I am planning short, experimental films using clips from Greece and South Africa. My hope is that I will be able to produce a film project as part of my final degree and post a segment of it on here and Instagram.
Stay tuned for more! In the meantime, check out this work-in-progress, 4-films-in-one experimentation that I completed for one of my classes in Greece. It includes footage I had gathered in July 2022.
I noticed last time that I had started this “7 Years of…” series in 2021, and now I’m in the 8th year of Spinning Goat haha. But we’ll go with it…
I’m lucky to keep getting/ taking opportunities to be creative with film since I took my first filmmaking course in 2012, and it’s been fun and instructive (for me) to reflect on the work I’ve done and my progress over time. I’ve learned so much about filmmaking, storytelling, and myself as an artist, that I could only have learned by just getting out there, making mistakes and experimenting, and doing a lot of hard work.
I’m still learning and growing, and there are some interesting opportunities coming up this year to apply what I’ve learned in both filmmaking and anthropology, to get more valuable and important stories out into the world, and share my love of storytelling and visual arts with more of you.
More details to come about my upcoming trips to Greece and South Africa later this year. But for now, let us ponder (lol) the meaning of life…
ponder is a film I conceived in 2015, and re-edited a bit in 2017. I searched for found footage of microscopic pond life and other microbial friends, and added a voiceover consisting of quotes by famous philosophers. I liked the play on words with ponder and pond. So deep. 😉
Sit back and relax with this one – it is a bit meditative, especially with the soundtrack by Massive Attack.
OK, I’ve come down a bit from the high of screening at SXSW 2022. I love that there is so much support for independent film in Austin – and even for experimental film! These days that is hard to find. Sometimes, I dream of what it would’ve been like to be alive in the early to mid 20th century, when experimental film was popping up everywhere. I mean, experimentation pretty much emerged as soon as filmmaking did, but starting in the 1920s and through the 1980s (and beyond), experimental filmmaking techniques elevated film to an art form that was both high art and deeply personal.
In my teen years, I remember seeing works by Man Ray, Maya Deren, Hans Richter, and Jean Cocteau, etc. and even though I had no idea what was going on at first (lol), I was super intrigued by their departure from the formulaic and familiar. Art serves many purposes, but for me, an important one is its ability to permit us to think and feel beyond what we know and to see things we’ve never seen before, things we may not easily comprehend at first. This opens up a whole new realm of possibilities; our imaginations are pushed further and we start to see beyond the norms that have been established for us, that prevent us from experimenting with our own potential.
My first experimental film came together in 2013, though I refined it and re-edited in 2014. I say “came together,” because while I had some idea of what I wanted to do, a lot of it seemed to just emerge from me, to create itself. I took my first film class in 2012 and focused on documentary filmmaking and nonfiction storytelling, but I was drawn to experimental and abstract film. It seemed like I was on two sides of the spectrum. Since then, I’ve had a lot of satisfaction trying to merge the two approaches in certain projects, and I am exploring ways of doing experimental ethnography and visual storytelling in my future work as a social change artist.
Licht Ex is a play on German and English words: licht (light) + experiment (abbr. ex) – which also may mean “from light” if you bring Latin into it. This film was also the first of mine to screen publicly, at Harris Theater in downtown Pittsburgh, PA during a monthly Gallery Crawl in April 2014. I don’t think many people came to see it, but I will always remember the thrill of seeing my first film on the big screen.
The SXSW 2022 Showcase screening at Austin Film Society went really well, and it was awesome to watch 20 short films produced by the local filmmaking community in Austin. I love all the films my Avant-Garde & Experimental filmmaking classmates made and it was an honor to screen alongside them again.
The Layers is available to watch online (youtube or my preference: vimeo) and is in some ways a tribute to one of my favorite poets Stanley Kunitz. It uses primarily Super 8 film footage, along with 16mm found footage and some digital bits thrown in.
Check out Austin School of Film’s blog post that features a bit more about the 20 filmmakers (including me!) screening at the Official SXSW Community Showcase @ Austin Film Society Cinema, tomorrow March 12 at 2 pm. FREE event. 90 minutes and includes Q & A. Woot!
From Chris: Great news!! My newest film The Layers, which features Super 8 footage paired with music and a recitation of the Stanley Kunitz poem by the same name will be part of the Austin School of Film Showcase at SXSW 2022!
I signed up for the Avant-Garde and Experimental filmmaking class at Austin School of Film in Fall 2021, which included Super 8 cameras and film and instruction on how to use the camera. I started filmmaking later in 2012 and have been using digital methods ever since, so the chance to work with an actual film camera sounded way cool. It was definitely outside of my comfort zone, but aligned with my filmmaking process in general. And…I pulled it off!
While the bulk of the film is made from Super 8 footage I filmed, I also added a found footage section using 16mm archive film, along with a segment at the end filmed with my iPhone. So, it’s a mixture of different kinds of filmmaking, with analog film featured prominently.
This film is a bit more personal as this poem really spoke to me recently, so it feels semi-autobiographical. I also list the names of some friends who have passed away over the years, which impacted me.
More details to come, but the screening is set for Saturday, March 12, 2022 at 2 pm at AFS Cinema.
After more than a year, I am finally working on a new film The Layers, based on a poem by Stanley Kunitz. I have been taking an Avant-Garde & Experimental Filmmaking class at Austin School of Film, which focuses on using super 8 cameras for filming content. We shot on black & white film and hand developed it ourselves! We also studied many awesome filmmaker artists who I admire.
2021 seems to be truckin’ along and I can’t believe it’s already mid-November! Let’s hope we can shake the grip COVID has had on our lives and see some positive changes in 2022. I hope everyone and their loved ones are staying safe and healthy!
The next installment in my sort of 7 year retrospective is a film called tunnel. This film just emerged out of nowhere lol. 6 years ago, I was out walking and exploring with a friend of mine in Montour, PA, where a section of Rails to Trails exists. Rails to Trails is an initiative to turn defunct rail lines along Pittsburgh’s three rivers into bike and walking trails. As we explored areas along the trail, we found this tunnel and I was mesmerized by all of the natural and human-made features within. I just randomly started filming things of interest without a plan in mind.
Later, when I got home, I uploaded the footage with the intent to make an observational film, just showing all of the interesting bits put together, but during editing/review, I was inspired to write a poem about ‘the tunnel.’ So, Part 1 is strictly observational, with a transition to a more poetic Part 2: digital effects applied to the the footage, along with recitation of my poem as voiceover.
I am inspired by filmmakers like Agnès Varda and others, who combined elements of documentary and avant-garde film, and as a new filmmaker back in 2015, I was still experimenting with how to film real life, but then edit it into something else – exploring how we can interpret what we see, hear or experience. Art is everywhere, in the eye/ear/heart/soul of the beholder.
The first entry in 2014, Outer Earth is one of many collaborations I have done with Pittsburgh musician Tom Moran. His song Tourmaline was released on the CD Oud Music for Snake Handlers, and it fit the concept I was going for from the festival’s theme of “outer space.” I wanted to depict every day nature on earth as if it was from outer space – or something like that. 😉
The second film screened in 2015 is Chaotic Chromatic, which was a very challenging work to complete. The theme that year was “The Silver Screen,” and I immediately thought of early filmmaking artists and the use of actual silver screens to project moving images. I am a fan of early film artists like Alice Guy-Blaché, the Lumière Brothers, and Georges Méliès, and I labored over several weeks to find archival films – starting with 20 minutes of clips – and painstakingly edited them down into a 2-minute film.
What aided the final editing process was finding Suavity Mouthpiece‘s song “MixedMedia,” released in 2014, which had a variety of aural elements that matched the video collage technique I was using in the film. It was also sort of frenetic, which was required I thought. 🙂 A special thanks to J. Trafford of SM for allowing this successful collaboration to happen.
The final entry I screened at my last 2 Minute Film Festival before moving out of Pittsburgh is States Past. In 2016, the films were screened at one of my favorite cinemas in Pittsburgh: Rowhouse Cinema in Lawrenceville. I don’t remember if there was a theme that year, but I had been becoming slightly obsessed with amateur home videos from 1940s-1960s that I would find on the Internet Archive and decided to find a home video clip from all 50 states in the United States to create the 2-minute video.
After successful collaborations with Tom Moran and J. Trafford separately, I asked if they would both collaborate to write a new soundtrack specifically for the film, which they managed to do remotely! And wow, what a beautiful piece of music!
In the end, I have clips from 34 states – all featured in just 2 minutes! I still get tired thinking of all the hard work I put into this one. 😀
Thanks for your support,
Chris Mason, founder and director of Spinning Goat Productions