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.
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.
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
I LOVE working with archive/public domain videos! Of course, they are easy to access – especially on the Internet Archive archive.org, my FAV place online, but you also have the opportunity to reframe the past or make commentary-style visual works. Context is somewhat removed in historical and found footage so it’s no easy task to either attempt to recreate historical context or to frame the message within a new, contemporary context.
One of my early works manipulating archive videos is workworkworkwork (2015). I didn’t go super deep with this one, but was struck by the repetitiveness of the footage. I thought about monotonous, repetitive work, that in some cases has been outsourced to machines, but in other cases has been outsourced to overworked and underpaid workers. 😦
Original description with the video:
Re-edit of a collection of workers filmed by Frank Bunker Gilbreth, who studied workers’ motions in order to improve efficiency. He was also the central character in Cheaper by the Dozen.
Despite research into how to improve the ways in which workers do their work (Gilbreth wanted to improve conditions for workers, but some of his contemporaries just wanted to increase profits, rather than concern themselves with workers’ welfare), it still seems rather unnatural for human beings to be doing repetitive tasks, like a machine. In modern times, we hear about workers in factories being forced to do repetitive tasks in sterile conditions, without breaks or time to feel…human. Many have, sadly, killed themselves.
This is a short piece, showing the monotony and repetitiveness, seemingly driven by Gilbreth’s motion clock. It is also a study in early industry, which some may say was the beginning of the end of art in making things.
From Chris, director of Spinning Goat Productions:
Happy New Year and 2021!
I feel a sense of relief, and grief, having made it through 2020. Let’s hope our continued work to improve society for ALL has many more fruitful results in the new year, and beyond.
As a way to kick off the New Year and celebrate independent, creative spirits – like Pittsburgh musician Tom Moran – I’m releasing my self-produced feature-length documentary about his musical journey online today for free!
About the film:
Tom Moran has been in music since he was a child, starting his first band with his friends in his basement in 1969. From there, he has grown and expanded into a musician that can play anything with strings, who seems to understand the “soul” of music, which he seems to embody while performing. He has collaborated with multiple artists in the US and from all over the world, and is a consummate expert in music history “from the mountains of Appalachia to the sands of the Sahara.”
Improvising the Divine: the Music of Tom Moran is a zero-budget, indie documentary feature about Pittsburgh musician, Tom Moran, and his 50-year journey performing rock, punk, bluegrass, Middle Eastern, Indian, experimental music – and everything in between.
Featuring performances by Tom Moran, The Five, The Deliberate Strangers, Stephanie M. Vargo, Cousin Emmy, Elizabeth Cotten, Hamza El Din, and more.
Not only can Tom play – and build – anything with strings, he exemplifies the independent, artistic spirit, demonstrates respect for cultural music traditions and musicians, and shows how cool it can be to reinvent yourself every once in a while.
The documentary is filmed and edited by “one-woman crew” of Chris Mason of Spinning Goat Productions.