FINDING THE INDIE AESTHETIC: THE VISUAL ART OF FILMMAKING
“Through film, the painter is able to create a more complete and articulate sensory universe. Like painting, film can also be a pro-active tool to communicate social issues, inspire and educate. Independent filmmaking is often characterized by these attributes.”
By EJ Wickes
Image (above) from “The Mourning Hour” by Shevaun Cavanuagh Kastl
THE SYMMETRY BETWEEN PAINTING AND FILMMAKINGIn the discussions about what Metamodernism is, it has become more defined as a culmination of experiences. It is not a movement per se, but a frame of mind. Metamodernism is a product of the amalgamation of art, science and philosophy. A new romanticism of past, present and futurist ideals spiraling in a vortex of revolution and rebirth. What art is today compared to what it used to be in terms of “division of artistic labor” is now seen as a culmination of experiences and technologies that defy specialization and compartmentalization.
The creative nature is propelled and evolved by societal issues and further enabled by the technology available. Painting and Filmmaking embody the experience within their own picture planes and can bring the viewer across vast emotional distances of time and space.
In more ancient times before the emergence of photography, filmmaking and digital technology, the artist was more compartmentalized. Painter, sculptor, performer, and so forth. Then came photography and all Hell broke loose on the questions of “what is [fine] art” and how mechanical picture taking would come to impact the visual arts.
We live in a metamodern world full of industrial and biological hybridization. As a result the Arts are not excluded from crossovers by creating their own hybrid art forms. Fine artists generally recognize the summitry between painting and filmmaking. Many painters; Dali for example famously experimented with film. American filmmaker David Lynch was an advanced painting student at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in the sixties. An exhibition of his paintings and drawings entitled The Unified Field was unveiled at PAFA in 2014.
Film, video and visual art have gone hand in hand since the inception of photography and motion pictures. During one of the most artistically engaging periods in television history Rod Serling’s Night Gallery was a montage of short stories each introduced through a painting which came to life as the story began. The producers created a gallery with paintings by Jaroslav Gebr and Tom Wright. Used as portals, they drew the audience’s mind’s eye into the macabre narratives adapted from Serling and writers like H.P Lovecraft and Robert Heinlein.
As a visual artist, my experience was nurtured by the theater, symphony and art museums during my childhood. To me good paintings were those which pulled my mind’s eye through and past the surface of the picture plain. There is an imaginary world to interact with, not unlike the experience of watching a good film. Eventually I was drawn into more collaborative and multimedia works with videographers, performers, musicians and dancers, bringing the work off the wall and into the space.
The Art Film: Experimental Film or Avant Garde Cinema. In the style of northern mannerist painting, a still life is ruthlessly violated by artist Ori Gersht in “Pomegranate” (2006).
Compared to filmmaking, traditional painting is simplified by its nature. Paintings are generally seen and not heard. Their only movement lies in the artist’s ability to convey the illusion of gesture. Through film, the painter is able to create a more complete and articulate sensory universe. Like painting, film can also be a pro-active tool to communicate social issues, inspire and educate. Independent filmmaking is often characterized by these attributes.
IS IT FINE ART OR COMMERCIAL ART?
What’s the difference between arthouse and mainstream cinema? At one time indie film might have been described as low-budget filmmaking. Films that are produced outside or on the fringe of the major studios. Emerging filmmakers are always at the mercy of their budget. Equipment, film (celluloid) and processing are very costly. A feature length film becomes a tedious labor of love for most aspiring filmmakers, as indie is often characterized by the short film.
By WWII consumer access to more affordable cameras made it easier for anyone to experiment with filmmaking in the same way that anyone today can be an artist. Today artists can work on a phablet without ever having to touch a piece of film or dirty a paint brush. The advent of graphic design software and digital technology allows anyone to bypass formalist training and the burdens of expensive art supplies, equipment and processing and become a painter or filmmaker. The downside to that on a professional level might be, is that the advent of graphic design software and digital technology, allows anyone to bypass formalist training and the burdens of expensive art supplies, equipment and processing and become a painter or filmmaker!
Indie films are often annexed with strong social issues, documentaries and harsher truths that are not so easily marketed to become box office hits. Great art will not be found in Hobby Lobby. It doesn’t always match your sofa, or adhere to the mass-media trends of celebrity and pop-culture.
Arthouse filmmaking does not always hold sacred to Motion Picture Production Code, the established or imposed manual of acceptable content for appropriate viewing in the United States. Fine Art by nature has always resisted censorship and compartmentalization. Great art can speak for itself while film critics and art historians are left with the task of defining and correlating it as a matter of aesthetics for the purposes of cultural anthropology.
The Hollywood blockbuster is about making and getting your money’s worth. It’s an abyss of comedy and family friendly features based on socioeconomic externalities that sell. Production and commercial forms of visual art and filmmaking are concerned with cost reduction, Madison Avenue style marketing and volume of output and distribution. You most likely won’t be seeing any Happy Meals from McDonald’s sporting action figures from Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai.
As indie film becomes more in vogue the major cinema chains and studios are slowly coming on board by extending more screening opportunities for the genre. For some artists this tends to blur the lines between the bohemian and the bourgeois, making indie film harder to define by contrast from the full length E ticket rides produced by the major studios. To some emerging filmmakers this could mean an opportunity for better distribution of their work, but to others it may represent an attempt to gentrify or commodify their “independent” art form as just another economic externality. And as a result, the decline in the cultural appeal and the economic sustainability of the smaller arthouse cinemas.
THE MOURNING HOUR
From “The Mourning Hour”. Flashback scenes are played out in a theatrical setting. Kastl’s surrealism might be a reference to Virginia’s world being a stage as the reflections of the past are reenacted, backstage in her mind’s eye.
“The Mourning Hour” is an excellent example of a well crafted indie film. Written and produced by Shevaun Cavanaugh Kastl, the plot is an adaptation from a short story written in 1894 by Kate Chopin. Kastl (Conversations with Lucifer, Criminal Minds) also stars in the short film along with Robert Knepper (Prison Break) and Brandon Barash (General Hospital). It tells the story of Virginia, a 1950’s housewife with a severe heart condition who has just heard that her husband has died in a terrible accident.
Those who surround her are cautious in how to break the news to her. Instead of grief and sorrow she feels conflicted but emancipated by her newfound freedom. She begins a moral struggle and imagines the life she could have had as an aspiring cello player and the circumstantial moments of chance that drew her off course and into a marriage with a neglectful and unfaithful husband. A connection to feminist issues is made through a modern period piece, derived from a time when marriage placed considerable restrictions on a woman’s autonomy.
“The Mourning Hour” starring Shevaun Cavanaugh Kastl, Robert Knepper and Brandon Barash. Directed by Susan Cohen. Written by Shevaun Cavanaugh Kastl. Produced by Shevaun Cavanaugh Kastl, Susan Cohen and Gordon Vazquez. Co-Producers Cody Boesen and Travis Moody. Director of Photography Gonzalo Amat. Edited by Steven Ansell. Music by Sharon Farber. Cello Composition by April Guthrie. Costume Designer Diah Wymont.
Her “culmination of experiences” is portrayed through various atmospheric or theatrical techniques. This is an art film from an artist’s perspective with some very clever art direction and production design. Seasoned actors complete the package all the way around. Unfortunately this is not always the case with many lower budgeted indie films that inundate Amazon’s streaming movie list.
The future of independent filmmaking lies within the industry itself. Human Lab Corporation Studios is a collective of filmmakers, artists and business people whose dedication lies not only in producing and distributing the most engaging film content available, but also in providing a viable platform for the professional development and preservation of the independent arthouse film aesthetic.
CALCUTTA INTERNATIONAL CULT FILM FESTIVAL
Mission: The sole purpose of Calcutta International Cult Film Festival (CICFF), 2017 is to develop a film culture that inspires and brings together cross-cultural innovations that enrich people’s lives with entertainment and services that inform, educate and entertain.
The event’s goals are to introduce more people to arthouse cinema. We would like to see films made primarily for aesthetic and philosophical reasons. We believe that a story driven by a genuine expression can stimulate new thoughts that have the power to promote the fundamental principles of humanism; expand creative frontiers; stimulate new levels of compassion and even lead to social change.
The Festival is an organization dedicated to the discovery and development of new artists and audiences. The Festival seeks to support and inspire independent film and theatre artists from all over the world and to introduce audiences to their new work. We also welcome established arthouse filmmakers who have already produced a major contribution to the art of indie filmmaking.
CICFF is a monthly film festival with an annual LIVE screening of the selected films. Each month 20 films from each category will be officially selected and out of them one film will receive the Best of Category award. In each month we’ll publish an academic and detailed review of the award winning films in our International film magazine CULT CRITIC. In addition, the best of each month’s indie category will compete with all the others at the end of the year and the best of the best in each category will receive the prestigious GOLDEN FOX AWARD and they will be screened in the presence of a live audience.
The annual event will be a glamorous red carpet premiere with press conferences and gala parties in Kolkata, India in the presence of international movie celebrities. The participants will have excellent opportunities to exchange their ideas, ideologies and cultural innuendoes. The winners will have a chance to meet with the audience and participate in a Q and A after the screening.
CICFF is a division of Human Lab Corporation Studios, a leading International film production and distribution company. At CICFF we will be providing incentives for winning films and presenting promotional strategies for the winning films and their directors.
We will conduct an Interview with the director which will be posted in our HLC portal, plus a published review by one of our writers from CULT CRITIC magazine. But that’s not all: CICFF will take you global with international distribution opportunities for your films.
CICFF is a festival celebrating the arts, liberation and independence. We promote liberated platforms for all independent filmmakers throughout the World, and irrespective of their subject matter, we will assure an international platform for them all.
In closing, CICFF guarantees outstanding selections each month as the festival will be held on a monthly-basis. Hence we are going to create a culture that leads to “directors in the making” every month. Yes! That’s the perfect idiom for the Calcutta International Cult Film Festival.