My 16mm films dealt primarily with religious dogma and socio-political topics such as paradise, original sin, true-belief, self-awareness, and environmental destruction. These concepts were often addressed through the use of unconventional imagery, sound and editing. Non-actors played their roles more as mobile props, rather than characters. In many cases imagery were forced together in brutal juxtapositions, in what I termed at the time, disjunctive editing. Every attempt was made to use as much of the footage shot as possible, partly because of the investment of time and money afforded each roll, but also the challenge of making it all fit into the structure previously defined. Thus the monetary considerations factored heavily into the works, and as a result they became precious objects. Yet, celluloid’s preciousness is also driven as much by access to specialized apparatus and its physical properties as its cost.
The following are a list of 16mm films made between 1986 and 1993, and are available for rent at Canyon Cinema. They are only viewable in their original medium. Copies DO NOT EXIST in any video format. The cost of a professional digital transfer is extremely prohibitive. Additionally, because of the expense, few prints were struck from the edited camera original. Thus each print is rare and costly, and therefore precious. Extreme care should be taken in preparation for and during projection.
The films were shot using numerous stocks, including b&w reversal, color reversal, color negative, b&w negative and my favorite, Hi-Con 7362. The latter capable of being processed either positive or negative. It was the aesthetic qualities of each formulation that fueled exploration. Print stock used as camera original or outdated and non-refrigerated film were all exploited to drive my understanding of the formal properties of cinema.
While the films are generally narrative in nature, their methodologies are not. For example, partly because of the cost and complexity involved with shooting dialog, they were shot MOS and therefore do not rely on lip synced dialog to drive the content, instead depending on image, sound, and /or narration. Additionally, with such aesthetic and monetary investment I felt compelled to utilize as much of the developed footage as possible, often forcing juxtapositions of unrelated material in the storyline. While much of what is mentioned above only applies to the live action films, the two animated films below were completed using only a single 100′ roll of 16mm film. Again I strove to use only the material at hand.
Psychedelic Impressions (1986) is an animated short using photocopies of my upper body. These cels were photographed on an animation stand with a 16mm Bolex camera (I believe it was shot on fours or sixes) each image double exposed into the next. A tedious process of exposing four or six frames per cel, then capping the lens and reversing the camera several frames, and placing a new cel into position, removing the cap and starting the procedure again. The entire film was shot in one night, on a single roll of black and white reversal film. I do not recall making any edits in the image, but I did add an obscure Pink Floyd track (exactly which one is now unknown) that sounded like it was composed by Karlheinz Stockhausen or John Cage. Only a single print exists, and is not available for rent. I have been considering scanning some of the best original cels to create a high-definition version with a new soundtrack.
TV (1987) was shot in a single all night session in my apartment living room with a Bolex. Using clay I fashioned a mouth with a cigar on a static filled TV screen. Using single frame stop-motion animation, I molded letters which formed in the mouth and then moved across the screen forming words and then sentences. These proclamations about how all-knowing and enlightened it (TV) was, were occasionally paused to allow its hand to remove its cigar. At sunrise the once full lips, were now thinned considerably.
The Garden of Eden (1988) and Adam Went On To Till the Soil…But What Ever Happened to Eve? (1989) were edited exclusively with a gang-synchronizer during AB-Rolling. I chose to conduct the editing process as a connection of linear images strips, rather than considering the individual frame. Thus, I built a audio visual patchwork according to a preexisting mental map. The first screenings of both films were in many respects as much of an experience for me as it was the audience. This editing process is high risk, considering the investment required for a theoretical result, yet I feel the methodology was successful.
Are There Fairies Dancing on the Lawn?…And if There Are Can I Catch Them in a Net? (1991) and War-Heads (1993) were made in a similar manner, however more attention was given to the individual frame and overall synchronization. In other words, a good deal of time was spent physically editing rather adhering to my mental map approach. Yet attention to the groups of frames or patterns remained predominate. This is evident in the basic editing structure which consisted of splicing unedited rolls together in the order of events.
During the assembly of War-Heads I did attempt to use as much of the footage shot as possible, however, hundreds of feet of film remained unused. Some of it could be discounted for various technical reasons, other material simply did not fit the makeup of the aesthetic which was being formulated. It was during the making of this film that I was introduced to the Amiga computer as a production tool. The voice of my father was refined and edited in the digital realm.
While I currently work with digital video, I hold a profound love for celluloid. However, its production methodologies are too prohibitive to continue working with the medium in the traditional sense. In 2008 I revived my affection for film with Canned Meat, the first in a series titled 35mm, using digitally scanned motion picture trailers.
Most of the works still have their original descriptions, which in some respects are either inadequate or antiquated. They are scheduled to be updated anew, benefiting from years of hindsight. Each text is accompanied by original 16mm film strips, some of which are extra takes, trims, or unused shots. — R.D. Flowers 1/20/2014
(At present, these descriptions mostly speak to the filmic processes, but will continue to grow more detailed, taking on the subject matter and philosophical aspects.)
Chronological listing of 16mm films:
• War-Heads (1993)
• The Garden of Eden (1988)
• TV (1987)
• Psychedelic Impressions (1986)