Sad Hill Media

Film & Lesser Arts with Will Ross, Devan Scott, & Daniel Jeffery.

by Devan Scott

It’s very illuminating looking back on what I’ve always felt was something of a failed experiment later only to realize that, yes, it was a failed experiment after all. The Fall of Man stands as my first and, with any luck, last foray into outrageously obtuse film student experimentalism. However, despite the fact that the piece remains nothing short of an abject failure in my eyes, the creation of The Fall of Man set in motion a very singular chain of events in my life from which I feel I’ve gained what may very well be something resembling wisdom.

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1. Examine your influences.

The thought process that led to the creation of The Fall of Man was, like the finished product, short and exceedingly simple. I had just experienced (“listened to” would be a gross misrepresentation) Lou Reed’s 1975 album Metal Machine Music. It was, as promised, sixty-four minutes of unbearable sonic torture. Though thoroughly shell-shocked, two things about the work greatly impressed me; firstly, sheer guts it took to release such an unbearable piece of sonic torture; and secondly, the incredible ability of the album to evoke such a powerful negative reaction in the listener. I thought to myself: “Hell, I’d like to try that.”

2. Work with your medium, not against it.

When given a reel of film in our first film laboratory of the year, we were encouraged to embrace the physicality of the medium and alter it through whatever means necessary; ink, bleach, tearing, whatever you could think of. I took this to its logical extreme, which meant smashing the film, shredding and re-assembling it, biting it, attempting to burn it. When it was run through the projector, the projector broke after about three seconds. According to various sources, it took a few days before that unfortunate piece of equipment was up and running again.

I had rarely been so inspired; “Oh look, I’ve created autodestructive art! I’ll be Pete Townshend in no time!” Naturally, I had to apply this newfound proclivity for destruction to whatever my next project was. Three weeks later, I shot my first honest-to-god Student Film.

I’ve scarcely had a more frightening experience than the one I had shooting The Fall of Man. Like virtually every other student who had taken a film course in the past decade, I had no experience with film as a medium to speak of past developing black-and-white stills in a makeshift darkroom as a teenager. So I played it safe: no actors, no shots that couldn’t be disposed of if a complete foul-up were to occur, no concrete narrative to speak of.

3. You are going to fail at least once. Accept it.

The premise for The Fall of Man was simple: I wanted to create a film that contrasted pastoral scenes of gritty beauty with unexpectedly painful segments of harsh unpleasantness, both visually and sonically. The film has no other reason for existence other than as a means of manipulating an audience between states of serenity and pain. That, and a whole ton of single-frame edits inserted to the film with the express purpose of causing a possible projector breakdown during the screening. I was laughing in the editing room, but I don’t think I quite understood why. Looking back, I think The Fall of Man can be best described as a fun little joke on the audience; more than anything, the ‘pastoral’ segments strike me as amusing, and the painful segments as mocking.

It was a fun little film to screen. The absurdly loud burst of Metal Machine Music (what else?) at the fifty second mark caused, much to my pleasure, a nice shock in the classroom, and the crescendo at the end had ears all around covered. The film broke the projector, naturally. It was a sight to behold; the bad splices caused the projector’s lens to come flying loose, showering the room with beams of light. After the film unspooled, someone shouted “Goddamnit, Devan! Not again!” It took our local equipment wizard a good three days to fish the film out, legend has it.

Despite my plans to terrorize my fellow first-year students going off without a hitch, it wasn’t all peaches and honey; something about the whole affair didn’t sit right with me.

To be continued in Part Two.


Anonymous said...

That was a good experimental.

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