by H.S. Bayer
Adrian Goodman, a filmmaker just in from Australia, has come to America to make his mark in the film business. Naturally enough he originally headed to Park City UT during this year’s Sundance FF – somewhat under-dressed for the cold weather. At Sundance he serendipitously hooked up with party hostess extraordinaire Lisa Lindo and joined her entourage, networking continuously throughout the festival. She connected him to us while he made a pit stop in NYC on his way to Boston and ultimately to LA.
So you already have a film in a festival?
Adrian: Yes, my film is in the Boston Underground Film Festival this weekend… It’s a short titled Eat Up. Actually, it’s a fun festival, and there are several shorts there I’m looking forward to seeing. It’s the 17th year they’ve run the festival. Eat Up is an experimental film – a black comedy. It’s an investigation into gluttony in a very short amount of time. There are no words in it. It should appeal to people who speak different languages and different cultures I think.
When did you finish it?
Adrian: That film is quite new – finished only a few months ago. It’s actually quite funny how that came about. I was sitting in a diner and the waitress came out with an enormous burger. She was parading it through the restaurant. I just took out my camera and started filming. As she started to come towards me, she thought I was taking a photo of her. There was this strange interaction between us. I just kept filming. I didn’t realize I was making a film. I thought I was just capturing a moment. There was just something so grotesque about the whole situation. The kind of consumerist culture and gluttony that is all pervasive. The place itself was pretty revolting to be honest. The colors and everything were so over the top – the ultimate kitsch. This is an American diner in Australia. An American woman had moved to Australia and like what happens so often when someone leaves his or her home country, everything gets amplified. I guess you could say a kind of nostalgia builds on itself and you end up with this monstrosity of a diner. I haven’t seen anything like it here in the States since I’ve been here. And so having that location, and having this monstrous burger – and everything about it – I just accentuated everything in post. I slowed it all down and got all these degraded and washed out colors. In the camera, I degraded the image as well. Not that it needed much, because it was shot on a pretty basic machine.
Do you have the same consumerist thing down in Australia?
Adrian: I think Australia has followed the lead from America in that way. I mean we’re always behind, ya know, we’re always catching up. We’re always ten years behind where America is in that respect.
Adrian: It’s a shame because Australia is traditionally a very egalitarian society since it began with the convicts being sent over from Britain, and there was this distaste of authority. There’s more of an understanding of your fellow man, traditionally, and wanting to focus on that. But now you’ve got this neo-liberalist drive, neo-conservatism, and Reagan and Thatcher and everything since then, and it’s swept around the world since. I don’t think Australia has been able to avoid that either.
You mean all that anti union kind of stuff?
Adrian: Yeah, the market is everything. It’s all about the market – the free market. Everything is about the dollar, and the dollar rules everything, and part of that, is this rabid consumerism that’s taken over our world. It’s not so much about your fellow man, and all those sorts of things … morals and ideals – the human connection. It’s become much more about let’s just consume a lot of shit and buy a load of stuff and that’s it.
It’s your civic duty. If you don’t the economy will falter.
Adrian: Yeah. (Laughs) It’s like where does it end? And that’s what the film’s about – this ridiculous burger, which is bigger than this woman’s head who’s serving it. Where does it end? And you’ve got other people working there bearing witness to this. There’s an understanding that there is something sick about the whole thing, but it’s up to the audience to take what they want from it.
Yeah, one of the big IPO’s coming up with restaurants is Shake Shack.
Adrian: Oh yeah, I saw one of those at Grand Central.
Yeah there’s one over at Times Square too.
Adrian: When I was there, there was a woman, and she was training up about half a dozen people that were about to be employed there. She was standing talking to a group of 6 – 8 people, and I just got this vibe that the place was growing.
I like burgers myself, but I don’t know what’s so unique about their concept.
Adrian: I eat burgers too, I love burgers, don’t get me wrong. People might think that this is a comment about burgers, but it’s not. It’s more about looking at it with a kind of triumphalism attached to it, when you realize this woman sees this as a trophy, a be all and end all. It’s like the crowning achievement of our culture. In regards to this film, it’s not so much about the burger, or being critical of a certain type of food, because I’m not. I think that it’s just this excess, this indulgence… this mindless consumption. No one NEEDS to eat that burger, but they encourage you to identify with this burger, as if having eaten this burger is a great achievement. Can you DO the burger? In itself, it’s a pretty vacuous notion, the idea that’s what we should be aiming to achieve. To me, there’s something lacking there.
Have you been into art films before, or did this one just emerge for you? There’s a whole subculture of people who make these kinds of art films, it’s a continuing filmic tradition – an antecedent of Indie Film. Is this something you participated in before?
Adrian: Look, I’m a fan of that whole movement. Some work more than others, of course, but yeah, I’ve been inspired by a lot of those films. My movies are usually more narrative driven than that, which is why this is more of an experimental thing for me. But I always include aspects of that. My films always have elements of the surreal, and elements of the subjective. It’s about how our perceptions inform our experience of the world. So for me, there’s always an experimental aspect to my films.
How many films have you made so far now?
Adrian: I made four short films, and the one feature, Wakey Wakey. That’s it as far as the serious ones; I’ve got a whole bunch of others I’ve worked on. The more playful ones I haven’t necessarily sent out to the world. There are also a few things in the works. I’ve got a TV series, and another feature I’m working on. I feel like a part of my work is moving into like a comedy area, embracing the comedic aspects that have already been a part of my work. I wouldn’t say that I’ve done so much comedy in the past, as there are elements in my work.
Black humor? Sardonic, sarcastic stuff?
Adrian: Yeah there’s black humor. All my films are exploring the limits of human experience, or exploring strange human experience, Black humor, ya know, gallows humor. That’s what it’s about, exploring sex and death, particularly death, because gallows humor has a way of offering us some sort of comfort in the face of bleakness of our mortality. That’s part of what my films are about.
You had a feature you made that was in a lot of festivals in Australia?
Adrian: Yeah, it ran in several festivals. It won a bunch of awards in Australia, and did very well critically. It’s not your usual beast. It’s about an hour long, but it’s been really well received, particularly by the horror community, even though it’s not a horror film per se. They call it a horror film because it has horror aspects in the construction of it and it’s got a psychological horror vibe to it, but I’d put it more in the Art House category. It seems to have found its niche with horror fans. It’s like an Art House film that horror fans embraced. Wakey Wakey won an Australian Director’s Guild Award. It also played in the Melbourne Underground Film Festival where it won three awards, which was very encouraging.
It’s about a narcoleptic teenager and her older sister who is looking after her. In the absence of parents, the older sister decides she’s going to make use of “Josie,” and when she falls asleep, “Samantha” uses her body as a plaything for her own artistic exploration into sex and death. There’s a kind of amorality and absence of morality in that household because they’ve had to look after themselves. They’re teenagers on the cusp of adolescence, on the cusp of their sexual exploration. It’s an awakening, especially for the younger one, but the older one is already well down that track. So without any parents or supervision they are kind of exploring that together. “Josie” starts to discover what “Samantha” is doing to her when she’s asleep. When she wakes up, she realizes what’s happening but she likes the attention. She starts to kind of play a role in that relationship. She realizes that when she’s asleep she can learn more about her sister, it goes from there, and the relationship deepens.
Do you always write your own stuff?
Adrian: Up till now, I’ve always done that, but I’m not averse to doing adaptations as long as it coincides with what I’m trying to do and it turns me on. I’ve got one idea I’m working on now that is based on a true story, a historical event, which I’ve never done before. Usually, my films derive from my own experiences. They’re not totally true stories, but the emotional truth of my experiences with a lot fictionalized. I found this particular story but for me it’s very important to be able to take complete liberties with it. It’s important for me to do a story that is emotionally true for me rather than factual.
Did you get distribution on your feature yet?
Adrian: Well I’ve been selling it on the internet, because there was a lot of buzz about it, and I ended up with quite a number of fans. In the end, we have a direct sale. It’s nice to be able to interact directly with people that are so interested in seeing the film.
Did you have a chance to get your money back on it?
Adrian: Not at this point. But the way I see it, as a one hour film that was shot in 10 days – a real labor of love – the fact that it’s my first long form film, and the fact that it’s been embraced so much; I’m looking at the next one to make the money back. There was something so pure about this, about me having complete creative control, it turned out exactly the way I wanted it, including the fact that it ended up being just an hour, a bit short for a feature. Maybe, if there was a studio that had a hand on it, they might have added another 10 minutes or so to pad it out. To me it’s something that just demanded to be that duration, so that’s how it worked out. It was a very important thing for me. It was a deep and personal film in the context of my life. I don’t regret that.
Part II: OUR MAN IN BOSTON
Adrian sent us a short account of his experience at the fest…
Boston Underground Film Festival showed some real standout films, and did their best to offer a lot of mingling opportunities for the filmmakers. From having spoken to some of the Bostonian filmmakers, I can see they love the festival very deeply, and it’s clear that it plays a vital role in Boston’s independent and freethinking filmmaking scene.
For me personally, it was exciting to see one of my most experimental shorts play on the big screen in front of a packed house and to hear people’s various responses. Those responses varied from reflection on our cultural love affair with over-consumption and all things material, to visceral sensations of nausea or hunger. I’m glad for people to experience any or all of these effects.
My festival highlights were the myth-making German psycho-thriller Der Samurai, the ice-cold twisting Austrian creeper Goodnight Mommy (“Ich seh, Ich seh” in the German), and the shiver-inducing and pointedly thought-provoking Boston-made horror short, Penta.
Der Samurai and Goodnight Mommy played back-to-back to close out the festival with a serious bang. So much so that there were a lot of filmmakers who arrived at the closing night party more than a little tenderized, and in need of group therapy. As we slowly reacquainted ourselves with our environment, our lasting reactions made us keenly aware that we’d seen some really special films. It was a thrill to have shared in that collective experience – something that only the theatre can provide.
The Whore Church was another highlight of the festival. The local collective set the transgressive tone with their steaming heap of interstitials and BUFF intro sequences, including the festival trailer itself. Their irreverent and vital short works were made up of found footage mashups and twisted inversions of pop culture tropes.
Those are the kinds of intense and singular experiences that I seek from films and BUFF most definitely provided on that front, giving me a real shot of inspiration. Having the chance to spend time with some of my filmmaker peers and getting a sense of what drives them was heartening too. There’s a seriousness in approach. For those I spent time with, however playful and experimental their films, they make them from a place of sincerity and deep desire for personal expression and artistic inquiry.
Part III: BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL – 17th RENDITION 3/25-3/29, 2015
BUFF, as the fest affectionately calls itself, is a celebration of the bizarre and insane – screening uncompromising, unflinching film/video. It began its life as an all-night film marathon run by founder David Kleiler and longtime festival pal Dima Ballin. This informal event quickly grew into the first annual Boston Underground Film Festival held at the Revolving Museum in South Boston. Programmer Bernard Broginart described this first annual gathering as a wonderful hoax of a film festival. BUFF had a rocky adolescence. Though bolstered by an exceptional staff and enthusiastic supporters, the festival had a tough time putting down roots. But BUFF soldiered on through all the icky and strange stages of development with a strong lineup of bizarre and insane little films, eager to spring them on an unwitting public. Scampering mischievously from venue to venue, the festival picked up momentum. After years of being buried under the toxic waste of popular culture, BUFF had mutated into a twisted underground force to be reckoned with.
Under the direction of the current staff — Artistic Director Kevin Monahan, Director of Programming Nicole McControversy and Media Director Bryan McKay — BUFF found its way home to the historic Brattle Theatre, where it has resided since 2012. BUFF is the only fest to award a Demonic Bunny. It’s a great excuse to head to Boston at the end of March as the last snow melts. Viva la révolution underground!
And the Bacchus Award Bunnies went to…
Best Feature: I Am a Knife With Legs, directed by Bennett Jones
Runner-up: The Editor, directed by Adam Brooks & Matthew Kennedy
Best Short: Money Shot, directed by Jackie Zhou
Runner-up: Slut, directed by Chloe Okuno
Best New England Film
Manicorn, directed by Jim McDonough & Robert McVarish
Runner-up: Penta, directed by Andrea Wolanin
Juried by The Whore Church – Most Effectively Offensive:
Bag Boy Lover Boy, directed by Andres Torres
Runner-up: Ink, directed by Andy Stewart
Directors’ Choice Awards
Best Feature: Remedy, directed by Cheyenne Picardo
Best Short: Goodbye Casey Trade, directed by Amanda Brennan