Monday, October 19, 2009


"Show us their faces. Tell us what they said"
Don DeLillo, 'The Names'
A couple of weekends past, as part of the Melbourne Festival, we watched Dean & Britta perform '13 Most Beautiful - Songs for Andy Warhols Screen Tests'. You might have already seen it. 13 of Andy Warhol's screen tests with, for the most part, songs composed to accompany them. At around 3 to 4 minutes in length, each screen test was given a musical shape. What was really incredible however, was just how intense a viewing experience it was. It was moving and immersive and verging on the transcendent. On the way home, I kept thinking about how the opportunity to gaze into a face for that length of time is reserved only for lovers and for the cinema. Someone told me many years ago - and I've never been able to remember who it was or find the source of their quote - that David Cronenberg said that his perfect film would be 90 minutes just following a person's face in close up. I don't know if that's true but I've never liked Cronenberg's films and I wanted to like them a whole lot more after hearing that. Other filmmakers who I do love seem to make precisely that kind of film. I'm thinking of the Dardennes Brothers 'Rosetta' or Hou Hsiao Hsien's 'Millenium Mambo' or Reygadas 'Battle in Heaven' or Zoncka's 'Little Thief' or Bresson's 'Mouchette'. The opportunity to linger on a face as it moves from emotion to emotion or from place to place is that rare privilege. If anything, I think my desire for this kind of film makes it difficult for me when it comes to writing. I seem almost happier to see a character in stasis than to propel them somewhere. I'm curious what will be revealed on the face in those moments of stillness. Just don't tell my script editor.

You can watch the trailer also at the pretty damned nice distributor site for Plexifilm and buy the DVD there. I am curious how the DVD translates. There was something very balanced and right about the projected faces flickering away high on the theatre wall and the haphazard snaking of amp leads and microphone cords on the stage below as the band performed.

We also watched this film/performance only a week before the opening of Dirtsong, which was a vast performance by the Black Arm Band with a background projection of a feature-ish film (80 mins or so of extracted goodness) assembled from fragments that T and I shot and edited for the performance. More on Dirtsong in time, but there was no doubt that seeing '13 Most Beautiful' allowed us, in the midst of a month of daily 18hr edit sessions to settle back, be inspired by this immersive kind of film portraiture and rely on simplicity and clarity and stillness.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mix Tape '99

I saw that MYC are reforming to do a gig at the Arts House in Melbourne this week... reminded me of the old zine mix tapes. Here is another one...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


On location while shooting 'Murundak - Songs of Freedom'

True to the river source of the word "meander", we've spent the last two months meandering, wandering, looping back and forth on our selves, drying up and flooding again, as we finish off two projects - one new - 'Dirtsong' for the Melbourne International Arts Festival - and another old - 'Murundak - Songs of Freedom'. We travelled back and forth across the deep north, to some beautiful communities and to some places beyond description.

Below are a few select images from the last month's shooting for Murundak.

(L)Steven Pigram, (C) Fitzroy Crossing, (R) Ursula Yovich

(L) Emma Donovan, (C) Mark Atkins, (R) Dan Sultan

And some from Dirtsong:

Our little crew, crammed most of the time in the back of a 4WD, ended up becoming the one beast, wordless and working like maniacs, responding easily to silent gestures, and rarely faulting. When a small crew like that is working that seamlessly, it must be the same feeling you would get from a football team* that knows where every person on the field is by feel and drills and familiarity.

On, or at least, just beside the Road

At one point, we were in north eastern Kakadu, filming by a waterhole. Our sound recordist**, Chris O'Young (also a composer and the writer of Fatherland) stopped us all to record an atmos.

While we stood there in silence, fifteen or so of us including our subjects, the place itself opened up. This is probably one of my favourite things to do. As you sit behind the camera, things seem to close down into smaller and more precise lines of vision, your eyes trying to pick out details and it is almost as if your breath and vision starts to constrict. Then, suddenly, you are asked to stop and record an atmos. Nothing special, just a silent hum of the surroundings. And, as you stand there, over the minute or two required, your eyes open up again and you begin to feel again the depth of wherever it is that you're standing.

As we walked away from recording this atmos one of our subjects said that, for a moment, it was like gulpa ngarwal, a Yorta Yorta word, she explained, for a timeless concept meaning deep listening. That is, a listening that is not your ears, but your eyes and skin and presence in the place. It is a listening that takes time and awareness. For a few moments in each shoot day, the dumb, clumsy fumbling of the film crew, usually tangled in leads, het up with deadlines and schedules and madness, gets a moment to glimpse this deep listening. More please.

* The Daybreak Films football team colours:

** Sound Recordist Chris O'Young on the Kimberley coastline north of Broome...