Untitled (Times For)
Ross and I had been joking about making an homage to the elusive, rigorous, and very very serious avant-garde filmmaker Gregory Markopoulos for ages. Markopoulos, who died in 1992, took all of his prints out of circulation in the United States in 1967, in order to create an 80-hour opus (structured in 'cycles') that screens partially (as it is completed) once every four years in the middle of nowhere in Greece.
Markopoulos's 1967 film Himself as Herself is [from the Harvard Archives] "based loosely on Balzac's Séraphita. The film consists of a shimmering, nearly plotless evocation of gender identity in flux, and it contains some of Markopoulos’s most haunting, densely interlaced images." It is also a particular favorite, and the film that Ross and I always dreamed of ripping off.
So, then I was asked to take part in the Chicago 8 Film Festival's 'Bride of Super 8' screening. Participants receive one roll of Super 8 Ektachrome. They shoot anything they want, editing in camera if at all, and return the roll undeveloped to the festival. Everyone sees their film for the first time on the night of the screening.
The films at these screenings generally fall into one of two categories: home-movie footage of dogs and camping trips, or general abstract fucking around. I thought it would be extra funny to present an incomparably overambitious film in the same context.
We planned out every scene and shot sequence in Untitled before beginning the shoot, and it took us five days (spread out over three weeks) to complete the roll. Each scene took hours to set up and get dressed for. The second scene (rolling on/with the carpet) was especially tricky, because we weren't sure if the camera movement we worked out would translate in the finished piece. That motion is copied (then repeated) from a single edit in Himself as Herself, when the whole film goes upside down for a moment. The staircase sequence is a reference to the moment in Himself as Herself when the main character, wearing this weird veil and representing both his masculine and feminine aspects, meets himself through cross-cut editing on the platform of a lush staircase. That's why Ross and I are in drag after that sequence, because we've crossed over the gender binary.
Because this entire film was shot in camera, and we wanted to make it without help, one can imagine the logistics that went into each take - I'd shoot a couple frames of Ross, we'd switch, he'd shoot, switch, etc. This was particularly trying during the staircase scene, since we single framed two seconds (36 frames) and had to have our fingers touch in the finished sequence; there's a penny taped to the wall high up behind us, and each time, before opening the shutter, the cameraperson would direct the actor in precise placement of their finger over this penny in the eye of the camera. This and the drag sequence were shot in my apartment building lobby. I'd like to thank my neighbors for humoring us.
At the end (when we become one, and, conversely, when we are seen together in a shot for the first time) we put the camera on a wheelchair, tied ropes to the legs, and looped them around poles in my basement. This was our way of fashioning a dolly that would require no additional hands, and maintaining the integrity of our 'pure' filmmaking experience.