A “Weekend” Under the Influence
Have you seen the car crash scene from Godard’s WEEKEND? If you haven’t, you should watch it here. Great scene from a pretty rambling film, but that’s not the Weekend we’re here for. The film I’m talking about is a project I was involved in, and one that is very dear to me.
Early last year, my friend Josh Kasselman asked me if I’d be interested in being the cinematographer on a project that he and his wife Stephanie Lucas were going to make later in the year. They had written the project together, and were making it through the Scottsdale Community College film program that they both attended near their home in Phoenix, AZ. I was truly honored, and I knew this was the kind of film I’d need to rejuvenate me.
One of the reasons why this film is so important to me is because I was going to be working with friends. That may not seem like a lot, but when you are driven in your day to day film work by money or a by creative brief to sell a product, friendship means a ton. I had met Josh back in 2003 at Mr. T’s Bowl in Highland Park. Josh was playing in band called Boxing, along with his brother Seth. I had always wanted to do a video for Boxing, but finally got my chance to do one for Josh’s new band, The Harpeth Trace later.
So I knew Josh through the music scene, and I met Stephanie through him. I didn’t know much about her, but every time we talked I knew she was an extremely kind and intelligent person. She was a teacher and also filmmaker herself, so they were really a couple I respected. When Josh and Steph decided to leave LA and move back to Phoenix where they had grown up, a little piece of me was sad. I thought that may be the last I’d see of them.
That’s the thing about life, you don’t know where it’s going to take you. Leigh and I eventually left LA ourselves, and we looked back at our life starting to see who the friends were and who the passing acquaintances were. About that time is when Josh called me about the film. He and Steph were working on a film about a dancer that kidnaps her own daughter, not out of malice but for companionship. They sent me the script, and I could see the possibilities. Simple story, but powerful. I had never considered Josh a filmmaker, he’d always been a musician to me. I was so wrong, Josh’s background was theater and drama. He and Steph had written something that called to me, and I wanted to be a part of it more than anything else I was doing at the time.
When Josh, Steph and I would talk about films on the phone, we found that we were into a lot of the same directors and filmmakers. The one that kept popping up in conversation was John Cassavetes. I had always been a massive Cassavetes fan. Not only of his directing, but of the imperfect cinematography in his films. In fact, his work was almost documentary in nature because the actors were so damn good. You could tell when watching his films that the camera was there for one thing, and that was to document the life that was happening in front of it. The group of actors he worked with understood this. I’ve read stories that many times they’d gather for a spaghetti dinner before a long night of shooting, and then work all through the night, just to go to work on their day jobs all day long, come back and repeat. This was cinema of passion..that’s what I saw in this trip to Arizona. And of course other filmmakers and influences came into the discussions, but to me it was the patron saint of independent film, John Cassavetes that kept guiding my way.
The script focused on one central location, and two main characters. When you see that, you know there aren’t going to be any animated blue people involved, thank God. Our talks in preparation weren’t of RED cameras or hot women, zombies, or gun battles. This was going to be a film about human emotion. I have to tell you, that’s mainly what is missed in cinema today. I don’t care how much it cost you Mr. Cameron, where’s the story? Thank you.
By the time you get to the set, you let the references go, and you focus on your story. Josh and Steph know story, and my job was to paint the look of it the way they saw it in their minds. I focused on making it look as real as possible. It was to be as if this was a documentary of these people. We’ve been allowed to follow, but we weren’t really allowed to be there. Everything was a little uneasy, never quite settled, but never too shaky. It was a very exciting time for me as an image maker. They were focused on the acting and the performance, and their truly was a feeling in the air of the magic.
I could talk forever on the process, and how it made me feel, but I just want to say thanks to Josh and Stephanie for letting me be a part of this project. The reason I got into filmmaking was to tell stories, to work with people I love, and to move people with the work we’ve done. You guys allowed me to share your experience with you, and for that I am grateful. That’s cinema of passion, and that’s WEEKEND. The film premieres this weekend at the Sedona International Film Festival, and plays both Friday and Saturday night.
When there is a trailer for the film, or the film itself gets posted, I’ll be sure to put it up. In the meantime, for a little taste of my inspiration check out this trailer for a “Woman Under the Influence,” truly a masterpiece of American Cinema and one of Cassavtes’ best.