The citywide summertime FestivALL Charleston in West Virginia’s capital city has been sponsoring some homegrown contests that have turned up some worthy work. Above is one of the better pieces – the first-place winner, actually – that surfaced in FestivALL’s 2011 Silent Film contest, judged by a notable panel of local and national cultural types, including filmmaker Danny Boyd, actress Ann Magnuson and writer/producer/directors Bob Tinnell and Morgan Spurlock.
Except that the piece above, titled “My Decision” by David Stephenson, is not, like, silent. Yes, that’s true. This is the original version – with an original musical composition by Stephenson – of this odd and beguiling montage of sometimes surreal images that occasionally recalls the visual scenescapes of “Eraserhead” and “Un Chien Andalou” (although thankfully without diced eyeballs). Viewers of Rudy Panucci’s “Radio Free Charleston” may recall also having seen this short on a past episode of “Radio Free Charleston.” If you want to view it in its silent incarnation, well, just turn your volume down.
Stephenson is a 27-year-old electronic musician, photographer and aspiring filmmaker living in Charleston. He says in a short bio that he started primarily as a musician “but had a strong desire to bring life to his music through imagery. Acting on this idea, he then began bringing his music to life through film.”
In an e-mail exchange with WestVirginiaVille, Stephenson told a little more about himself, the film and his music:
“Rudy did feature my video on RFC on one of the episodes without words a while back. RFC was partly why I decided to make that video. The ‘My Decision’ video was my first attempt to create a short film as a way that I could add a visual element to one of my musical compositions as well as get a little experience working with video editing software. I’m really hoping to get another longer film project going in the near future though my current employment makes it hard to find the time right now …
I usually start by building a percussion track, then I record the synth parts with a midi controller so I can use them to build the track. So there is a little bit live recording and loops. I started out as a guitar player but I grew up in a pretty isolated place so I got into the electronic side of things as a way to make music that I normally would not have the capacities to make.
I’m currently working on a more traditional rock band project with a friend, but we still have a long way to go at the moment… I actually didn’t know much about the Silent Film Competition till that day before the deadline so I barely had time to get everything gathered up to mail in.
Props as well for exactly how he made the film, which was under duress: “I used a 30-day trial of Adobe Premier for all the editing. I just barely got it all finished up before the trial ran out.
For more on Stephenson, stay tuned to his under-development website at: transmissionzero.com
RELATED: Also from FestivALL’s 2011 Silent Film contest:
“Next: A Selective Chronology of the Human Condition Through Invention”
Speaking of “Un Chien Andalou,” the Wikipiedia entry on Bunuel’s legendary short recounts a tale told of what happened when Bunuel and Salvador Dali, one of the actors in the short, screened the silent film:
“Legend has it that, when they screened the film for the group of noted European artists calling themselves ‘surrealists,’ they carried sacks of rocks in their pockets on opening night as self-defense, expecting a negative response from the audience. They were disappointed when the audience enjoyed the film, making the evening “less exciting,” according to Dalí. Thereafter, both Buñuel and Dalí were accepted figures in the surrealist movement.)
Those were the days, yes? Bringing rocks in your pockets to meet the critics head on.