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Monthly Archives: August 2010

The premiere was a success.

In the hours leading up to the screening I grew restless, wondering how it would go and whether I was prepared enough for the Q&A.

But when I arrived at Woodland Pattern at quarter to seven and saw familiar faces, whatever misgivings I might have had disappeared right away and without much effort I was in Affable Artist Mode for the rest of the evening.

I neglected to take a lot of pictures–for the most part I was too busy socializing–but here’s a snapshot of my friend Sara and me outside the venue five minutes before the show started:


And here’s a photo I took of the audience mere seconds before the program began:


A total of 27 people were in attendance–a decent turnout for a screening of three under-the-radar films by a more or less unknown filmmaker (who hasn’t lived in Milwaukee for over four years now).


I’m of the mindset that a good work of art is a good work of art no matter how many people experience it–a film can be seen by two people, two-thousand people, or two-million people and its inherent value is (more or less) the same.

Nonetheless, it seems unfortunate that an artist would create something worthwhile without being able to share it with more than a handful of others.

So, even if Robert on his Lunch Break isn’t destined to take the world by storm, getting it in front of a couple dozen people feels like progress.

I’ve already sent out DVDs of the film to various allies around the world, and many of these people have responded in meaningful ways, but until Friday night I’d never watched Robert with more than two people beside me.

Naturally then, it felt eventful to be able to view the film with an audience and see how it held up in a “live”/public setting.


After a brief introduction, the lights went out and the program began. The first of the films was the five-minute short Self-important Empirical Film #3, with Voice-over, which I made as an undergrad during the Winter/Spring of 2001 while attending the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. This film is a lot less technically accomplished than a movie like Robert, and the only surviving version wasn’t culled from the best quality transfer (originally shot on 16mm, it now only exists in standard definition video). However, it’s still aesthetically appealing and despite its flaws one of the most memorable works of art I’ve made. Screening it produced some laughs, and started the evening off on a good foot.


Next up was the concert film Fugazi’s Last Stop in Wisconsin. This three-minute effort was shot on 16mm on June 26th, 2001 while Fugazi were tearing it up at the Riverside Ballroom in Green Bay. The footage is a little underexposed, but it was transferred in high-definition so it doesn’t look too bad projected in a dark room. Normally I’m not a fan of films without any sound but in this case silence is an effective contrast to the borderline-chaotic visuals. [Dave’s note – January, 2013: I have since added ambient sound to the film. The final version can be seen here.] Also, I think it’s interesting to screen this film before Robert given that the latter is so stiff, “ascetic” and claustrophobic.


And finally: Robert on his Lunch Break. The 24-minute film went over quite well. There was a brief glitch that caused it to skip ahead ten seconds about five or six minutes into it, but other than that it went smoothly. Right away the audience picked up on the ambient humor. Sometimes, when I watch this film alone late at night, it strikes me as harrowing and ultimately depressing, but in a more “social” context the awkwardness of the main encounter feels genuinely absurd and the pregnant pauses yield a funny tension.

When the program ended and the lights were turned on, there was a nice vibe in the room. I can’t quite explain it but there was definitely a swell of enthusiasm running through the audience when I stood in front of everyone and started taking questions. If anyone reading this has seen my performance in John Koch’s Je Ne Sais Quoi, the Q&A on Friday had a similar dynamic, though in this case my irreverence was more charming than abrasive. Thankfully, for those who weren’t there, my friend Jon taped the Q&A in high-definition, so it’ll make a swell extra whenever I decide to release a DVD. And rather than going on forever it ended at the right moment, so it’s nice and concise.

After the screening there was a fun little get together at my friends’ house in Riverwest. For the occasion I brought three cases of quality beer plus a bunch of nice Mexican food (20 tacos, 3 huge burritos, 2 enchiladas, and 3 orders of rice and beans from Café Corazón). The whole night had nothing but good vibes. It was an excellent time.

Tonight is the official world premiere of Robert on his Lunch Break.

I’m looking forward to it, though of course I’m a little nervous.

Right now I have some down time, so here are a few odds and ends…

Earlier this week I did a Google search for “Prurient” (the noise artist who contributed sounds to my new film) and discovered a recent interview with him in Pitchfork. I’ve been meaning to write a spiel about Dom, but this isn’t a bad introduction for those unfamiliar with his work–the link is worth clicking on just to see the funny picture of him with a pentagram, 666, and a couple of upside-down crosses.






Last week I watched Jan Troell’s Everlasting Moments and it made me cry three times. Usually, when the word “masterful” is applied to a director or film, I feel like cringing, but in this case it’s entirely appropriate. In fact, after seeing this Swedish gem I felt obliged to amend my Top Ten [“Narrative”] Films of the Aughts list, which is now as follows:

1. Nobody Knows – Hirokazu Kore-Eda
2. The Man Without a Past – Aki Kaurismaki
3. Everlasting Moments – Jan Troell
4. The Son – Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
5. Distant – Nuri Bilge Ceylan
6. Schizo – Gulshat Omarova
7. Crimson Gold – Jafar Panahi
8. Colossal Youth – Pedro Costa
9. Tokyo Rendezvous – Chihiro Ikeda
10. Goodbye, Dragon Inn – Tsai Ming-liang

Everlasting Moments takes place during the early twentieth century and chronicles the life of an overworked homemaker who discovers the pleasures of photography while trying to make ends meet and enduring the proclivities of her insensitive-but-lovable husband. Troell’s film displays an expert-level attention to detail and nearly every scene is rife with some sort of poetic import that makes Everlasting Moments so much more than a sentimental period-piece. Don’t be fooled by the sepia-toned artwork on the DVD release–this is a remarkable movie.