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Monthly Archives: March 2014

What follows is a long overdue (and somewhat longwinded) update on the status of The Plants Are Listening, the movie I’ve been working on, on and off, for a good while now. If you read this “blog” and/or know me personally (whether in “real life” or mostly via the internet), you’re probably well aware that this movie has undergone many changes. Now that things have taken shape and more and more footage is “in the can” with each passing week, as the project nears completion, it’s much easier to discuss what the movie is “about” and what sort of viewing experience audiences can expect.

Observing the first eleven or twelve minutes of the The Plants Are Listening, as they¬†stand edited together, the film I’m reminded of the most, perhaps, is Jean-Luc Godard’s underrated (and rather neglected) late-period effort JLG/JLG: Self-Portrait in December. In both movies there’s a moody undercurrent of reflection as the director mostly sticks around the house and ruminates on various topics with a literary bent. I’m pretty sure the similarities here weren’t intentional — influenced as I am by many artists, rarely will I consciously model a movie I’m making after someone else’s — but they’re probably there if one feels inclined to compare the two titles. I remember, after a screening of Godard’s film, some people, clearly not fans of his work, complaining that it was “basically just some old French guy smoking cigars and talking to himself for an hour and a half.” But I found JLG/JLG: Self-Portrait in December to be a pleasant sit and eminently engaging, especially in relation to some of the clunkers the 84-year-old director has unleashed over the years.

Where the two movies differ most is that I’m not at all a world-renowned cultural figure with a revered, decades-old legacy–I’m essentially an “unknown” filmmaker at this point, a fringe dweller on the cinematic landscape. The Plants Are Listening, despite several silent passages, also features more dialogue, the majority of it carefully scripted, the result of months and months of writing and refining. It’s probably also more accessible and closer to being a “normal” movie, albeit one with a thin plot and more of an attention to detail (particularly that of non-humans/inanimate objects) than most of the cinema being shown at the box office.

“So what exactly happens?”

“What’s your new movie about?” people might ask.

[**Note: the following paragraph may contain spoilers, so the text is colored black. Skip it if you’d like to view the movie without knowing the basics of what happens ahead of time.**]

The Plants Are Listening is centered around twin brothers, Simon, a playwright, and Dave, a filmmaker (both parts played by yours truly). Simon is visiting Dave for a day or two while the latter dog-sits at their parents’ house in Southwest Florida for a couple of weeks. The movie begins in the middle of a brief phone conversation between Simon and his friend Jana, a budding playwright (played by Dominique Joelle). Attention shifts from the conversation to the hibiscus in the front yard as its petals undulate in the wind. From there we see the shadows of plants blowing in the breeze on the half-open blinds in Dave’s bedroom before he reads aloud from Georges Bataille’s Literature and Evil. Then, before Dave can fully process the words, Kaji the dog (playing himself here) runs into the room and barks to be let outside. Dave lets Kaji outside while Simon grabs a cup of coffee and heads into the sunlit family room to peruse the titles in the bookcase. He zeroes in on a paperback copy of The Wisdom of Life. Dave returns with Kaji and hands him a treat. He grabs a cup of coffee and heads into the family room, where the two brothers engage in an intricate conversation on the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer. Eventually the topic of the conversation shifts to “experimental” art and its viability (or lack thereof) in the marketplace. At this point Simon remembers that he bought an unusual record earlier in the day and asks Dave if he’d like to hear it. Dave agrees but first he needs to relieve himself so Simon steps outside to smoke a cigarette. While finishing his cigarette Simon encounters his parents’ next-door neighbor Kaleigh (played by Robin Morrissey-Jones) as she steps out to collect the day’s mail, and being in social mood asks her if she’d like to listen to the record. Kaleigh has a few spare minutes to hang out before she has to drive to the marina in town to pick up her husband Tom, so she agrees. Then, in the family room, Kaleigh, Simon, and Dave listen to the piece “How to Pronounce ‘Prosthesis'” by Vicekopf (a.k.a. Gregory Whitehead). Afterwards they discuss the piece and Kaleigh concludes that it’s “kind of creepy” and asks Simon if he has “anything less creepy” that she can listen to in her car. Simon gives her a mix CD he put together and Kaleigh says goodbye and leaves. Then there’s a brief fart joke between Simon and Dave. We then see Kaleigh driving along a scenic path of seaside houses in the early evening while she listens to a song (“Silence or Something Else” by Robert Scott) on her car stereo with the wind blowing through her hair. And then the movie cuts to black. Plot-wise, that’s the gist of it, though I’d like to think that the actual viewing experience will produce a more subtle, affective, and inviting mixture of emotions than what the words above can account for. (Have I said too much? Maybe I need a publicist here!)

All told, it’s looking like The Plants Are Listening will be a fairly easy sit. I’m guessing it’ll clock in at around forty-five or fifty minutes so this will probably qualify as my debut feature.

This time around, rather than waiting and waiting for film festivals to give it the green light, we’ll be hosting a couple of screenings at independent movie houses, most likely in the Midwest this summer. You can follow the film here on Facebook to keep abreast of screenings as they’re announced, though this “blog” will also be updated accordingly.

A fortune cookie I ate recently had this to say:

Pretty good advice for anyone trying to make a movie.

I’ve been busy working on The Plants Are Listening and should have an update soon regarding the progress of the production. Things have been coming together rather nicely though there’s still a ways to go.