TODD VEROW: ONCE AND FUTURE KING OF DV (part 5)

Do you see a curve or a trajectory of this DV revolution and where it ends? When you’d be satisfied, whether or not it’s actually gonna happen, can you see a beginning, middle and end to the DV revolution? ^ I used to be, what I was gonna be happy about was when film festivals and, it’s hard to believe that just a few years ago, a lot of film festivals didn’t even accept work that had been shot in video. Then you know, up ’til a couple of years ago they wouldn’t project video, you had to transfer to film before they’d project it. Now, everyone projects video and it looks great, it’s accepted. That to me is a major milestone that has happened and I’m very happy about that. And still, it’s just getting over the whole stigma of what is better, film or video, and realize that it’s not the medium that matters, it’s the material, the story, the message, of what you’re doing. And something that’s always irked me about film in general is that something has to be so professional, and look good in order to be good. And I think that that’s not true, I think that what filmmaking is about is an æsthetic, and if that æsthetic happens to be grungy, dirty, out of focus, shaky, that’s not a style, that’s an æsthetic choice, I think a lot of people don’t realize that something can be beautiful and ugly at the same time. Then a lot of beautiful things are ugly too.
Where is that resistance, that you’re talking about, who are still holdouts against DV? ^ A lot of people who went to film school, and so-called art people are sort of hung up on how pretty old school film is, that’s the main resistance. A lot of it has broken down. The important thing about the DV revolution is the creativity, and that, to me, is in danger of getting lost. We need to fight for breaking down all those rules, and having different modes, and different, more experimental ways of filmmaking be accepted. If not accepted, then at least acknowledged as valid. As valid or more valid.
I’ve been thinking about the idea of classical art versus the romantic notion, and uh, Hollywood being the classical wherein you try light everything, get rid of the shadows, make-up everyone, and you try to create this idealized universe, in which the story takes place, whereas the more interesting stuff is where you have a point of view, and you’re filming that object right now, as opposed to, this is an idealized mailman, or whatever, that the Hollywood movie would try to create. They would try to create an archetypal mailman walking down the street in a perfect neighborhood. ^ And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but I think that when people start seeing that as that’s the thing to strive for, instead of realizing that it’s something completely artificial.
So what do you think about being this guru? You seem to talk about it in almost every interview I’ve seen. ^ I like it because, at first I was a little freaked out by the whole thing, but I think the message that I’m trying to get across is something that I believe in and I think is very important. So I think it’s sort of my duty to keep at it, and keep talking about it. My message being that it’s important for you to go out there and make things the way that you want to make them. Develop your own viewpoint and develop your own eye, and your own creative way of filmmaking that isn’t concerned with distribution, and is this going to be accepted, and that kind of stuff, you know. And I think that is something that doesn’t really get talked about in the whole DV revolution except by people like me. That’s why I think it’s important for me to keep talking about it. It’s not just about technology, it’s about the freedom that the technology gives you.
If you’re making films for a certain purpose, and they’re not designed to screen and be popular, what’s the reward of making a film that’s not seen? Or purpose I guess is a better word? ^ (Laughs) For me, I really enjoy making the movies, and all the actors that I work with really do it for the love, rather than, like, how many people are gonna see it, so that in itself is a reward. And, if people do see it, and it gets out there, and gets recognition, then that is an extra special reward, an extra special part. For us it’s more like just being able to make the movies, wonderful, the best thing that we could ever get. So we have to work jobs or something to pay our rent? That’s not as big a sacrifice as trying to make movies to make money and then struggling to make that money back, that’s a bigger sacrifice I think.
Where are you working right now? ^ I’m managing a movie theatre. I’m still projecting; I do both.
One more thing I wanted to ask was about watching performance versus worrying about camera? How do you manage to do both? ^ I think it’s separate parts of the brain. One half sees what I’m filming and the other half is paying attention to what the actors are doing. And I think, also the way I shoot, we don’t plan out the shots, I film it like a documentary. As I’m filming it, I’m watching and looking for other shots, and because of that you’re paying attention to what they’re doing. You know, if a hand starts twitching or they start getting uncomfortable with the other person, then you notice that, you capture little parts of that. So you’re paying attention to performance because of the way you’re filming it, it’s like you’re another character watching it. Your eye is sort of moving around and checking out different things that they’re doing. So, I think they’re related in a whole lot of ways, except the æsthetic part of me is always thinking about framing the shots. So I think it’s two separate parts of the brain that work at the same time.
Do you do coverage, or do you shoot more than you need and just cut it down, or do you do multiple takes? ^ I like to torture my actors. I get so caught up in what they’re doing that I just keep going and see what happens even though I know we don’t need it. And I want to see what’s gonna happen if I just let them keep going. And I think that’s good for them too, because they have to be there and be the character because they have to know what’s gonna happen next. Usually, we’ll do a scene a lot of different times, when I think we’ve gotten it, everything I need, then we’ll do it once or twice more so I can just get little bits of things for coverage, for cutting with. At the same time, every time I film a scene I film it differently, and that way you get coverage too, ’cause you get another actor reacting to someone else, or a detail of something that you can cut in… For me, the continuity of the performance is more important than the length of the cigarette. You’re gonna notice if someone is all over the place up and down a scene rather than if their cigarette keeps getting smaller or larger.
So you don’t have a continuity person? ^ No.
I guess that’s it, unless there’s something else you wanted to talk about? What are you up to this week? ^ Trying to finish up this movie, and then I’ve got the next one to start and all that stuff…
When are you shooting the next one? ^ I’m thinking in March or April, I’m actually going to be moving down to New York, and Philly and I have been talking about sort of, because “Once and Future Queen” and “Takeaway” sort of feel like 2 parts of a trilogy, that we’re doing the 3rd part, which is gonna be called something like, “Shh, they’re getting closer.” Or something like that. It’s more a movie about what it’s like to be someone of a certain age who is sleeping around a lot and sort of clinging to an ideal and a sort of, with the looming notion of menopause, and getting older, right around the corner. It’s an interesting mood, deep, scary and sexy movie.
Sounds like the opposite, most of your films are focussed around young people. ^ Yeah. That’ll be a lot of fun, and interesting. So Jim and I and Philly are working on what that’s gonna be. I’m gonna move down to New York and work on that for quite a while.
Trilogy in what way? Trilogy of Philly? ^ I think “Once and Future Queen,” a lot of people that have seen it have thought it was a documentary about this woman, which it in no way is. In a lot of ways, that movie was about someone that Philly could have been, could have become, so it was interesting because we were sort of exploring this other person that could have been her. She could have gone that direction but she didn’t. And then, with “Takeaway,” it’s sort of about the actress, which is a really close character to who Philly is, and also about the character she’s playing who is someone very far away, an older woman from the Midwest, who’s very repressed. The stuff about her the actress is very close to earth, so the 3rd movie is gonna be pretty much about her life as it is. So to go from this movie that’s like a documentary about someone she could have been, to this movie that’s 1/2 a documentary about who she is, and then to make a full-on narrative movie that’s really a documentary about who she really is, it works as a kind of trilogy. And just the fact that she’s the lead character in the three movies, just lends itself to the box set. (Laughs)
Get more info on Todd Verow’s official web site at Bangor Films.
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Posted on January 21, 2001 in Interviews by
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