Today I am proud to finally release a short experimental art film ‘Cheesecake’ that I created in 2016. You can watch the full film below, however, if you wish to read how the film was made, please keep on reading.
THE MAKING OF CHEESECAKE
My film is inspired by the various movements that are found in early experimental films such as German Expressionism, Dadaism and Surrealism. I wanted to take inspiration from these key movements and include them in my film. I have been inspired to employ techniques that are similar to the ones used in these movements.
The origins of German Expressionism can be traced back to the years around the First World War. One of the protagonists of this movement was the Dadaist filmmaker Hans Richter. I was influenced by Richter’s six-minute short film Vormittagsspuk (Ghosts Before Breakfast) (1927) and its juxtaposition of live action and stop motion animation. These sequences were the inspiration for my own sequences in Cheesecake.
The visuals show a clock ticking and progressing through the hour. The same sequence is shown multiple times throughout the film. The final image of the film shows the clock striking twelve. I use this influence as a technique for my own experimental film showing a clock present at the start of the film and repeatedly being shown throughout the duration of film.
The difference between CheeseCake when compared to Ghosts Before Breakfast is that I decided to start the film with the clock five minutes before the hour strikes. Every time we return back to the clock it has moved forward by a minute until it eventually comes to twelve o’clock which is similar to ending of Ghosts Before Breakfast.
In terms of surrealism I was inspired by the derived surreal horror art that is found in the work of visual artist and filmmaker David Lynch. This inspiration dates from his earliest short films, such as the experimental film The Grandmother (1970), to his first feature length film Eraserhead (1977).
Whilst in Pre-Production for Cheesecake I read the book “David Lynch” written by Kenneth C. Kaleta who reflects on the world of Eraserhead which helped me to summarise how creating an image can affect the subconscious of the audience.
Kaleta (1992) offers the opinion that “Eraserhead is a trek into the subconscious. A detailed summary of plot actions neither replicates nor illuminates the film. Images from the subconscious are not merely tied to the plot; in Eraserhead, images from the subconscious are the plots.” (p.16)
My own experimental film has no coherent narrative and is chronologically disjointed throughout its duration, which is another influence from surrealist films such as the silent film Un Chien Andalou (1929) by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí.
I also took inspiration from thematic elements that are found in the work of filmmakers, such as The Brothers Quay. Their film The Comb (From the Museums of Sleep) (1990) was a major influence for CheeseCake. I decided to use the multilingual gibberish technique that they use in their film. I was inspired to use it in the final sequence of the film when both the male and female subject start to talk, and nothing can be understood other than gibberish.
THE PROCESS & TECHNIQUES
For my experimental film, Cheesecake, the original idea was to have the film shot in black-and-white with small sequences in the film to be shot in colour. However, due to issues arising from using various techniques such as food colouring entering the liquids and not expanding in the way that I had envisioned, I decided to shoot the film in black and white natively in camera as opposed to doing it in post-production.
I carried out lighting tests before production began to find techniques such as using the types of expressionistic lighting to expose my characters without exposing the background. I feel that with these tests, and also applying this to the final film, gives the sense of an enclosed trapped space where the audience could feel rather claustrophobic and unease with various sequences in the film.
I also wanted to give the sense that the film was created during the period when the experimental film movement was at its peak with many films being shot on 16mm film Temperman (2015) writes about the use of 16mm film for avant-grade practices. He explains that “its relationship with other aesthetic practices for the moment (such as classical Hollywood Cinema, early non-fiction or avant-garde practices and the rise of alternate exhibition and cine-club circuits). This period was delineated by introduction of 16mm in 1923 and the emergence of film schools and underground cinema in the late 1950s.” (p. 21)
Cheesecake was shot completely on a 16mm camera with a digital sensor as opposed to celluloid due to technological advancements.
Looking at films such as Eraserhead and Un Chien Andalou and the physical effects that were created for the deformed child or the razor cut of the eyeball is something that I was inspired by. I wanted to experiment on various techniques to create the surreal horror elements when the male subject pulls his own eye out.
With the pre-production tests I was going to use an eyeball prop that would slowly transform into marble using visual effects. Due to the low budget for the film, I decided against this as I wanted to experiment with various techniques to create the illusion of a realistic eyeball.
In collaboration with my crew we experimented with the eyeball prop. The eyeball was eventually created from the simplicity of a Styrofoam ball. Kitchen towel was then soaked in fake blood with gunge embedded around it to finally get that incredible look that we see in the film.
Experimentation was also carried out during postproduction. I decided not to use a score for the film but instead chose sounds created by myself to stimulate and challenge the audience visually and aurally.
An example of this is the use of sounds such as a key colliding through a metal radiator to create the effect of the water falling on the female subject’s belly, and the sounds captured from under a tunnel with the wind howling throughout the film.
To conclude, I believe that CheeseCake could be theoretically analysed differently based on the audience’s perspective due to its non-narrative form and illogical scenes.
The inspired techniques from various movements and filmmakers greatly influenced the creation of my film and allowed me to implement my own experimental techniques such as using various camera functions and lighting techniques.
Watch the full film here:
Kaleta, K.C. (1992) David Lynch. Woodbridge, Connecticut: Twayne Publishers Inc.,U.S.
Tepperman, C. (2015) Amateur cinema: The Rise of North American Movie Making, 1923-1960. Oakland, California: University of California Press.