Screenings
 
 
 

 




>> What inspired you to make the film?
>> What did you learn about directing films?
>> What are your influences?
>> Where do you see the future of filmmaking?
>> How did you come up with images?
>> How did you finance the film?
>> How did you find your characters?
>> What was your filming process?
>> What was your editing process?
>> What was it like working with your characters as "actors" in their own stories?
>> How long did the project take?
>> How is it working together as married couple?
>> If you had to do it over again, what would you do differently?
>> Why did you choose to tell this story as a documentary and not as a fictional narrative?


>> What inspired you to make the film?

Erinnisse: I read a book about "transforming illnesses" how art and being an artist changes with the unexpected happenings in life. Patryk wasn't too interested until we came up with the idea of what we called poetic reenactments. I think at the time we didn't fully know what we even meant by that. We had to produce our original mood trailer to pitch the idea, because we didn't know how to talk about it in a way that would get other people to understand the look of this film.

Patryk: This was Erinnisse's baby project but if I was going to commit myself to making it I needed to find something that would make me care. I was sceptical early on as I didn't particularly like films about art (for a very specific reason that most art documentaries don't know how to deal with art - they are made as purely devotional pieces about the artist or purely historical pieces devoid of any real artistry) and didn't really care about films on disability. So I needed to find an idea outside of those niche areas (art and disability) that would let me dream. Soon certain universal ideas started to emerge: word into image, meaning of an image, fantasy vs reality... Things were getting exciting as through the story of our subjects we could explore those larger issues.
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>> What did you learn about directing films?
Erinnisse: Making films is really intense and hard. You have to have ruthless conviction about your vision and you have to get that from everyone on your team. I learned where my strengths are, where my desires to be strong are. Ultimately when you're asked "why make this film" I now know that an honest filmmaker would say because "I" want to say something about this subject and explore all the intricacies of what makes it interesting to me.

Patryk: Even though i've shot (as director of photography) literally 100s of productions - commercials, music videos, industrials, feature films and parts of other people's docs - this was my first feature-length endeavour. It was an eye opener of how little I actually knew about the art of filmmaking. I understood the basics very well but it's a totally different beast to tackle when you are making a meaningful story and not simply trying to sell pancakes, cars or provide traditional coverage for a low budget feature film directed by someone else. Filmmaking IS though. Besides the physical strain it will inflict on your body - something that I was well used to as I spend my days working on other people's productions - it is a complex mental exercise that occurs on many levels. I had to face the fact that despite ability to make images attractive, I had no clue about what makes images meaningful. It's easy to get lost in the attractive side of the image-making process and forget that all those flares, all that splendid lighting and those fancy camera moves have to mean something or it ends up as nothing more than visual candy for the eye. And as candy that's devoid of nutritional value, if there is no meaning behind it all - then there is no point in making those images in the first place. Of course by image, I don't only mean the images of the film - I mean the whole film - in other words it was an uphill battle as at any point we confronted the question "what does it all mean" and the answers were much harder to come by then one would anticipate. Having grown up seeing countless painting and being exposed to countless artworks (my original intention was to be a painter) I "knew" what good painting is and thus I should have no problems verbalising what makes a meaningful image. The answer was much more difficult to tackle.
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>> What are your influences?
Erinnisse: My husband is a profound influence on me. I have never been more steeped in thought, theory, philosophy, criticism and research as I am with him. Everything he exposes himself to, he shares with me. This in turn makes me find new works of art that spark ideas and become inspiration for further research. Influences for this film specifically came to me through studying minimalism, exposure to Kronos Quartet, Steve Riech, reading John Cage's "Silence", the choreography of Anna de Keersmaker. On the film level what we found inspiring are films that take the idea of "trance" further (hope for the viewer to get into a trance-like state of mind so they will notice the story behind the images): Philip Groning - "Into Great Silence," "Leviathan," Tarkovsky (though Tarkovsky is unwatchable on computer screen). We like filmmakers that make personal essays [Peter Mettler - "Sex, Drugs and LSD," much of work by Adam Curtis]. We like filmmakers that experiment with the language of the film [Godard, Peter Watkins, Alexander Sokurov]. Let's be clear, many of the filmmakers and films we mention are not the films that can be enjoyed using traditional definition of this term, the enjoyment comes later when we realise that something profound has happened while struggling through those films.

Patryk: The process of making this film rekindled my love for knowledge, thus I started to read a lot again: literature, philosophy, history - yes history. Lacan & Zizek showed us how to complicate the flip of an idea so we don't settle for "just" a reverse of that idea; Foucault showed how any perspective is chained to a very specific train of thought predominant within society & culture of its time; biographies of explorers reintroduced ego and megalomania into our minds - a necessary step in creating ambitious work giving us faith in our path (also showed how one chooses direction when going into barely explored territory); Jelinek kept us on our toes to keep on being as violently honest and brutally critical of our art; books about Congo's colonialism allowed us to imagine the horrors of loss; books of early paleontology (especially by Lewis-Williams) showed us beginning of an image and how it occurred as external projection of what's within rather than re-creation of what's seen; Handke showed how sometimes poetry of the writing is too subtle to resonate in translation = sometimes things DO get lost in translation; Heidegger explained the mystical necessity behind the film's form; general unreadability of philosophical writings in their original form taught us that sometimes it's the stuff we understand least that has the most impact on our minds; Milosz showed how taking an idea to a logical conclusion creates an absurd.
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>> Where do you see the future of filmmaking?
Erinnisse: We are at a cusp of another new-wave cinema, but like everything else it will probably be more global not confined to a specific country. Audience are very savvy so we have to feel comfortable to take some risks and challenge our own conventions of storytelling. It's been noted for years now that documentaries have grown in popularity. It's a wonderful question to ponder why this is? Is it because we are bombarded with information so we are hungry for even more sources of knowledge? Or is it because we are tired of constant escapism? These are really hard and fascinating questions I struggle with everyday in relation to our film.

Patryk: This is more related to how the society's change will transform the filmmaking. More people will make statements and those statements will resonate with a very specific stratas of society. As those stratas are more clearly defined we'll lose our faith in communication with proverbial "everyone" and become more selective - thus if our work is misunderstood we'll often look not to the work but to the society searching for the stratas that will understand the work. Based on which strata of thinking the filmmaker belongs to - the same issues will produce different kind of films: that same idea will produce profound films and very simplistic ones. There will be a strong disconnect between high cinema and pop culture cinema (there already is profound differences) and it will be very hard for the art cinema to compete - incidentally not because of abundance of the ways to communicate with the audiences but the opposite: specifically because we have so many ways of connecting with one another - we will have to work very hard not to give up as we'll see how fruitless most of our endeavours are vis-a-vi the power of mega productions. Connectivity enables us but also brings every human interaction to the level of commodity. As every merchant of grain will tell you - on commodities market it's the numbers that count not the quality. Because of that, one needs to come up with strong foundation of "certainties" to base one's statements on as by caring about quality of statements one belong to minority.
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>> How did you come up with images?
Patryk: From a personal databank of over 5000 reference images I collected over the years, we would chose the ones that on some abstract level resonated with us in relation to each character's story. The images were abstract in a sense that at first we didn't know why we picked them. Only by looking at each chosen image piece by piece would we start finding connections with various parts of the story. Sometimes we would merge images, sometimes we would think of potential edit sequence before the images were even recreated. In some instances the Nature helped. For instance while filming Katie's near death experience we stumbled on a sea of dead sunflowers. The drought that killed the sunflowers also exposed parts of a nearby lake with a forest of dead trees sticking out from the ground - both of those location worked on stimulating our sense of wonderment but also gave us a very tangible metaphor of the situation we were representing in the film. Moving images operate on a different level than still images. Moving image doesn't want to exist in itself - it needs a context. The viewer searches for the "story" and the images have a tendency to operate only as a filler between next piece of information. We discovered that the images can stand on its own only if devoid of text or words. After a period of silence, the viewer starts getting into the images and construct own stories - the images start speaking delivering their own pieces of informations. For us the challenge was how to extract the essence from the spoken words so that we could keep quiet for as long as possible and let the viewer "fill in the blanks." We had to keep on asking ourselves if we are saying enough to make the story clear and not so much that it becomes a wordy retelling of facts rather than audio-visual experience. We never simply wanted to tell a story, we wanted the creation of the story to be a work of art in itself. This poses an obvious question: why move away from the story and complicating it by personal interpretations of the viewer? By involving the viewer the story becomes more personal and thus more tangible. This in turn lets the story resonate more in the viewers mind. Although we are risking that certain parts of the story will not be gotten, we also open up the film for personal interpretations that can enrich the experience. All the sudden the film is not only what we - the filmmakers - want it to be but also what the viewer wants. This, we are certain, will turn away some viewers who are used to being fed the story piece by piece, still, we believe, it will bring a refreshing experience to those viewers who are bored by stale documentary storytelling of simply presenting facts and figures.
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>> How did you finance the film?
Erinnisse: We raised money by editing various reality shows and (through my production company) producing commercials and PSAs - if only all those shows, companies and foundations who used our services knew that their money is going to make an arty documentary! A finishing funds grant came from NYWIFT and our WestDoc Pitchfest win brought in huge support from Firstcom with full access to their music library to score and sound design our film. As the editor access to a good music library is crucial! Patryk: Every decade turns us into a different kind of dreamer: there were times we as society wanted to be poets, than novelists, than rock-stars, today - thanks to digital revolution - everyone wants (and in some simplistic way has ability) to be a filmmaker. This is a natural process and as the dreams become reality people realise - if they treat it seriously enough - how hard it is to get to the next level (how that "almost reality" turns into complete reality). In those circumstances some give up while others keep on fighting. As digital revolution made everyone a filmmaker - many investors got burned by the inept dreamers. There was a time when we approached a rich older lady and when talking about money she mentioned that indie films don't make money (which is true). That encounter made us realise that our efforts to raise money are misguided. We were making an art film - not a commercial product - so finding investors would be close to impossible. Making comfortable well-paid living in the film industry (me as director of photography, Erinnisse as editor), we decided to take half of that money and turn the dream into reality. In that sense I'm proud that we put our money where our mouth was. (Getting some grants, an award for successful pitch at WestDoc and some family investments helped too).
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>> How did you find your characters?
Erinnisse: As I mention in the "what inspired you to make this film" I have a particular attraction to the story of overcoming adversity through art. When I hear these stories I remember them. Through our research we heard dozens of such stories. There were certain qualities we were looking for...interesting art, interesting contrast or journey with adversity, people who had ability to reflect and reexamine their past as they wrestled (and quite honestly continue to wrestle) with their challenge. Alice was mentioned in a book written by family friend about overcoming adversity through art. After doing further research we found certain qualities in her personal writings that sparked our interest to contact her. With Katie, I remembered this article on the cover of the NYTimes back when "Million Dollar Baby" was just released, so I search the internet for what I could remember, got her name, researched her website and artist statement and then contacted her. Lastly, Graham was a chance encounter with a friend who recently returned from Ireland and was sharing stories with us...when we heard about her friend who was musician and running a successful music festival, we were hooked.
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>> What was your filming process?
Patryk: As I don't believe in the infallible meaning of truth - I'm not a fan of verite filmmaking. Although sometimes the reality IS indeed stranger than fiction - that strangeness if far and in between. We didn't want to stage reenactments of the story's past as they usually are too illustrative. Through my upbringing studying painting the questions of what constitutes so called "high art" and what falls under the term of illustration was very important to me. I wanted to make sure that we don't just illustrate the events but get under the skin. We studied form. Illustration (and of course i don't only mean book illustrations here but a way of looking at the world) has a tendency not to care about form, the illustration only cares about its message. Because of its priorities, an illustration needs to operate on the level of quick understanding. The viewer needs to grasp the image immediately or its purpose will not be fulfilled. Thus we looked at how to complicate that understanding. We found that many images that attract us deal with "otherness" - an element that upsets the normal flow of thoughts in one's mind. We asked ourselves how that upset of ideas can happen visually. When we found that we'll have to use strong form we went out of our way to fill images with enough "otherness" that the viewer was forced to see that there is something more behind the image. Then it was up to the viewer to find out what that was. It was not always an easy task. How do you portray a fight without showing a fight? How do you show blindness or how words turn into images? How do you show noize? How do you show death and rebirth without resolving to cliches? Sometimes we failed, sometimes we succeed, we only hope that we found good solutions more times then resorted to standardised answers.
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>> What was your editing process?
Erinnisse: I fired myself as the editor at one point. This was certainly the hardest piece I have ever had to cut in my 10+ year career. I had to reject pretty much everything. I had to be really vulnerable and lost. That's when I discovered minimalism music. As I listened to this music it changed the way I saw the images. Not editing to the images...but how I visually interpreted the footage before editing a sequence. Equally as notable to our editing process was our wall of images - screen shots from the footage - and good old index cards. The wall with all the images we have organized by character was great to step away from and look for what best could express the ideas on the scene. Putting the essence of each beat on an index card really helps clarify the structure of your ideas.
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>> What was it like working with your characters as "actors" in their own stories?
Erinnisse: One of the very first things I asked when we conducted research interviews was emphasizing the necessity for sharing intimate thoughts and personal reflections. We needed to hear about their experiences beyond the surface descriptions of what actually happened to them. So it was beyond just asking for honesty and sincerity, it was asking people to talk to me like they would write in their journal, to describe images, sounds, sights (even if only seen by them). Our poetic reenactments was a huge experiment - none of us knew how this would really turn out. All our characters were very excited by the mood trailer we made to pitch the concept so they readily agreed to engage in our experiment. Going through the footage it was quite impressive how focused and poised Katie and Alice were in our studio shoots (a very demanding and non-intimate days of production). Graham, only admitted to me after the fact, his nerves about filming in the anechoic chamber and despite being spent by the festival his performances were unconsciously communicative of his true feelings. For example, when he plays in the field, this song is about the band having to breakup due to his ears. He spontaneously chose to play this song; he even surprised himself in that moment - a song about the end played to a vast landscape of dancing grasses.
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>> How long did the project take?
Erinnisse: It took a year to find subjects for the film. During that time our formal approach to making the film became clear. While heading to 2012 Westdoc Pitchfest we said to ourselves: whether we win or lose the very next day we will start making this film. From there we piecemealed time to go and shoot over the next two years. The edit starting in spring 2014 and lasted 10 months.
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>> How is it working together as married couple?
Erinnisse: It's not easy to be married and work together. But, it's also not easy to find that person so willing to devote themselves 110%, never give up, never give in to mediocrity, have arguments about art instead of housework, be constantly reminded of how different men and women think or how European and American thinking differs (this is still theories we are working on). We can talk about all our ideas in bed together... which, sometimes is not good... It's a dream for me to have this collaboration. He squeezes out everything I could ever want from myself as a filmmaker. I feel very grateful to be so close and intimate with someone who can enhance me. And since we are quite opposite in disposition, this helps us get stuff done.

Patryk: On one hand it's a dream come true to work with your spouse - on the other... it's a nightmare. By working in the same fields our dreams and aspirations are similar and we understand the specific requirements imposed by the jobs (long and weird hours, no vacation time etc). The nightmare is discovering how far apart one stands in sensibility and outlook on life. In that sense it's also fascinating that such a different view points can after all fit together.
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>> If you had to do it over again, what would you do differently?
Erinnisse: This was my first feature-length film so it seems natural that I had to go through a ton of trials and heartbreaks to turn this fantasy of making a film into a reality. So often you think "this has to be done tomorrow" and it still took us 5 months longer than we ever anticipated to finish the film. I will say, that as difficult as it was to work on this film with my husband (who is also co-director and cinematographer), I wouldn't want to do this alone ever. It's not easy working with a partner (or it shouldn't be) but it's hard to imagine getting to a finished stage without someone to keep up the momentum with.
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>> Why did you choose to tell this story as a documentary and not as a fictional narrative?
Patryk: Documentary film and narrative film are two different modes of communication. One deals with implicit truth, while the other deals with fantasy (even if rooted in some way in reality). Thus to know that our source material is the truth of what actually happened to our characters, we only have to concentrate on a.) how to bring those story elements to the surface in the best possible way and b.) what meaning outside of the story we can give to those events. In a documentary film you don't have to spend valuable time trying to convince the viewer that this actually happened. There is a certain pact of trust signed with an invisible ink between the viewer and the filmmaker: the viewer trusts me knowing that I'm not trying to lie. A narrative, on the other hand, is not interested in truth - it wants to take the viewer on a fictitious journey. The narrative film's "truth" is only revealed through the filmmaker's precise handling of the lie. With a documentary you don't have to invent or make events more exciting than they are - often they are exciting precisely because their genesis is in reality.

 

 

 
 
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