Guest Blog: Some Freeform Notes On A Work-In-Progress: the LEFT BY SNAKES music video series by Pablo D’ Stair

pablo d' stair…Got talking to the inimitable Tony Burgess (novelist/screenwriter of such works as Pontypool, Idaho Winter, Hellmouth etc.) when starting up my fourth film—fellow has a band called Left By Snakes and, music being very important to my films, hoped to use some of their tracks in my project.  Turned out this was very welcome (indeed, Tony and his fellow Snake, Charlie Baker, will also be playing roles in the film) and turned out we got on famously, as they say, and in shooting the shit one fine day Tony asked me could I do him the “favor” of making some videos for the band. To me this was no “favor” but a holy imperative—add in to the bargain I was just to do whatever the fuck I felt like, and well, my cup runneth over…

…Decided to do a series…(really, just wanted to make sure they’d let me do more than one, so said “series”)…but…what in fuck did I mean “series”? No idea, but figured: best way to sort it out was to shoot.  All I knew? Needed it to be like nothing I’d seen elsewhere and, most important to me as a filmmaker, the imagery needed to be iconic to the sound.  And for that, I needed obstructions, even more than ever. Cause dig…

…How to describe the band Left By Snakes?  Think if Dylan’s Basement Tapes got drunk, headed, horny, to a men’s room stall with the Buzzcocks only to have Darby Crash and Lou Reed burst in, telling them how to swing: whatever lovechild got banged out of that scenario…that’s Left By Snakes. As Tony explained to me, they don’t so much write their songs as toss them down, record them raw—often those recordings are the only time the songs are ever performed—all grit, no polish: pure punk beauty…

…My task was to work films by this same stripped down, low-fi, punk aesthetic. Thankfully, working full time and having two kids and no money pretty much guarantees “rushed” is the only way I work. And so it came to pass, two days after the request, I found myself “alone” in my house (my better-half out for an evening, kids upstairs in bed) with the thought: “Fuck, have at least two hours, should be more than the time I need…”

…The plan was: conception to filming to editing to post to final cut, each film in the series should take no more than two hours, tops (closest a filmmaker can come to being punk rock…or as close as one with my thought process can).  Selected the most straight up punk piece (and my personal favorite) I could find in their catalogue (clocking at 48 seconds) cogitated for ten minutes, came up with my concept, pulled a chair up to my front door and shot some footage (NOTE: as I could not start the song to literally listen to as I performed, no one present to help, I had to count out the important beats of the music so that my choreography would sync when mixed with the audio).  Shot. Sync (worked a good trick, I might add) gave it a wash, a crop, a save…

…And thus was born: PEOPLE ARE ALLIGATORS

…The enthusiastic approval of the band to the tone, style, and persona of my alter ego “Carlyle Edwards” made the second time to bat a bit more pressured—didn’t want to replicate (and had shaved the “molester stache” I had worn for the skeeviness of the first vid, anyway) but didn’t want to deviate: what I needed was to match the tone of the new song and the first vid,  needed another “narrative that isn’t a narrative” another choreographed dance of casual head tilts and off hand motions. The series was forming: these were films, they were “about things,” they would all be alterations of this “Carlyle Edwards” figure and somehow blend abstract and grotesque, noir and nothing, all with a kind of pervert-romance to them (would be, as one viewer aptly put: “Like Warhol films but with a pulse”)…but I was still limited by time and location (only so many ways I can shoot inside my house in an hour when I’m supposed to be answering work e-mails, right?)…

…I don’t recall exactly (I really don’t) when the “idea” for the second one clicked (I just had the song on repeat, suddenly said “Okay…want this done in an hour, starting now”—had to include in the time to walk to get new smokes, having run out—the time limit all the more imperative cause, well, I was technically “at work”) and then was stripping my shirt off, applying a chocolate syrup nosebleed effect to myself, memorizing my count of change-beats to the tune…and I filmed. One take, first try, right to the editing (dear god did it sync beyond what I even had in mind) gave it a wash up and shipped the file off to the band…forty-five minutes, tops…

…This was STRAWBERRY BANGSTICK…

…And it was right about this time I decided (realized?) that the “series” I offhandedly dubbed the project would, in fact, be a series-of-series, each one done as a set-of-three vids and would (why it seemed a change, dunno, as I’d had no particularly concrete idea to start with, but it did feel a change) begin abstracting the films out as it went on (like Patrick McGoohan directing punk videos, I decided, my vainglory rearing its head fully).  The first set would be the three within this history, here, and would be called THE BOY, the second set would have a different actor, a woman, and be called THE GIRL, the third set…still have no fucking idea…

…But I needed an end to set one, felt a pang to get it done—needed to burst it out because I found myself thinking about it too much, reasoning it too much, needed to be harried proper or risk screwing the vibe.  Thankfully, I still had those pesky children etc. and so, two days after Strawberry, after an early morning off five hours sleep, full day of work and then out with the kiddos all evening, decided I’d wing one (had the vaguest idea, only: I’d put on lipstick, be rummaging through a lady’s purse).  Thus, offspring asleep, wife working diligently away on her PhD, I grabbed the camera, knocked over the living room lamp and unbeknownst to them (above me not fifteen feet separating us) filmed the “dance” let’s call it known as…

THROW THE CAT

…which brings us, real time, to where the project stands (about one week in, all totaled). And it will be ongoing unless I run out of scribble-scrabble ideas or until my Masters bore of my tricks and start not returning my e-mails…

And I thank the always upstanding citizen (at least I think that’s how he likes to be described…wouldn’t want to cross the guy, so I hope so) Paul Brazill for letting me share this punk adventure with you folks—hope some of you are intrigued enough to follow along with the labour as it scrambles mad dash to wherever.

Cheers.

 

Pablo D’Stair  2/16/15

Follow the series as it updates here.

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