Short Films: Compilation

This is a compilation of short films I made from 2017-2020. All of them were made using the ‘movie’ function on my handheld point and shoot camera in the low fidelity conventions of found footage films. I wanted to have a surreal, otherwordly quality to all of these movies, like they were made by someone who had just picked up their camera and started filming naturally – but filming within a sort of netherworld, where the forests are still the dark and mysterious places they were in earlier, more analog days. I added on the ‘.avi’ to each title as a convention, since a lot of early internet urban legends dealt with strange videos that often added “.avi” as a way to make them seem more believable.

Statement – lost.avi [00:00-00:37]

For this film’s soundtrack I used a circuit-bent toy synth keyboard, which creates the eerie electronic tones that are reminiscent of those used in some 1980s art house horror movies.

This one is more or less an experimental piece, where the tension comes from the camera’s focus on the huge white tree – I made sure that it was something both the main character of the film and the audience focus on, where it has an almost spiritual feel to it. Lowering the exposure and darkening the forest was also an intentional aspect, where I wanted it to be nearly impossible to see where the trees end. So it’s an autumnal, esoteric film regarding the experience of being lost in a forest that is larger than you could ever imagine.

Statement – forestlight.avi [00:37 – 1:08]

The second film in this series of short films is called forestlight, and it’s one of my favourites of the series. Again it’s set in the same forest as the last one, this vast strange backyard of the city we know. The main character is scared to be here, and the camera is jittery and shaking. This was shot in a part of the woods where I’d previously done a sculptural project, where there was already a lot of garbage – and so that garbage became the object of interest for the person behind the camera. I made sure to creep slowly towards it to build suspense – and then the light (which in reality is one of the trains that pass by regularly) seems to have found our main character, and the sound of the horn blasts as my film ends.

For this one I wanted it to feel like something that could happen in reality, but with a tinge of the surreal. Why is the main character scared, and half-running? Why is he so interested in the collection of rusted junk in this forest clearing?

With the low-fidelity of the point and shoot I wanted to add a sense of timelessness, as well as throwback to videos on the internet of my youth like I Feel Fantastic or Barbi.Avi. Something that you might find on a YouTube channel with no subscribers and no views, or on a VHS tape in your grandmother’s attic with no label and no explanation.

Statement – nightwalk.avi [1:08 – 1:52]

The third film in the collection is another from the same conceptual well as forestlight, where the protagonist is scared of something the viewer can’t see, and it’s in a secluded space at night.

This film begins with the main character walking through an industrial area at night, obviously shaken by something, and looking into the darkness. Suddenly, he breaks into a run, his desire to film suddenly not a priority, as the camera swings by his side. At the climactic moment of the film the camera is dropped, or he is ‘vanished’ out of existence. At that point, the camera’s view points towards evidence of humanity again, in the form of a busy residential street. The main character is gone.

During the pandemic I often felt like this main character. Not being chased by anything, of course – but when I’d take walks at night it seemed like a place ‘apart’ from any kind of human presence. Living next to an industrial area it often was nearly abandoned at night and the bright lights like the one the camera focuses on in this film and the one before almost had a presence of their own.

Statement – flowers.avi [1:52 – 2:43]

This film is much more in the realm of the first in terms of experimental qualities. It’s another piece dealing with the vastness of the forest, and in it I try to showcase this by having it take up the entire screen.

In the end of this film we see a refracted, shimmering silhouette of the cameraman.

Statement – whistling.avi [2:43 – 3:16]

In whistling I positioned the camera at the edge of a local concrete culvert pipe that’s degraded over the years. It’s a call & response video where the unseen whistler, which the viewer isn’t sure if it’s the person behind the camera or something unseen on the other end of the pipe. Eventually the echos begin to blend with the whistle itself, creating an eerie tune that harmonizes alone.

Again, this one is based on my own experiences of the woods nearby, as well as my childhood in rural America. While the woods were a great place to play, there was also an underlying sinister quality. Nothing concrete, like a horror movie slasher or true crime – but something that calls back to you when you whistle into a deep, dark place.