The past few weeks have been chaotic, due to everything from plumbing emergencies at the homestead to the fact that I am developing multiple feature film projects at this time. I'd much rather be in production on one film than developing four or five, but this is my strategy for maximizing my current opportunities. One film is my top priority while the others are being developed on the side. (In case you're wondering, I replaced the kitchen faucet myself, but the work needed in the hall and master bathrooms was handled by a professional plumber.)
In the midst of writing, meetings, rewriting, and more meetings, I paused to autograph some VHS covers for a Limited Edition collector's VHS release of my most recent film, Ratline (2011). I was very pleased with the box art designed for this signed and numbered collector's item - and I was honored to scribble my name upon it. This release represents the only time Ratline has been available on VHS. It sold out in 24 hours.
In other news, an older film of mine, China White Serpentine (2003) was invited to screen as part of a special showcase at the PollyGrind Film Festival this October in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Back in 2011, Ratline won Best Feature in the ‘Crime Film’ category, as well as Best Use Of Music at the PollyGrind Film Fest.) China White Serpentine, which I co-directed with Robin Garrels, stars two actors whose working relationships with me go back twenty years, DJ Vivona and Eli DeGeer. This movie is the least-seen of everything I've directed, and it is currently out of print, so I'm happy at least a few more film fans will get to see it this October. If you're in Las Vegas this autumn, consider catching China White Serpentine at PollyGrind.
Just a couple days ago, I was pleasantly surprised to see another older film of mine, Ice From The Sun (1999) land on a brand new Top 10 list. FilmRacket.com listed Ice From The Sun as one of "The 10 Greatest Cinematic Headtrips Of All Time" alongside films by David Cronenberg (Videodrome), Shane Carruth (Upstream Color), Alejandro Jodorowsky (The Holy Mountain), and David Lynch (Eraserhead). Not too shabby!
I made Ice From The Sun in the mid/late 90s. I was a younger and very different person and filmmaker then. Therefore, I don't really connect to the movie today - but for reasons that are not entirely clear to me, Ice From The Sun keeps creeping back to me from the past. I don't consider it my best work, but many fans insist it is.
Ice From The Sun and China White Serpentine share some creative DNA. Both movies were spawned by my desire to kick traditional narrative in the teeth and delve into some expressionistic extremes. In terms of story, visual technique, and tone, I wanted both movies to drag me into uncharted territory. Both films embrace a fever-dream exploration of bizarre subject matter. Both movies aspired to be works of art - sometimes jarring, sometimes poetic - rather than easily-categorized Genre Product.
Both movies also had a lot going against them. The biggest negative force in the creation of Ice From The Sun was my young age and lack of experience at that time. It was an ambitious movie full of lofty ideas - and I was probably just a bit too young to be tackling it all. Who knows, though... a more mature version of me may have made a more refined and better-crafted film... but perhaps skimped on some of the reckless abandon that gives Ice From The Sun its unique personality and allure.
China White Serpentine was made for a fraction of Ice From The Sun's budget - and far more quickly. Ice From The Sun was a lengthy shoot. I had plenty of time to explore what I wanted to explore... but time and budget were the negative forces working against China White Serpentine, made over a lightning-fast 13 day shooting schedule. The project wasn't massive, but it was probably too ambitious for the time we had. I'm actually shocked that a movie made under those circumstances is one I'm still proud of today.
The other movies I've directed have been far less abstract and experimental. While the cinematic language I used making Scrapbook (1999), Deadwood Park (2007), and Ratline were appropriate for those stories, I must admit, I'm intrigued by the notion of venturing back into anything-goes, fever-dream territory. Considering the experience I've gained since Ice From The Sun, and with a shooting schedule not as sanity-eroding as China White Serpentine's, I bet something pretty cool would come of it.
More and more fans have been asking about China White Serpentine... so a new release may be in the works. Stay tuned. I'll divulge 'em as details firm up. Both Ratline and Ice From The Sun DVDs (jam-packed with bonus material) can be snagged here.
Thanks for reading.
- Eric Stanze