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Solidarity in cinema 

Local film collectives turn moviemaking into a group effort

"That opening shot just kills me," says Adam Pinney, collapsing into the nubby plaid sofa in a basement rec room like a spent marathon runner. He's basking in the afterglow of Carl Theodor Dreyer's 1943 film Day of Wrath.

Wearing the geek-cool garb of a regulation U.S. Postal worker's hat and utilitarian wire-rimmed glasses, Pinney displays an incongruous mix of slacker intensity. He and buddy Mike Brune are seated in the bowels of an Alpharetta colonial home in a basement that looks designed by a Hollywood production team recreating teendom's salad days. There's a pingpong table still steaming from some frantic action, a small refrigerator behind the couch stocked with Barq's root beer and Cokes, a glass cabinet displaying Mike's dad's baseball collection.

It's Friday night and these unrepentant film freaks have congregated for the weekly meeting/hangout of Fake Wood Wallpaper, an Atlanta film collective comprised of Pinney, Brune and the other dynamic duo, Hugh Braselton and Alex Orr, who aren't in attendance tonight.

Perhaps self-conscious about the decidedly non-cineaste setting, Pinney -- who like Brune lives with his parents -- warned me in a pre-emptive e-mail: "We watch these films at Mike's parent's house. I bring this up, just so you won't be uncomfortable when his mom or dad answers the door."

Tonight Pinney and Brune are doing what they do every Friday night, watching one more in their learning library of Criterion Films released by the prestigious Manhattan distributor. This week's double feature: Rene Clair's Le Million and Dreyer's Day of Wrath.

While other film junkies their age are consuming serial killer muck like Scream 3, this audience of suburban hatchlings waxes giddy over one of world cinema's most philosophical and austere directors and his masterful tale of witchcraft in 17th-century Denmark.

"Oh, Dreyer!" enthuses Brune, he of the endless limbs, jet black sideburns and "Be Nice To Me, I Gave Blood Today" sticker. "He has this thing for chicks being burned at the stake."

In addition to Dreyer rocking their world, the Fake Wood collective is mutually knocked out by Wes Anderson, Paul Thomas Anderson, Hal Ashby, the off-kilter literature of Raymond Carver and Samuel Beckett, and the classic cinema breathlessly admired at each Criterion film night. They not only love to watch and discuss film, they approach the prospect of actually getting out there and shooting their next short or feature with the zeal of sleep-deprived moppets on Christmas morning.

All have worn different hats as directors, actors, writers for their own and each other's films. In a typical stroke of film student-style collaboration, Brune and Orr both starred in the ultimate Fake Wood Wallpaper production, Pongiste. Hugh Braselton's inventive, beautifully shot tale of pingpong and anger management, which features the favorite Fake Wood recreation (pingpong) and cineaste homage (to Wes Anderson), typifies the quirky in-house style that could actually be called the group's "signature" in their film oeuvre thus far, which includes Brune's "I, Pizza" and "Hitler's Couch" and Pinney's "Helena."

There is fresh evidence of their frantic enthusiasm later in the week at one of Fake Wood Wallpaper's biweekly organizational meetings, this one at roommates Orr and Braselton's East Atlanta digs. After a lengthy critique of Braselton's script based on a Raymond Carver short story, Orr is stoked.

"I just wanted to go out and shoot it," he says, nearly projecting out of his bean bag. "Run out in the yard with a DV camera and shoot it in, like, eight hours with a big old fat lunch."

Fake Wood Wallpaper is representative of Atlanta's new trend of young filmmakers pooling their talents and resources in collectives that defy the usual solitary model of filmmaking. What the trend for collective filmmaking suggests is a generational divide between an old form of filmmaking and a new one being pioneered by a fresh crop of filmmakers, many of whom learned this collaborative working style as film students and have the readily available tools at their disposal to make films relatively cheaply.

In response to the city's bounty of new film talent, a host of outlets have opened up to screen their prodigious output: bars like the Fountainhead (now under new ownership as the East Side Lounge), the Echo Lounge and Eleven50 have joined ranks with film events like The 48 Hour Film Project, Dailies at Push Push Theater, Eyedrum film and video nights, Reel Heads screenings at LAB 601 and WellFair at MJQ.

Three-year-old POPfilms is one of the most respected of Atlanta's filmmaking collectives. Founded by Jacob Gentry and David Bruckner, POPfilms has proven exceedingly productive with its steady output of six mini-features -- four of which were screened at the 2001 and 2002 Atlanta Film Festivals. Boasting 18-22 core members, POPfilms is currently working on its first full-length feature, Last Goodbye.

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