DID YOU READ

Timothy Saccenti (Part 2)

Timothy Saccenti (Part 2) (photo)

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Yesterday I put up some video work by director/photographer Timothy Saccenti, if you haven’t seen it take a look. He’s an artist of great depth and though he’ll lament how poor our internet bandwidth is and is fully on the digital cutting edge, his roots lay in darkrooms, covered in emulsion, with silver halide sprinkles. He’s working on a ton of stuff, and has his sights on a feature film, which I hope to have more on in the future. Here’s most of what we chatted about the day his new video for Chairlift came out.

BK: Tell me about your process, what do you do to begin conceiving of a video, is it headphones and thinking cap on in a dark room?

TS: Yeah. Basically I get the track and hopefully I haven’t heard it before, and I take it and go in a very dark room and play it really loud. Like 30 or 40 times. And then I do sort of free association for what I start to see, whether it’s shapes or colors, or an action scene, or protagonists, or antagonists, some kind of creature or whatever and I just fill all these notebooks. Then I go back and actually listen to the lyrics and see if any match what I was writing about. Generally the first wave is like synesthesia. Just really abstract, like does it feel fast or slow, is it aggressive or sexual. And then basically spend 2 weeks walking around with just that song in my headphones – which can sometimes be a pain for everyone else around me cause they end up having to hear that same song maybe 3 or 4 hundred times [chuckles manically]. Which is a good test… you know, you’re gonna spend 2 or 3 months of your life living with this song and living with the artist and getting into their psyche, so I have to feel personally some kind of connection to it and feel like it’s actually going to resonate with people and translate visually.

And then I sit with my collaborators and we see how everyone is feeling about what’s happening at that time. All the people I work with are very interested in experimental films, and art and fashion and there’s almost always some kind of synchronicity between what we’re all working on and we decide what we’re not going to do. Say for instance, this video we just did for Chairlift, most of the process was deciding what we were not going to do.

BK: What you’re not going to do. So how did that ipod nano commercial (which first featured the Chairlift song) factor into that or did it?

TS: Oh it definitely did.

BK: Is that the first time you’ve created work for a song that’s already been so commercialized?

TS: Yeah, it definitely is. And somehow I’d managed to never have seen the commercial. I’m not sure about you, but living in New York I tend to not watch that much television.

BK: Same here.

TS: Right, so I completely missed it. I’d never even heard the song before. When we met (Chairlift) a lot of the conversation was that they wanted to get as far away from the ipod nano, kind of brightly colorful, naïve positive feelings as possible.

BK: You were a photographer first, how do you think that shapes your approach?

TS: Well, right now I still do probably 50% still photography. Coming from that background has been really helpful for being able to execute these things as far as camera and lighting and all of those techniques go without relying on a whole huge crew. I can go in and say I know exactly how I want this to look, I know where I want the camera for that shot, and say, when we sat down with Caroline (from Chairlift) I knew how we should light her. Also, often with bands, when I first met them, it’s during a still photo shoot. There’s so much less pressure at that point, you can get to know the band, and they can get to trust you. It’s almost like going on a first date with them. And if it works out, and you know, everyone’s pleased with it, then you create a sort of energy and it helps to move things forward faster. ‘Cause there’s always fear when you’re going into making these. For the band it’s a lot of money, and you only really get one shot to make that one video for that one song.

The most difficult part is knowing you’re taking this piece of music that the artist has spent a long time and a lot of heart creating and you’re gonna tell them how it’s supposed to look and it becomes very personal. It feels very risky, so if you can do anything to gain their trust – being able to do a still shoot with them I’d say is one of the best ways you can do that.

BK: Sounds like you’re in the perfect position.

TS: Yeah, I’m extremely lucky. But it’s taken forever; I mean I’ve been working in the industry for almost 20 years now since I was like 15 years old.

BK: Ah, so your roots are as an old school photographer, film, darkrooms…

TS: Yeah, dark rooms and apprenticeships with some really big photographers and learning the ropes through that. Learning lighting, learning how to use film, and different kinds of lenses. Yeah, wet processing, with chemistry! Which I don’t really do any more but all of that is really good to have learned because we do apply it all the time, even now, as far as lighting techniques and aesthetics and things like that. Burning and dodging, and different color palettes and how to control saturation through lighting. There’s tons of dark room techniques that are much easier to apply now in computers but if you don’t know what the actual techniques are or why you would use them, you know, it’s kind of useless.

It’s easy now to show up with a few pieces of camera equipment and make something look very professional, very quickly and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but I do think it maybe takes some[thing] out of the process. Say when you had to shoot a roll of film and wait two days to see what it looked like, maybe during those two days you were trying to figure something else out, and the film came back and you made small adjustments to it. I felt that lag in the time period made it so that you spent more time conceptualizing, or wondering why you were doing things a certain way. Also now because everything seems really immediate, even though it’s not, the clients expect everything to be finished in a ridiculous time frame. It used to be that we’d shoot something and the client wouldn’t expect to see anything for a week, and now they want to see it that night or the next morning, which ends up for making sloppy work I’d say.

BK: Are you a big Sci-Fi film fan?

TS: I think so. I like “Bladerunner!” I like a lot of different films, I’ll say that.

BK: I’ve been thinking about “Bladerunner” while we’ve been talking actually. Maybe I just do it all the time, but when you were talking about old school shooting, and you’d have a couple days to wait, I immediately thought about why “Bladerunner” looks so amazing. And it’s because, well there were amazing people working on it, but they had this built in time delay. For the same reasons, but also because the production went on hold, so some of those guys sat there for months longer than they’d normally have just conceptualizing an conceptualizing and adding to the set.

TS: Right and that texture comes across in every frame in that film. I think Ridey Scott at the time, when people were criticizing the story, he said well, “sometimes the design is the message.” Because they spent so much time designing it, and working out the textures and things like that. For me that’s extremely important. And I’d say for Sci-Fi, yeah “Bladerunner.” I hate “Star Wars.”

BK: Oh no.

TS: [laughs] I’ll watch it! I’ll watch it, but I don’t think it looks very good…. But of the films I’d say we watch here are things that are really esoteric. Like Alejandro Jodorowsky films (“The Holy Mountain”) or maybe Maya Deren (“Meshes of the Afternoon”) and things like that. Or Tarkovsky. “Solaris” that’s a huge influence.

BK: What do you think about Soderbergh’s remake?

TS: I did see it. I thought he was trying to do more like a Stanley Kubrick version of “Solaris,” it felt that way. You know I find the original one to be much more, sort of mysterious. I love Sci-Fi movies, there’re just not very many good ones. It’s so easy to do them poorly. And they play with the same themes all the time.

BK: You already got into this, but what other films inspire you?

TS: Have you ever seen [Sergei Parajanov’s] “Color of Pommegrantes?” It’s again, it’s more in the Jodorowsky range of things where it’s a lot of mystical symbolism and more visual poetry than any sort of story. I just find those films infinitely re-watchable. Or “The Planète Sauvage” also called “The Fantastic Planet.” That’s a Sci-fi influence. It’s a very surreal cartoon about this planet where there’re these giant aliens and they keep humans as pets. And the pets are tiny. [laughs] And then hilarity ensues. But I have a lot of friends who are very into films and they’re always introducing me to these sort of obscure things. And you know living in NY you have access to that stuff, you could go to Kim’s and find some of the strangest stuff you’ll ever see. I’d say conceptually that’s where some of our ideas come from. That and fine art books, and things of that nature. But then you have to turn it into like a pop video, so how do you do that. That’s kind of the fun part. You don’t want to just be esoteric and have your head up your ass and no one understands what the hell you’re talking about. Or being weird for weirds sake. Which tends to happen a lot right now. You see a lot of artists just trying to be really strange.

BK: Some one-upmanship going on.

TS: Yeah, and it gets tiring. There really should always be some story to it. We have this like “what the fuck” culture now where everything has to appear strange for people to think it’s deep. Even some of the things we do, I’m sure fall into that range, but there’s a concept behind it. It’s meant to be part of some story. That makes it re-watchable I hope. The whole point of doing any of these is for story telling, getting some kind of emotional message across… if you’re very lucky.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.