I’d like to take a moment to put the spotlight on and support a local filmmaker and movie buff with many interesting projects on the go, by the name of Narsiesse. I’ve mentioned before on this blog how much I enjoy and love to share the work of several people on twitter who study and celebrate great cinematic images, detail how certain visuals connect and recur in different movie eras, or the ways art has influenced film. Narsiesse runs one such account, @ArtIntoFilm, and you can see there and at
#artinfluencesfilm the snowballing movement he’s created, with tons of contributors and hundreds of examples of imagery that carry over from canvas, camera and other media into cinema. I love all these side-by-side comparisons, whether they find Escher-inspired impossible constructions in Nolan’s Inception, Da Vinci in The Passion of Joan of Arc, Edward Hopper in Blade Runner, or Renaissance composition and other elements in everything from The Wizard of Oz to The Fearless Vampire Killers. Take a look and follow because it’s always a fabulous feast for the eyes, essential and educational for any movie fan.
This week Narsiesse launched his new project, which starts with the short film The Winemaker, and you can see it here: https://vimeo.com/199781869
This will become a 4-part mini web series and eventually a full length feature film, and it’s inspired by First Nation mythos, Japanese culture, William Shakespeare and the aforementioned Art Influences Film references. It’s about a jerk named Vic who leaves his marital problems behind to go on a winery tour, where he constantly sees two children who may or may not be real. At a vineyard where Vic meets The Winemaker there’s a deadly cat and mouse game during which Vic must decide to save himself or the lives of the two children. This first short is (befitting the winery setting) a tantalizing taste of the project’s tone and what’s to come. I’m intrigued by the suspense and characters teased in these few minutes, and appreciate the uniquely Canadian feel of it, thanks to the local colour and First Nations elements. Some of the many stories behind the camera is how diverse interest fueled this project and how valuable a tool the smartphone has become for indie filmmakers.
Can you talk a bit about the process as well as the ideas and influences behind this project?
Love to talk about this, it took time to figure out my voice and to learn basic filmmaking skills (which all you need) and then trusting them in the application process, that is, filmmaking itself.
I have watched 100s of movies and the ones that I like I rewatch over and over again and I studied them and tried to figure out what I liked about them. I also researched how Kubrick, Kurosawa, Lean, and Ford worked. I just Googled reviews, interviews, and watched video after video that would break down these epic filmmakers, their craft, and then see for myself if I agreed with critics analysis and filtered out the hype to pure visual ideas and methods of how each director worked (and more importantly what was the end result on the screen).
After about a year of this thorough research, one day I started to grasp filmmaking concepts and idea about what these directors were saying in their cryptic interviews and sound bites here and there where they gave nuggets of wisdom about the art of filmmaking.
Kurosawa talks about learning how to write a script as a powerful foundation for directing and he laughed, in one interview, and said that it is free because all you need is a pencil and paper.
With Kubrick, I learned to not try to pick his brain as much as enjoy what he put on the screen and notice his skills at filling the screen with subliminal messages that affect and effect the viewer without them even knowing why or that it is happening to them. He was a genius at studied the psychology of advertising in my opinion.
For instance, notice all the subliminal phallic symbols scattered throughout A Clockwork Orange: the artwork in the lobby of the complex where Alex lives; and the iconic killjoy image on the wall; and on a poster above the droogs as they enter a bar after Alex beats them all up and sets them straight, the visual is a cock and balls; then of course there is the statute in his room of the naked dancing Jesus’, then there are all the obvious ones too. And this is only one subliminal symbol there in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, which has many, many more.
The final shot of THE WINEMAKER short is an homage to John Ford and Ethan Edwards when he walks through the dark house out into the bright light through the framed doorway: this is pure iconic imagery that is embedded in our minds and it visually pleases us and it is stoked in myth and stuff of hero legend. Yet I gave that moment to THE WINEMAKER…framing shot in doorways or windows or between posts creates a pice of art in away and tells us what to focus on without bashing the audience over the head to say this is important.
What’s your vision for how this series will roll out and develop?
The vision is set for now; then when I film I am always open to a possible change or inspiration because now I am in a very creative oriented environment and when the muse strikes I write it down as best I can. Sometimes images or shots of scene come to me or a light flickers on a piece of furniture and I catch it and think of how I can incorporate it into either THE WINEMAKER or a future project. It took a few years to galvanize THE WINEMAKER.
I could have had something out way, way sooner but it would have be devoid of value and now I know what I want to say, and how I want it to look. And here is a neat trick too: I don’t have to understand every single thing that inspires me and this is important to my creative process.
I don’t have to know why everything is up there on the scene but deep in my core I know that it fits that moment, that beat, or that character, that action or better yet reaction. And this took a few years of being self taught to figure out.
One important thing that I learned was to use what is around me and not try to create something that wasn’t in my world for now, and to me this an overarching secret to it all creatively: to actually put limits on yourself and work within them or find out how to get out of them.
And writing what you know is very important but it is not sexy to most filmmakers, directors, and writers, because they all want something flashy (and really if most people understood the whole dull and drawn out the creative process actually is they won’t enjoy the end result unless they train their minds to be in the moment).
It took a few years for all of my self-taught study to sink in deep inside and then creativity slowly bubbled up to the surface and then it would stop for awhile and then came again and now it is more regular for me.
Try to figure out what you know and what you like and what your experiences are and for me my passions lead to THE WINEMAKER:
First Nation mythos (and mythology in general)
Japanese culture (I lived there for two years)
William Shakespeare (Always loved this word usage)
Art influences film references (This is one of my deep passions)
These were all topics that I could immerse myself into for hours, days, weeks, and years. The last word YEARS is very humbling indeed because I have a video out on the internet, where I state that I will be done my first film in six months. That was almost two years ago.
Recently just after wrapping up THE WINEMAKER short film, my children have been playing that video over and over in the house and laughing their guts out and they walk around parodying my walk in the viddie and saying I will do this not is six months but rather in two years and it is quite funny how they imitate me and we all laugh about how long it took to do.
How did you get the idea for the Art Influences Film movement and how do you feel about the great reaction and all the contributions to that?
Great question, this came like the vision for THE WINEMAKER over time, about six months ago or so, I posted an image of the prisoners walking in a circle from A Clockwork Orange and showed how it was influenced by Van Gogh’s Prison Yard painting about and I used the hashtag #artinfluences.
Then recently I saw the talented and prolific @PINNLAND_EMPIRE had his profile pinned to the top of the #sidebyside hashtag and then it hit me to create the #artinfluencesfilm hashtag. All the other #sidebyside and #artinfluences tweets (these type of tweets often show two films that have similar shots or a side by side may show a piece of art beside a film and how the film’s shot echoes the exact same image found in the art work) that I and so many others needed a proper home in the twittersphere.
I found one with #artinfluencesfilm hashtag, again it was like I said before, the muse comes when you are ready to hear her, but she is so very smart because she ever so slightly whispers her secrets to you and you have to be listening. Be still.
I am so shocked and grateful that @ArtIntoFilm has found an audience when it started I was overwhelmed and I asked @colebrax AKA James for some advice and he as usual shared his experience with me.
Here is another great tidbit about how THE WINEMAKER and @ArtIntoFilm came together at the right time and at the right place because, earlier on, say a year ago, I was not known on twitter nor had I many followers or knew many tweeps, but as I built up my reputation as one who produces good tweets others saw it and then you start to build relationships with like minded people and then you share ideas.
For instance, I called out to over ten tweeps before creating the @ArtIntoFilm handle and the #artinfluencesfilm hashtag and we had DM sessions where we gave suggestion about what to call art influences film without using art influences film in the twitter handle because the @ArtInfluencesfilm handle is one character past the 16 character maximum so we had to figure out something else that was shorter and after a while we did and I had so many great people contribute.
Then a great core was established to get the #artinfluencesfilm and @ArtIntoFilm movement off the ground and then more people came and then more and then people praised it and so on. And it is growing a wider and wider audience or followed and supporters and contributors and it is a wholly a group effort and I try to make sure that point is made clear that those that support the movement are the movement and that they are its ambassador that make it all possible to the point that we now have over 600 examples of art influences film and counting. The #artinfluencesfilm movement is alive and well
You know when you do a search on twitter and it shows you want is trending I want #artinfluencesfilm to get to the point where it is trending on twitter, that is my goal
Also, here is a little know fact about the #artinfluencesfilm movement, we have been RT’d by some film celebrities like @RealGDT (Guillermo del Toro) and @WilliamFriedkin and @TonyTodd54 AKA The Candyman, and @MatthewModine, and in some case more than once.
I have literally jumped out of my chair a few times screaming my head off running around the house telling my whole family and they look at me like I am crazy, so I share it with other cinephiles who get it and appreciate it. One even said that it shows that our efforts are appreciated.
How are you planning to pace the progress of The Winemaker toward a feature film?
I will keep a certain air of unknown throughout the next phase the four part mini web series, which will flesh out some characters and plot lines that will lead to more and more questions that will culminate with the final phase, the feature film version of THE WINEMAKER.
It took time to get my thoughts for THE WINEMAKER out of my head and to be able to share them with the world. Along the way I have set up a format to promote THE WINEMAKER along with some other talented Artist that I know from twitterverse, who have been so generous of spirit and provided some brilliant examples of their Art. For instance, Eugene Cobb‘s amazing Artwork bookends the opening and closing of THE WINEMAKER short film.
This cross promotion has lead to a win-win scenario in my opinion where I get THE WINEMAKER message out there along with some great artistic content. I love this format. And I have a few more ideas like this that will unravel down the line to keep THE WINEMAKER in people’s minds until we reach phase two of the film series. But for now I begin the press circuit to promote THE WINEMAKER and build up a passionate audience.
I’m sure movie buffs will recognize–just to pick one image–the echo of the twins from The Shining in this, among other references. Without giving too much away about what’s to come next in the series, could you point out some of the imagery inspired by movies, cultures or Art Influences Film? The mannequin in the winery for example, or the scarab…
All I will say about the beetle is that it has a lot of history and meaning behind it and it’s significance is very powerful and meaningful to me. I enjoy studying and researching and from time to time I go to a store or a local market and then I see something that grabs me, I in turn grab it and find out how to add it to THE WINEMAKER, which has come after years of studying Joseph Campbell and mythology.
As for the beautiful mannequin, it is a key character that plays a role of her own: you will have to wait for that storyline to unfold. Next question.
But David Lean and Akira Kurosawa have echoed something that I am working towards in my own filmmaking craft; they both pretty much said that they want to create films that if you took one frame out of the film that you would want to put it up on your wall or in a museum, which for me ties rather well into the idea that art influences film 100% and vice versa.
Following that thread, talk about directors and films that have been your biggest influences in general, and on this project particularly.
For this you can refer to some of the above comments, but from all the films that I have watched certain films have stuck with me, I am a huge STAR WARS fan (the original trilogy). And I want to create a similar epic journey for my audience.
And who influenced Lucas? Kurosawa, so when you do your studying of the influences of STAR WARS you learn about Kurosawa and then you study him. You would also learn that Lucas was heavily influenced by Joseph Campbell and THE HERO’S JOURNEY, too.
All of the above great directors have to be studied and then from the WEST comes good ol’ John Ford with iconic hero imagery that must be studied, respected and applied.
I could watch Kurosawa over and over and learn something new about the story or the visuals or the segues; l love Kurosawa’s segues or transitions from one scene to the next, they are fluid or abrupt as they need to be for that beat or moment. And he accomplished this cause he did his own editing which I suggest all filmmakers do at the start of their careers to appreciate what it takes to do and what it is worth to them.
Beyond the imagery, what role do your influences and passions play in the narrative structure of The Winemaker? Are you experimenting with that part of it?
Storytelling skills are a key factor to study, especially how each director tells their story their way, with their own world view, and then when one of their methods resonates with you, it is good to see where it takes you and then you as an artist take it and make it your own.
A classic example of this is Lucas’ homage to Kurosawa throughout the STAR WARS franchise, yes there are similarities but Lucas made it his own. @TATJANASL taught me that there is nothing new under the sun, because @TATJANASL often posts #sidebysides that show how four different films have similar framed shots and they can span five decades.
Smart artists steal from others and it is more common than most think: Woody Allen and Pablo Picasso are two that have either stated this fact or admitted it publicly, but yet what they stole they made their own and that my friend is when it becomes Art.
Any thoughts about filming on a smartphone, and how that tech opens up the art of filmmaking, broadcasting, distribution etc, to so many more people?
This door is wide open and not many see it yet, because they want to be snobs and look down on it. Also, it can take more time, depending on what you are trying to achieve and you have to watch your storage and have battery back up.
But in the next decade, more films, web series, short films will be made with smartphones and filmmaking related apps and add-ons, because there are a number of players out there already that have good products.
And as a matter of fact, for THE WINEMAKER, I have successfully attracted a few of them and one has just today sent me a confirmation email that their swag or product is in the mail and another company I am waiting for them to send their email confirmation of a shipped filmmaking add-on. And I have set up an interview with another but it has yet to happen, but I don’t need them.
Because as Mark Duplass has said that there is no cavalry, you are the cavalry, you are the one to make your project happen. I have reached out to companies that have products that I have used or that I can use for films or to make films. I sent out some emails where I asked for something. We must overcome our fears of being told no or fear of being ignored, both have happened with a few of my emails to some companies seeking their support or swag.
But if you go decide down this route, you have to back it up what you say with your finished product because 1000s of other filmmakers are doing the exact same thing and you have to show them what you are doing. I have had to send mini reels to potential sponsors to show my videography and filmmaking skills, especially how it relates to their brand.
I have also developed a great relationship with Felix Mater Society AKA @FelixMater who is a great ally and brand to be associated with, a phenomenal film producer and promoter as well. I am a big fan of their brand and they are a fan of mine so it is another win-win scenario. Felix Mater Society brings a lot to the filmmaking table.
And I am also a huge fan of the iOgrapher brand of products as I couldn’t have done 90% of my shots without their patented case. Great product for indie and professional filmmakers period.
On twitter you thanked local filmmakers for their great advice as you worked on this. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned and what would be your advice to aspiring, indie filmmakers?
Who is your audience? Figure it out, it took me over six months to figure it out.
And ask yourself: are you going to be the one who talks about making a film or the one who makes a film?
It took me two years to get to this point, but this is my journey and others may take more time or less time.
It isn’t a competition, which society wants it to be.
“Learn to be yourself because everyone else is already taken”- Oscar Wilde.
Finally, any other thoughts on what you hope viewers will take away from this and what they can look forward to as the films come out?
Just see THE WINEMAKER and judge it for yourself and have some fun cause life is too short.
Be of value to society and find your niche and embrace it and have fun.
Thanks to Narsiesse for taking the time to discuss his work.