Snacks had a fine time scoring and sound designing our film at Steim. We’ve been working consistently on this project for about 6 months, and expect to continue to an estimated time of arrival – summer 2010. The film is tentatively titled “GASA: Memory Overload”, playing on the acronym NASA and referring to solid state memory, not nostalgia. The film is experimental in execution and form, but is very referential to “genres” such as silent movie slapstick, b-grade sci-fi, sexploitation, vintage kung fu, psychedelic children’s TV, and pretentious art-house eye candy such as “The Holy Mountain” or “Satyricon”.
The film is a logical extension of our general activities, which are historically centered around but seldom limited to sound experiments and improvised electro-acoustic music. The film is our opportunity to indulge and fuse all of our “talents” such as writing, “acting”, set design, costume design, photo/videography, sound design, composition, and even cooking – as food creation plays an important role in the film (for better or worse, unfortunately the viewer will not be able to sample our culinary creations, though indeed these at the very least are important to the psychology of the shoots and the visuals created).
We knew early on that we wanted the movie to be 100% sound-designed. We would toss out all ambient sound and create a fully “artificial” sound scape – including sound effects, ambiance, occasional themes and importantly non-linguistic and/or non-human sounds for people speaking. Our time at Steim was intended to be a “laboratory” for us to develop sound for the film, and hopefully complete the sound design of certain scenes. We did not know what technology we’d use or how much time it would actually take. We were ultimately able to complete the sound for the first 12 minutes of the movie, and get a rough sketch of the sound for a 3 minute sequence as well. Perhaps not as much as we’d have liked, but considering the 10 hour days we put in, it was a large amount of work, and completely fun to do.
Something interesting happened after our “open studio” night at Steim, which was that an associate of Steim, V., mentioned to me that she thought our “foley project” was new and unique for Steim. Now, were I to be a sensitive musician or film auteur, i may have taken the suggestion that our work was “foley” to be a diminution of the “scope” of our project or condescension from a filmmaking peer, but i definitely felt inspired instead. V. Indirectly, or directly (?) the suggestion of our work as “foley” helped me see how foley was truly vital to film, especially our film, and that it was a potential cosmos for an experimental musician to explore.
What happened for Dan and I was that we were able for the first time in this endeavor to focus on sound instead of scrambling to build sets, or organize and direct our “actors”, or log in hours editing video. We are most comfortable in this world when we are either banging on things for music purposes or deep programming our sequencer/samplers or analog modular synths. Now we saw the full potential of our film by marrying our sound ideas to the visuals.
Much like a cartoon, which has no ambient sound to use as basis, our film would be nothing without detailed “foley” and striking scoring. I could say that it’s easy to intuit that a “weak” score or sound design will in turn make any film “look” bad, but it’s far truer than i thought. We saw our visuals come alive as we strived towards the “perfect” ambiance for our scenes. Adding “foley” to our characters’ prat falls, to doors’ and cabinets’ slamming, to sci-fi gizmos’ blinking etc etc made the scenes alive with humor, or menace, or additional confusion (the film is intentionally very dense.)
To create a very campy but eerie sci-fi atmosphere, we used many samples and acoustic sounds which “felt” metallic or mechanical in nature. We ended up borrowing some junk from the Steim offices and work areas, including old drums, bits of metal and styrofoam. We hung these objects from the ceiling of Studio 2 with long springs we brought to Amsterdam from Baltimore. The clangorous percussive sounds that resulted ended up being the base ambiance of our opening scene, which is a pseudo “body snatching” hunt through a coldly invisioned, solarized forest. These boinging, spoingy sounds acted as “sci-fi forest animal” screetches and whinnies. The result could not have been better.
Another “find” during the residency was the Managing Director of Steim, also named V. Learning from Steim staff that V. had “theatre” experience, we drafted to him to provide a “fake dutch” voiceover speech for a cruel “scientist” character in the film. We wanted to avoid discernible language, but wanted to somehow utilize the cadence of Nederlands speech because of it’s very direct, obsessive scholastic quality. We asked V. to provide us with “faux dutch” yelling, scolding and cajoling. And we’re pleased to report very successful results. Thanks V.!
Now back in Baltimore, we will miss the very optimal situation provided by Steim and Studio 2. Given such a work friendly environment, our “foley” project developed immensely. Will we be able to find such a “laboratory” in our home city? Hopefully, but not likely.