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An Impassioned Case for TV!

December 23, 2010 | By | Add a Comment

“Best of Chicago DIY Film” series. Originally appeared on the site 10/21/2010

Chicago Art Magazine interviews filmmaker Lori Felker
By Matthew Blake

Lori Felker has a perhaps unusual ambition for someone who makes experimental films and works at the School of the Art of Institute of Chicago– she wants her movies on TV. I recently spoke with Felker about her pathway to filmmaking, the Chicago DIY film scene and her interest in television.

Lori Felker

How did you get started in film?

I did film studies in Germany and I started watching more experimental work and I figured that was how I wanted to speak. I moved back to the states and started taking classes at Pittsburgh filmmakers.

Then I moved to Chicago and started going to grad school and started making films. I went to grad school at SAIC (School of the Art Institute of Chicago) for film video and new media and that was nice because it was a very interdisciplinary school. In grad school [which Felker graduated from in 2007] I started working in films and working on production for commercials and movies. I even started doing marketing production work for a bank.

What do you do now to make money?

I have multiple jobs — I am an adviser for the [SAIC] student run TV and radio stations. I also run the projector for the Gene Siskel film center and I’m on the faculty at the [SAIC] Film & Video and New Media Department. And this semester I started teaching at Columbia College [teaching experimental film production]. All these jobs just sort of happened – I was very much in the right place at the right time.

How do you find time to make films?

In the summer I get a chance to catch up in making films. I’m also a very collaborative person. My new film Imperceptihole is a collaborative project with Robert Todd, who’s a very busy faculty person in Boston [at Emerson College]. Also, seeing the work of students kind of fuels me.

Sometimes it seems when I have the most amount of time, I do the least amount of work. I work best with pure adrenaline pumping through me.

Talk about Imperceptihole (a film where Felker can be partly seen and heard in shots of the outdoors} and the process behind making it

Robert would shoot a roll in Boston and I would shoot a roll in Chicago and we just decided that we were going to put this stuff together. The movie is in this weird space between experiencing something and watching something. We would get down on our knees and move the camera around. Hopefully for the audience it produces a tactile feeling.

Many of your films like “Mere Mystery,” deal with human’s interaction with nature and the commercialization of nature

The film footage for “Mere Mystery” comes from me travelling and going to Redwood National Parks. I’m really interested with images like seeing Redwoods that have been there for a really long time juxtaposed by a gift shop or Sky Ride. I have a fascination with tourism and travel.

These themes emerge in “This is My Show” which almost seems like a parody of a PBS nature show. The narrator is walking toward the camera is a series of idyllic settings and is first lecturing about gardening and people’s interactions with nature. She then proceeds to speak in the same soothing tones about subjects like niceness versus honesty, ten ways to cut somebody out of your life, and even some women’s propensity for peeing on toilet seats.

It wasn’t super-conscious to be making fun of nature shows. I wanted to more use the form of television to say something else, like dubbing or translating people on TV. You could turn the sound down and really think there was nothing wrong.

But [This is My Show] is part of a news program that I’m working on. I set up a TV studio at the foot of my bed for 2 weeks and I would deliver the news each morning, which was just the dreams I remembered from the night before at the stage when I woke up.

Eventually, I want to collect other artists work that resembles TV and do a cable access show.

This Is My Show (excerpt) from Lori Felker on Vimeo.

Why the interest in TV?

Television and radio just really excites me – there is a real roulette method where you just stumble across things. As a kid, I would channel surf forever.

But on the web, you very rarely just stumble across things. On YouTube, you mostly just settle in to watching what you want to watch. So Web video is different from public access TV and I’m afraid public access is dying. It’s a little bit of a political crusade for me to stop that.

What are your ambitions as a filmmaker?

The most amazing thing that could happen to me would be a non-art school, non-avant garde audience that sees and enjoys the films I make. It would be super exciting if something like Imperceptihole played on TV. I have a certain frustration with poetic and experimental work, because for a big part of society [those kind of films are] just silliness. For me the message of my piece is the most important thing. So if I can just package off my message in a way that I can maybe show my films to some high school in Idaho.

How is Chicago as a place to make films and evolve as a filmmaker?

One of the main definers is size – We’re not New York or Los Angeles, but we’re not Iowa City. L.A. or New York are so big that it’s hard to have a feeling of community and in a smaller place there is less work to see and less places to show your work. So we are in a really great middle ground where there is a lot of stuff being made and a lot of options but at the same time it is manageable.

We do, though, have a responsibility to more inclusive. Am I DIY filmmaker? I don’t know – I use a Super 8 Camera but I have a whole institution of resources behind me [the SAIC]. I have equipment at my disposal but for people who make stuff at home it is harder for them to speak up. [Another issue is] how to get people in the door [for indie films]? It’s easy for me to send an e-mail to SAIC students, but how do you get kids in Lawndale?

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