Something Old, Something New and Something Borrowed, Something Askew

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In a state most well known for Mormonism and meth addictions, it's mildly surprising that we are also home of the Sundance Film Festival. Is it the sheer presence of one the largest film festivals that influences local filmmakers to continue their passion? Maybe it's the hope of working with local acting legend Wilford Brimley? Either way, SLC's independent film scene is intact, but what happens to the artistic outcasts who decide to stray from mainstream film culture? Local filmmaker Tyrone Davies has been dipping his fingers in the avant-garde film scene for over eight years. In the past six years, his experimental projects have been accepted in over 15 film festivals, including the Select Media Festival in Chicago and the local LDS Film Festival. Some of Davies' films are deeply political, while others offer an amusing trip back to our 8-bit graphic childhoods— but one thing is for sure, this guy knows how to entertain an audience.

Of all the mediums available to artists, Davies found filmmaking the most personally significant. "Nobody reads anymore. As Egon said in Ghostbusters, 'Text is Dead.' Painting is pretty dead, too. Sculpture is less dead, but dying. Live theatre is so dead that it's not even rotting anymore," Davies says. In a country where we have the freedom of speech, it appears that the numbers are declining on its active users. Obviously, Davies isn't the first filmmaker to test the limits of the film and video art form. This genre has been causing massive disruptions in the art community for generations.

About 88 years ago, a group of European dadaists and surrealists filmmakers, including René Clair and Jean Cocteau, decided to send The Great Train Robbery's Edwin S. Porter and his customary filmmaking buddies a big "fuck you" in regard to their traditional artistic tactics. By completely disregarding story arcs, narrative storytelling and actually manipulating the individual film cells, these directors basically established an anti-filmmaking filmmaking movement with their experimental films. Forget the damsel in distress, never mind Little Timmy in the well and don't even think about the runaway stagecoach. These filmmakers forced the audience to have a heightened connection with their films. While the majority of audience members may find these pictures abnormal, bizarre and unsettling, others believe they are revolutionary and taken for granted.

Keeping with the practice of avoiding conventional filmmaking policies, Davies creates many of his films by using compilations of vintage stock footage called "found footage pieces." Davies explains: "These works are video or film recordings originally created by others for other production purposes. The found footage filmmaker takes the recording, rethinks its message and then re-edits it to point out some concept that he or she wants to get across. For me, a lot of the material comes from the Lost Media Archive." The archive Davies speaks of is a personal library collection of progressive media. "It's a resource of just about any media that might be falling through the cracks due to immediate cultural disinterest, format wars or lack of distribution." Think of the most obscure video clips from the past and it's probably somewhere in there. A Wendy's rapping training video on preparing hamburgers? Check. Lessons on how to perform a sexier version of the Macarena? Check. William Shatner singing Elton John's "Rocketman?" It's all in there, and they can also all be found on the first issue of Davies' new DVD zine, Sandwitch.

"Sandwitch is a new irregular periodical media-zine put together by loaf-i productions [another Davies side-project] and will serve as its main distribution arm. It will sometimes contain my work, but more often the work of others," says Davies. The first issue is all about found footage and was edited by Davies. It contains two DVDs showcasing eight of Davies' films and the first "Outsider" film program originally put together by the Lost Media Archive in 2005. Sandwitch also contains a CD with 20 music tracks of bands from all over the nation. The publication provides a forum for short films that never see the light of day. "Theaters stopped showing shorts before the feature decades ago.  Hundreds of thousands of short films are made every year, but how many short film compilations do you see on the shelves at a typical video rental store?  There needs to be a way to get these films in people's hands," Davies explains. "Hopefully it will evolve into a quarterly publication, but it's difficult getting something like this off the ground." Davies already has the next three installments planned, each covering a different film technique (due later this year). Not only does Davies uphold his Utah pride by using local bands for his films including Terror Folds and Shifty Individual, he also locally produces the monthly Out/Ex film series.

Out/Ex film series is a free event produced by loaf-i and the Free Form Film Festival (yet more of Davis' side projects). Sponsored by TRASA: Urban Arts Collective, [The] Out/Ex series proves that "anything goes" in the Salt Lake film scene. "It's a film series that is devoted to both experimental and outsider video and film," he says. The series is held the third Saturday of every month (to coincide with Gallery Stroll) at nobrow Coffee and Tea (315 East 300 South). Themed subject matters have included Furbies, broccoli, carnival rides, pixels and celebrity consumption. On Saturday, April 19, the festival will have a special "best of" screening at the home of TRASA in the Utah Pickle Company building (741 S. 400 W.) The night will include some of Davies' favorite films screened during the past year at the Out/Ex series. Brian Dewan, Jan Andrews, The Bran Flakes and Stacy Steers will all have films featured in the competition. The event will be judged by Davies himself, Kristina Robb, Brandon Garcia and other TRASA collaborators. The most experimental filmmaker of the past year will walk away with $500 cash.

For now, the future of experimental film is uncertain. The existence of off-the-wall productions rest solely in the hands of today's underground filmmakers, and with the popularity of regurgitated crap spewing from Hollywood, the outlook appears bleak. "Unless there is some drastic change in the film industry (which I do not foresee), it will always be on the fringe and only appreciated by those in-the-know. Perhaps it's better that way," Davies explains.


Davies' DVD zine, Sandwitch is currently available at Red Light Books. For more information on his other projects Out/Ex film festival, the Lost Media Archive, loaf-i productions and Free Form Film Festival, Tyrone Davies can be reach via email: