One can never be certain where one will find the catalyst for self-revelation. In my case, the most recent incident of this nature has come from reading Anger: The Unauthorized Biography Of Kenneth Anger by Bill Landis. Anger, though informative, never gets beyond a basic survey of the filmmaker’s life and work. Furthermore, Landis’ style is typically tabloid; sensationalist and cut-throat. But the impactful portions of Anger, for me at least, came early in the reading and pertained primarily to Landis’ accounts of Kenneth Anger’s early career. Landis points out, and rightly so, that Kenneth Anger was in a constant state of evolutionary flux as an artist, perpetually realigning himself to his work by re-editing and re-tooling his films, most infamously Inauguration Of The Pleasure Dome. Admittedly, this portion of the book would not have forced me to ask such probing questions about my relationship to my own films if I had not recently completed Three Sisters (2015).
The idea of Three Sisters is simple and motivated by my desire to demonstrate the possibilities of cinema for escape, not just in terms of a film’s viewership but also on the part of the filmmaker. The idea being that, in the process of making a film, a filmmaker can get lost in the act of shooting a film. To realize this basic concept I collected all of my student films featuring my friends Lauren, Marissa and Michelle and presented them within the context of an anthropological video essay focusing on the home movies of three fictitious sisters played by my friends. As three sisters, my friends act out a series of short disjointed narratives that, given the recasting of the characters into the reflexive realm of heightened self-awareness, take on an unsuspected quality of familial angst. In the title cards that espouse details on the sisters’ lives I began to interject some critical analysis of these films that would help to illuminate the familial conflicts that play out subtextually.
When I finished editing the film two months ago I was happy with the product, finding it elusive yet successful in the aim to analyze the relationship between film and filmmaker as well as sister to sister. Yet it wasn’t till reading Anger that I realized what I really accomplished with the film. It seemed to me that I had repossessed my earlier work, work that had little meaning to me as an adult and had recontextualized it so that it performed some personal service. It wasn’t till the film had been completed that it became clear to me that my “video exercises” were the only document I had of the most stable relationships of four years of my life as I entered adulthood. Marissa, Michelle and Lauren were daily fixtures during this time, and the films I made of them capture the essence of not just my relationship to them, but of their relationship to one another. In many respects we were a family unit unto ourselves, each a sibling to the other to varying degrees. And it was my film homework that provided the means through which we unified together to function as a single unit.
This relationship or unit I speak of has been my ideal circumstance in which to work on a film. With Jon Tomlinson I had a brother in arms, then with Zimbo Films there was the unit of myself, Caroline Boyd, and Anat Eshel for two years to be followed by my intensified collaborations with Emma Arrick and finally with Daniel Kelly. Still, none of these adult collaborations personified the collaborative unit of myself, Lauren, Michelle and Marissa with the kind of generosity and tenderness one only finds with family. Thus, Three Sisters is as much about three teenage girls’ relationship to home-movies as it is about the fundamental precursor to Zimbo Films and my work as a mature film artist.