Jeffrey Anderson Bliss
Interview: 10 questions
1. Tell me something about your life and the educational background
I was born and raised in the American Southwest. I moved to California where I made music and worked at a film production company. I continued my studies at the University of Arizona in Film Aesthetics and Criticism before enrolling in NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Film program. I have been making films for NYU since 2009 and I am currently preparing my first feature-length film, ‘Slumberland’.
2. When, how and why started you filming?
I made my first film in 2007. It was a German Expressionist film entitled ‘The City of Stars’ and it was shot in my brother’s basement in Colorado. I made a small city and a few set pieces out of cardboard boxes with my family as the cast and crew. It was my first experience with film production, and I lost the only copy of the screenplay and storyboards on the first day of shooting. Luckily, it was a silent film and heavily concept-based, so it wasn’t a major setback.
I was inspired to start making films after seeing Michel Gondry’s The Science of Sleep. It has such a charming homemade aesthetic and truly lovable characters, I’ve never had such a moving experience in a theater.
3. What kind of subjects have your films?
I try to make each of my films distinct from the others and I keep pushing myself into unfamiliar territory to never make the same film twice. That being said, there are themes that permeate a lot of my work. Self-reflexivity is a major one, and I attribute that to my fascination with motion pictures. I love the cinema and I have tremendous appreciation for its history around the world. I am drawn to the theatre of the absurd, so existential themes are also evident throughout my films.
4. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc?
My films generally start with a feeling that I want to convey. I typically envision the final moment of the film, usually the realization, and trace the steps backward that can emotionally and viscerally build to the climax. Music is very inspiring to me and essential as I develop the project. For me, it is all about creating an intense personal experience for the audience.
5. Tell me something about the technical equipment you use.
Prior to making films at NYU, I used a Sony PD170 to make my movies. I never had any lighting equipment, so it was all natural lighting or what was available in the location. It was all about finding the right camera angle on the subject. I have used Final Cut Pro since my first film and couldn’t imagine making a film without it.
I have since used Arri 16mm cameras and have had access to studio lighting equipment, so the technical quality of my films has improved but the fundamental ideals remain unchanged. Currently, I am a major supporter of Canon DSLR cameras. They produce a digital image that is the first to rival that of film. Rather than simply trying to imitate film, they create an image that is arguably more beautiful and dramatic. However, movement is still a bit touchy with the Canon DSLRs and I am eager to see the new line of Red cameras.
6. The field of “art and moving images” (one may call it videoart or also differently) is representing an important counter position in contemporary art. Tell me more about your personal position and how you see the future of this field (your personal future and the future of “art and moving images”)
Video art is a great offshoot of the rise of digital filmmaking. Now everyone has access to all the tools required to make a movie as well as find an audience. This allows the process to become much more individualized and personal, something that has been enjoyed in literature and music but is a new development in the art of motion pictures. Although production values may decrease, ingenuity can fill in the gap and create a more stylized format.
7. How do you finance your films?
As a scholarship student, financing my films is a difficult process. Although the school provides a small stipend, a majority of financing comes from crowdsourcing. Sites such as kickstarter.com are becoming increasingly important and valuable in funding creative projects, a trend that will hopefully continue to develop and become more popular.
8. Do you work individually as a video artist/film maker or do you work in a team? If you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?
Starting as an abstract visual artist, working with a crew was a new experience coming to film school. I am becoming more comfortable with being able to run my set and to clearly communicate my ideas to my collaborators, but it comes down to what is being shot. I definitely don’t want to have people standing around if they are not needed, but if extra hands are needed for the shoot, I am certainly grateful for the help.
9. Who or what has a lasting influence on your film/video making?
Filmmakers from George Méliès to Michel Gondry that approach cinema as a medium of magic are the most lasting influences on my filmmaking. Spectacle is what first drew my interest to filmmaking and will continue to guide my style and craft. Film is a visual art and that is the guiding concept for all my work.
10. What are your plans or dreams as a film/video maker?
I hope to make feature films that maintain the DIY aesthetic of video art while building on the concepts of spectacle and experience in cinema that attracted me in the first place. Perhaps more importantly, it is also my dream to hold exhibitions of my experimental work at museums around the world to explore the limitless possibilities of the art form. Different ideas call for different modes of expression, so I plan to explore the different formats motion pictures offers. I am fascinated by music videos, as they were my introduction to the world of video art that is not limited by narrative in the 1990s. I am currently in the planning stages to shoot a few music videos in the upcoming year, something I am very excited about.