From Miranda July’s first person account:
It was 1996, and the Olympics were being held in Atlanta. I lived in Portland, Oregon, but, like Atlanta, my city was hot. Especially my new, almost windowless studio apartment. I spent every day in a bathing suit and could not imagine wearing anything more. So the movie focussed on an interview with a twelve-year-old Olympic swimmer and her overbearing, negligee-wearing mom. I played both roles, pressing “Record” on a borrowed video camera and then running around in front of the lens and improvising responses to an unseen interviewer. I set some scenes at the Y.M.C.A. pool—shots of the young swimmer warming up before getting into the water. (I didn’t actually know how to swim.)
Principal photography took about three days.
I recorded my soundtrack by playing the “Thunderball” album while the camera was rolling. I chose track six from side two, “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” I’ve never seen “Thunderball,” so in my mind this wonderful music by John Barry can be paired only with my portrayal of a mother doing an inappropriately sultry dance for her pre-pubescent daughter.
I had heard that there was one video-editing machine in the basement of the Reed College library. I wasn’t a Reed student—I’d dropped out of U.C. Santa Cruz the year before—but I had acquired an expired Reed student I.D. The student it had belonged to looked sort of like me, in the sense that she, too, was probably giving lesbianism a whirl and had cut off all her hair. In any case, no one ever used the machine, and I was rarely carded when I slid past the front desk.
A swimming suit and an album left behind in a kitchen drawer. A used video, a borrowed camera, and an expired college ID. Those were the raw ingredients.
Necessity is the mother of experimental filmmaking.
Just add talent.
On Aug. 4, you can see Atlanta on the big screen along with work by Jon Raymond, Vanessa Renwick, and Matt McCormick. These four artists were the nucleus of Peripheral Produce, a roving, irregularly scheduled screening series of experimental film/video which evolved into the PDX Film Fest.
Focusing on non-narrative work that goes against the grain of mainstream entertainment, the PDX Fest showcases artistic, underground, quirky and challenging work that reflects contemporary culture, documents historic oddities, and is otherwise unclassifiable.
Miranda made Atlanta in Portland in 1996. In 2005, she was at Cannes with Me and You and Everyone We Know.
But she wasn’t the only one to make this leap.
In 2011, Matt McCormick was chosen for MOMA’s New Directors/New Films series for Some Days Are Better Than Others – an Oregon first. In 2012, Jon Raymond was nominated for an Emmy for his co-authorship of the screenplay for Mildred Pierce. That same year, Vanessa Renwick was invited to bring her video installation, Medusa Smack, to The Centre Pompidou in Paris.
(Hey, why are so many appreciative fans of these Portland artists French? Hmmmmm…..)
The Aug. 4 show at the Hollywood will also include work by Jim Blashfield, the godfather of Portland experimental cinema, as well as works by Chel White, Karl Lind, Orland Nutt, Andy Blubaugh and Ashby Lee Collinson.
Collectively, this group has won more awards than you can shake a stick at.
This particular type of cinematic pleasure doesn’t come around very often. Matt McCormick’s programming has been known to sell out the Hollywood. Turn off the Olympics in Beijing on Saturday. Come see Atlanta.