By John Hood
What could you pull off in five minutes or less? A bank job comes to mind (provided you’re not going into the vault); perhaps a drive-by (so long as you get away clean). Google the phrase and you get a whole lotta self-help hooey, mostly about fixing your health. And if anything could really be fixed in five minutes or less, trust me, it’d be fixed.
But there are some things that can be accomplished in five minutes or less, and you don’t have to be a criminal or deluded to do so either. You will need vision though. And you’d best have a way with story — at least if you want it to mean something anyway. You’ll also wanna be able to assemble images in a manner that’s compelling to the eye. Why? Because that’s how you strike an Optic Nerve.
Yes, we speak of MOCA’s Optic Nerve, where visually-inclined minds show their stuff in five minutes or less. Now in its 14th year, the short film fest features some of the best and the brightest moving imagists the nation has to offer; in this case 16 of ‘em, who were culled from a crop of 271. And though only one of these quickies will be selected for MOCA’s permanent collection, it’s a cinch each entry is worth the price of museum admission alone.
Of course it takes some optic nerve to even enter Optic Nerve, and first-time entrants Alexa Gerrity and Deirdre Sargent show they’ve nerve enough for anything, even tackling a quick Culture Designers Q&A. So we let the finalists have at it.
Would you please give us the 15 second elevator pitch to your flick?
Deirdre Sargent Making Her is a short film about an android in her office suite moving about her absurd workspace. Thematically, the piece considers the intersection between erotica, actual dialogues from sugar daddy sex work, and science fiction.
Alexa Gerrity As a transplant to Los Angeles, I’ve become sensitive to a media culture with an emphasis on the self. As an image maker who uses the medium of video, I’m concerned with the “gaze” of the camera/viewer. The first mirrors used by people were most likely pools of dark, still water. The myth of Narcissus is directly concerned with an element of human experience, as the word Narcissus indicates—narcosis, numbness or alienation. In the myth, Narcissus mistakes his own reflection in the water for another person. This seductive doubling numbs his perceptions until he is lost within his own repeated image. Marked by Mercury explores this relationship with the gaze. I recast the role of Narcissus to a that of a female character because I often use dopplegangers in my work. A woman is depicted walking through a wooded landscape only to confront a mirror and becomes submerged and trapped in its watery dimension before finally setting herself free and breaking the “gaze”.
Could the idea be amended to fit a feature (or is it specific to a short)?
DS Ideas from Making Her are the tip of the iceberg and could certainly become a feature. There is much more investigating I’d like to do with this character and ideas.
AG I think this could be amended to fit a feature, since it’s a universal and ancient theme and is prescient today in our media-driven world of reality TV and our obsession with creating a public image (from Facebook, Google searches, online dating profiles etc.)
Why did you decide to shoot your story as a short anyway?
DS Originally, I decided to make this idea into a short because I find the format very satisfying.
AG I choose to work within the constraints of “shorts” due to the limitations. The vast majority of video artists work in short format–in part because it suits the work, is often non narrative, expressive, looping… it’s rarely commercial/theatrical. However, my ambitions as an artist include expanding into longer, more complex pieces. The disadvantage of video art is that I find it difficult to reach a larger audience and share the work with people who may not participate in the art world.
How important is the Optic Nerve fest to the film community (and the community at large)?
DS I think Optic Nerve is an important event to the film community because it’s a great forum for emerging artists to share their work.
AG I think Miami MOCA’s Optic Nerve program is one of a kind. It gives a much needed platform to emerging artists in the often unrecognized world of video art. I recently spent two months in Chile working on an art video with Catholic school girls. While there, I met Chilean filmmakers and other creatives. No one had ever heard of video art but were completely intrigued to discover it. Programs such as Optic Nerve reach out and showcase this relatively new genre of art. I only wish there were more programs like it!
MOCA’s Optic Nerve 14 takes place Friday September 14th at 7pm and 9pm. For more information log on here.