Solipsist is experimental filmmaker Andrew Huang‘s newest venture – an astonishing little fantasy, full of colour, life, and trickery, which pocketed the Special Jury Prize for Experimental Short at January’s SLAMDANCE festival. He spoke to Wonderland about the project.
When did you first dream up the concept of Solipsist?
The idea came to while I was taking a much needed break from work in November of 2010. I had been using my free time to sketch more, and when you make sketching a daily practice it’s like exercising a muscle. For me, the muscle had been dormant, until that November when I was in my car turning at an intersection and suddenly the idea for the film took me completely by surprise. When I got home I began sketching out ideas for performance based scenarios in which two or more characters struggled to physically converge with each other. A triptych felt most cohesive to me, so I picked the best three scenarios and devised a classical narrative structure from there. I knew from the beginning that I didn’t want to make a piece that felt too minimal and heady. I wanted it to be as lush and playful as it was earnest in the concepts it was exploring. A few days later, I began calling my favourite people up and assembling a team and schedule and before I knew it we were shooting in early 2011.
What references does it draw upon? It reminds me of Chris Cunningham’s earliest work.
Needless to say, Chris Cunningham has always been a big influence in my work. The bodies in his films are always augmented, trying to burst out of themselves which always had a profound impact on me. For this film, I had so many other influences that factored in – everything from coral reef structures and slime moulds to Tibetan and Balinese costumes, textiles and jewellery. I loved looking at YouTube videos of Noh Theater and Polynesian dance rituals, as well as time lapse footage of starfish and animal decomposition on the sea floor. The theme of transience was something I was really interested in, so naturally it took me to Buddhist and Navajo sand paintings for inspiration.
How long did it take to make?
The film took two months of preproduction, two days of shooting and nine months of post production doing most of the FX work myself between my other jobs. So basically a year.
How did winning the Special Jury Prize at SLAMDANCE 2012 help its/your exposure? How did it feel to be honoured in this way?
I’ve been to a lot of film festivals in the past and Slamdance was by far one of the best festival experiences I’ve had to date. Slamdance has a bite to it, an edge that I think separates it from Sundance. I was honored to be screening my film among other terrific films there.
What are you working on next? What does the rest of 2012 hold for you?
I am currently developing concepts for a video portrait series for projection in galleries that I hope to have completed by fall 2012. Overall, I’d like to continue making art and fashion films, straddling sculpture and video but I also feel ready to delve into my first feature. I’m on the look out for scripts and also developing my own ideas, so I’m excited to break into that realm.
Which current or up-and-coming directors do you admire?
Zeitguised, Martin de Thurah, Allison Schulnik, and Michael Langan to name a few. My friend David Altobelli at the Directors Bureau, there’s a sensitivity to his work that I admire. And of course Encyclopedia Pictura. They’re creating an entire community for themselves from the ground up in order to sustain themselves and their work, and I can’t think of anyone else doing something that ballsy.
Words: Jack Mills