“Off Route 2”


written by Amanda Dawn Christie

I am very grateful to be this year’s Filmmaker in Residence at the Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative.  They are giving me $4000 in cash and $11000 in gear rental toward this film project.  I am still $5000 short, so I am working on closing that gap now through some fundraising initiatives.  We shoot the film on January 29th, and the Moncton Fire Department is being incredibly supportive.  Then I will be in Halifax almost every weekend, editing the film between February 11 and April 1.  On weekends when I am editing in Halifax, the public will be welcome to come in and watch me work and ask questions about the process.  Another aspect of my residency is public talks.  I will give a few works in progress talks where I will show rough edits of the film in progress and talk about the process.  One of these will happen in Moncton, and two will happen in Halifax.  Finally, the film will premiere at the Halifax Independent Filmmakers Festival which is put on in April, by the Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative.  There will be two versions of the film.  One will be intended to loop as an installation in visual art galleries, while the other will have a title and tail credits to play in a linear fashion in cinemas.

My art practice includes both experimental film and live performance.  When working on my MFA at SFU, I focused on exploring the links between the human body and the projected image:  live performance with film and video projections, as well as the role of the human body in film and video.  I was also particularly interested in analog and mechanical machines and their relationship to the human body and the bodily senses.  As such, I use my own body in all of my films — I never work with actors.  I see this as an extension of my performance practice.  Historically, video art has had a longstanding connection with performance and body art, and yet I have not worked with video yet — only with film (primarily 16mm).  Historically, mainstream film is more associated narrative and celebrity — the body of the actress or the other, rather than of the director or the writer.  I use film rather than video because I love working with the materiality of the celluloid material (hand-processing, optical printing, and so on).  As a result many of my films have been very materialist and structural in nature — without standard plot or story lines.  Many of my films have no body at all in them — but when there is a body, it is my own.  As a result, I see this new film that I am working on, also as an extension of my performance practice.

In this new film, “Off Route 2”  I will be hanging upside down from a harness in an upside down car.  The idea is that it is the moment after an accident but before the rescue when time slows down. I am interested in a deeper look at trauma and the often-anticlimactic aftermath of personal tragedy.  As I hang injured and suspended from her seatbelt in the upside down car, I observe beautiful wildlife in the landscape around me, cheerful music continues to play on the car stereo, and the tragic situation seems at once disconnected from and yet interwoven with the beauty surrounding me.

In terms of performance, the mere act of creating this film will be quite physically challenging.  I will only be able to hang upside down for 30 minutes at a time in order not to cause long term damage from circulation loss.  The film shoot will take all day, so firemen will be present to take me in and out of that position over and over again throughout the day.  The fire department is also lending me a harness to hang from rather than using the actual seatbelt.  We will be installing special hardware to connect the harness to.  It will also be very cold, and my torso will not be dressed in winter clothes.  I will also be covered with special effects make up and will therefore not be able to touch anything when getting in and out of position.  It will take 3-4 people to get me into that inverted position.  We will all have to go in and out of the passenger side of the car, because we can’t disturb the snow on the driver’s side of the car for continuity reasons.  So imagine 4-5 people in an upside down car, entering and exiting from the passenger side.  The fire department will cut off the passenger side of the car and stabilize it to make it a bit more easy.  Even so, this will be an intense day of physical exertion and endurance.

In terms of the subject matter, I am interested in the quiet middle moments.  So many films follow the aristotelian story arc of beginning, middle, and end.  I personally do not feel that we experience life with beginnings and endings.  It’s all middle.  I like to make films that are only about the middle.  So for this one, it is about that moment after the crash and before the rescue.  There are no major climactic events.  It’s that slow peaceful waiting period, while a happy song continues to play on the car stereo and sun glistens on the snow.

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