8-Ball: Interview with Solomon Nagler

Solomon Nagler’s films have played across Canada, and in the U.S., Europe and Asia at venues such the Centre Pompidou (Paris), L’Université Paris Panthéon Sorbonne and Lincoln Center in New York. His work has been featured in Retrospectives at the Winnipeg Cinematheque in August of 2004, at the Excentris Cinema in Montreal in August of 2007, the Festival De Le Cinéma Different in Paris in December 2005 and 2007, The Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers and The Canadian Film Institute in 2009. Originally from Winnipeg, Solomon Nagler currently lives in Halifax where he is a professor of film production at NSCAD University. His filmography and other information can be found online at www.cinemaofruins.com.

1. What do you want to talk about—which question do you wish interviewers would ask, and what is your answer?

I see a general lack of artists discussing the ethical implications of their renderings of Cinema. In this way, there seems to be a delineation between artists who are interested in refracting the light of cinema through an authentic sense of self, and those whose interests lie in a self-indulgent bronzing. I see it as all coming back to Tarkovsky’s ethical idioms regarding the necessity of sacrifice (the solitude inherent in an uncompromising practice) and the moral qualities inherent in time itself (the supernatural possibilities of mise-en-scène).

I would also appreciate more discussion regarding breakfast rituals. I’m fascinated by unintended gestures. We live in a false mirrored wonderland with looking glasses designed to give the impression of self assessment, when in reality we really spend more time looking at others through ourselves, the holiness of the gesture-without-thought is often ignored. The morning is the only time in the day when an authentic sense of solipsism can come into being; genuinely alone, communicating in grunts and pheromones, one foot in dream/spirit logic, the other stumbling in hazy halitosis.

2. What advice do you wish you’d received, but didn’t, when you first started to take your filmmaking seriously?

To not worry, they’re wrong.

3. What is wrong with the film industry, and what are they getting right?

There is no such thing as a film industry, there are only those who live their images and those who drink them. Other people’s cavities are not my problem.

4. How will technology change filmmaking?

People change filmmaking, technology changes people. Our eyes are becoming more accustomed to brighter images. We long for clarity, this is greatly effecting directors who show naked asses for an extended period of time. With this said, I’ve never been one to sell memberships to the celluloid cathedral. I only implore that we take our eyes seriously, something that the phenomenology of instant images can make us take for granted. Beauty can never be solely adhered to the vulgarity of a specific material.

5. What is your process for a typical project, from idea to exhibition? (Give a specific example.)

The political elements of my process are a smoke-screened Maoist romanticism. Form and content must be elegantly mutated in a mysterious organism, something that can perhaps leave a tickling aftertaste for a couple post-viewing hours. My scripts are mere sketches that I use for funding purposes. After funding is confirmed, I immediately burn all story outlines, script drafts and treatments. After a prolonged period of reflection, I re-sketch the film based on the resonating impressions that have survived my repetitious purging of fantastical poisons.

The result is a radical, abstract narrative that refutes explication and depends much more on visceral description. I try to provide an enriched, organic, free-range mise-en-scène, that is braised with a palatable sense of duration so that the lines between what has happened, what will happen and what is going to happen all synthesize into minimal absolute scenes.

6. What are your daily habits as a filmmaker, and as a viewer?

Nothing is accomplished on warm sunny days. I work well in cities where there is a clear delineation between outside and inside space. Fleeting summer days are spent reading through a selection of books and feeding an unhealthy tea addiction. Eventually I glean the sweaty remains of the day and work throughout the night, gracefully panicking, murmuring to myself as I simultaneously chastise and congratulate myself on ridiculous midnight thoughts. All of this has been created out of necessity. Budgetary constraints and my dependence on working with technicians who have real day jobs have resulted in the majority of my films being shot between the hours of 20:00 – 5:00.

This being said, there is no equal to the spiritual/emotional deluge that occurs the instant one leaves a cavernous matinee black box, and enters into the luminous embrace of an exhausted summer day.

7. What is your ambition as a filmmaker—what do you want to accomplish, personally and professionally?

I aspire to continue tricking myself into thinking that this poisonous emptiness is not fuelled by ambition, but rather a search for purity and goodness.

8. Why don’t you quit?

A friend of mine who grew-up in Lunenburg County Nova Scotia had a stinking pet turtle. She tied the poor amphibian to the fishing docks by her house because her parents refused to let her bring the rancid beast into her bedroom. Me, I’m chafed to the bone, my rope is frayed and knotted, with this I work and keep working.

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