Headed for NYC
After my experience at and following SXSW I feel like I need to reconcile my mind. I was inspired by Mr Shakey, and his article for the Times-Contrarion, reviewing the PARADOX interviews in Austin, it is a litmus test for keeping journalists accountable. It was an interesting social experiment, seems to me the results were about 50% alkaline and 50% acidic - that’s my unscientific opinion. A week or so later we set out on a short journey around the USA to share the film with audiences in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. The following are journal entries from the days that ensued.
From the photography department:
Paradox is a documentary in a narrative disguise. In the Shakey pictures tradition, it’s strange form is a contrary to the collective media literacy. It is shot through the filter of Daryl Hannah’s imagination -using hyperbole to examine her own universe and illuminate a magical time in our existence. She had a vision entirely in her mind and the faith to let it grow from the seeds she planted into some available space-time. In the short span of time we had available I helped Daryl as best I could to realize her dream. As an elite member of the Shakey pictures film school dropouts association, I knew that it would be really good at least part of the time. It could be a little bit fucked up as long out hearts were in the right place, people would feel that. We took off with the script as a sketch, a cast doubling as the crew, and shot everything we could in a few days. I had to approach it like a documentary, we didn’t have a soundman so with my bushleague doc-sound setup on a super 35mm sony - I basically started rolling at the beginning of each day and shot all day. All the B-roll happened in between takes or on the move, except of course for D’s iphone archive and 8mm windup work. Then the project took on a life of it’s own. It became more about loving what was going on and getting it and not being precious about what we intended. Space for invention was encouraged, and we had fun creating art with our friends, woodland creatures and sharing our connection to life with people. It was invigorating as improv always is. As the DP I stand fully behind the authenticity of PARADOX as a document of what transpired through a window into a usually unseeable realm.
The fantasy part of this film is a fun house mirror framing our reality. Through it you become witness to the kind of hilarity that only ensues “on the bus” after the show comes down. These six musicians, a few friends and family share a special bond, the awareness that only a communal language like music can impart. It is symbiotic, a positive feedback loop. It is humbling to be a witness too, and more often than not it makes the hair on my body stand on end. We achieve liftoff every time they vibrate the air around us.
Each of the characters in our film is a sketch of their spirit in real life, the set is a metaphor for our shared experience, and nature itself is an observer of our thoughts and actions. We follow the Man In The Black Hat, our silent contrarian leader. Jail Time, the philosophizing troubadour. Particle Kid, the transcendent weirdo. Then we have the rhythm section: Cookie, feeding our souls. Happy, the regular optimist and Tato, the natural mystic. Our supporting cast kept us on the rails: Weed, taking care of shit, Schmoo, no stone left unturned. Snow Bear, turning the page for all and Cowboy Elliot, with his critical use of verbiage.
When the subjects in PARADOX finally begin to speak their first language, that of music, the “soul of the universe” reveals itself. Their fluency as a unit is transcendent and infectious as 100,000 people take off on a communal wave with them. Then all of the angels return to the earth.
The maternal presence, in their pure white form, are clearly symbolic of the power that femininity carries in it’s essence. The power to save, nurture and protect and the grace to do so, even when perhaps they shouldn’t.
Like a poem, PARADOX requires objectivity, we inadvertently created a Rorschach test, it reveals more about it’s viewers than it conveys itself. It is the manifestation of a dream come true. My eight year old daughter summarized it to me like this, “Paradox is what can happen when people love everything Dad.” We can all hold onto our hopes and dreams. Sharing them is the only way to make them real.
In our reality it was a miraculous 3 days of non stop action with a group of people who care monumentally for one another.
Take a deep breath, smile and do the best you can to leave no waste behind.
Off to Chicago, for another screening.
HEADED for Chicago.
NYC, IFC reflections.
We showed PARADOX at the IFC in Manhattan last night. You could feel the critical weight in the air of NYC. The theatre was still, and concentrated throughout. Afterward, I got to see my friend and mentor Anthony Janelli for a minute, and although we have not debriefed properly, he assured me that I achieved something unique in PARADOX. I felt good to step out of the vacuum and get a pat on the back from a hero like that. I look forward to a proper catchup.
Our editor, Paul Snyder was also there with his parents and Girlfriend Jess. His mother, a self proclaimed “old hippie”, really enjoyed the film, she particularly loved the pace and time for reflection something she noted was missing from our day to day now.
Occasionally I make the mistake of looking to see what the media says. This trial by committee (media) is new to me, I’m used to working in isolation, to satisfying only myself and those around me, and then never really interacting with the audience or critics. It really causes one to examine their place in the world, in the balance, in the realm of who pays attention and who projects themselves onto everything, and who does both. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that today a historic march happens, the #MarchForOurLives. It casts a shadow on all else today, the force of a new generation ready to take back the reigns from careless elder statesmen and corporate whores who have become disconnected from the natural world. More violence is never the answer. Kids aren’t born racist, they see all things equally and being closer to the source of their existence feel much more deeply than adults, tarnished by the patina of disappointment and oppression of disaster capitalism.
I think each new generation of kids feel the burden in the air of the past generations who have fucked things up, myself included. When I was a kid in the 4th grade learning about acid rain I was designing giant air filters that stored toxins in a tank that could be launched into the sun. As adolescence set in I became mesmerized by television advertising and pop culture. It took me nearly 40 years and the birth of a child to see the truth again about how interconnected we are, now I don’t really care much about anything else. I just want to share quality time with my loved ones and do what i can to improve the space around me, tend a garden, and cycle away years of self abuse. Perpetuate positive messages into the toxic feeding tube (stupidphones) we have stuck to our heads streaming from the internet.
In a way Paradox is a cathartic experience for me, an expression of all the things I feel need to be said, with collaborators who all share in that feeling. I remain hopeful that sooner or later everyone tunes into, hopefully before we pass the point of no return.
In our travels we encountered some strange energy in airports, rabid humans seeking attention at any cost, it was peculiar to witness. Their fixation without purpose.
We finally arrived at the theatre, an edifice, the Music Box. It must have been there since movies had started to become popular, maybe the 20’s or 30’s, the energy inside was magical, and so were all the people in attendance.
In the lobby there was a poster for “Stop Making Sense”. It reminded me that the last time I had been in NYC prior to this trip was to see my dear friend, and spiritual leader, Jonathan Demme, whose passing is nearly a year gone. His mystical ways were still there, in Chicago with us. While we waited to go into the theatre I pulled a photo book off the shelf. It was a picture book celebrating Canada’s centennial. It reminded me of where I had been, and that I was here now, with friends in good spirits.
The crowd was very engaged, the Q and A was very fun. Elliot Roberts lended comic relief and Jonathan came up in the conversation. Afterward, we shared a nice meal together and I met the Wachowskis. They were exceptional humans, bright, kind and compassionate. It was an unexpected honour to meet them, especially since their work (the Matrix) had bent my young mind around cinematic (bullet) time-space, before I ever knew I was to be involved in an accidental filmmaking career.
Another day another plane, off to LA tomorrow for the final of a series of PR screenings.
The Lammel Royal Theatre,
It is a smaller world than you can imagine. On the flight to Los Angeles I met a lovely retired couple that reminded me of my parents, she was a romance novelist, and he was a farmer. We had a great conversation. They were descendant of pioneers, just like me, their family moved to Michigan from upstate New York after the war of 1812 onto land gifted for military service. It is very possible that our ancestors fought against one another in upstate New York and survived, and here we are enjoying each other’s company on an airplane almost 200 years later, learning from each other. That is not even the weird part, She was great friends with the Wachowski’s sister Julie - a fellow writer. The Wachowskis that blew my mind and lifted my spirit the night before.
When we landed in LA we heard the barking of rabid humans again, but didn’t see them. Thankful but still unsettling.
The gravity of the #MarchForOurLives was still with me. Literally millions of people hit the streets all across the USA to speak out (peacefully) against senseless gun violence, perpetuated by unstable people bent on selling weapons. It is madness to me that you need a license to drive a car, training, testing and insurance - but to own a weapon of mass destruction requires no certification. The only people I can see that making sense is to those who sell weapons, fear begats fear, and if someone is scared by a gun, they more are likely to think that perhaps a gun can protect them - simply put that just leads to more deaths. It’s simple math. The kids out marching prove to be smarter than the leaders of the country, that gives me hope.
Another great crowd another great Q&A to finish off the tour. Neil really hit the nail on the head tonight, he said (and I am paraphrasing from memory) “Daryl makes films like I make music, it’s a visual jam, and it comes out the way it’s supposed to feel, Paradox is a song.” Shakey pictures is an embodiment of that naturalism transferred from sound to sight. I love serving that school to the best of my ability, such a great joy! Micah Nelson (the Particle Kid) was there along with his real life lovely lady Alex Descalau. It was wonderful to feel their energy in the room, once again another completely engaged crowd in a packed house. We all went home early, it has been a long and rewarding few days sharing PARADOX with some beautiful human spirits.
PARADOX proves to be a polarizing Rorschach test among viewers. We made something that was inline with our sensitivity to the world around us, and it resonates with like minded folks, but seems to invoke a venomous response from others. It is paradoxical that that is the case. Is that irony? I don’t really know. What I do know is that I have a warm feeling inside at the end of all this, I am honoured to have served the vision of Ms. Daryl Hannah, and the kindred spirits: Neil Young, Dave Toms, Willie, Micah and Lukas Nelson, Elliot Roberts, Charris and Dulcie Ford and their sons Kasius and Phoenix, Anothy Logerfo, Corey McCormick, Tato Melgar, Gooch, Schmoo, Frank, and all the rest of the crew and critters. I feel enriched and replenished to have shared my services to this film and all it represents to the world and glad that it is free to roam.
With all the love and respect in the world, from a plane high above the earth on my way home, So happy together...
Adam “CK” Vollick