Thursday, February 10, 2011

Kentucker Audley on "Open Five"

What was your filmmaking background before making Open Five?

KENTUCKER: Right out of high school I began borrowing cameras and making short films, and learning to edit. I went to art school initially but dropped out after a year to work and write a script. I got a job at FedEx unloading packages, went to work every morning at 5 AM, got home and worked on the script for a year. My parents became concerned that I wasn't going back to school until eventually my dad told he'd give me $2,000 to make my first film if I went back to school and graduated.

I took the offer and 3 years later I graduated, and that's how we made Team Picture. Two years later in '08 we made Holy Land with the money we made from our Team Picture DVD deal.

What was the writing process like?

KENTUCKER: The last couple years I've tried to write less and less. With Team Picture I was eventually unsatisfied with how 'written' and joke-based the film was. So I gave up on writing jokes initially and then gave up on any writing whatsoever.

During that period it was hard for me to watch a film and not be distracted by the writing. All I could hear was the writer writing, actors saying the writer's lines. But I wanted to hear everyone onscreen. Even the best writer in the world doesn't get it right, how people actually talk.

So I started working from the foundation that if I let other people write their own parts, I'd end up with more life onscreen. Not just me, other people. Team Picture was just me, and I didn't think that was enough. The subsequent films Holy Land and Open Five are not me whatsover except the scenes I'm physically onscreen.

What type of camera did you use to shoot the film and what did you like about it .... and hate about it?

KENTUCKER: We filmed with the Panasonic HVX. I don't care what camera we use technically. I don't have quality judgments to make on any camera pro or con. The only consideration I have deciding on a camera is to use a camera that everyone's using, ultimately so the film looks like now, the day and age it was made.

I was never interested in shooting on film for nostalgia or aesthetic reasons. Mainly because I can't objectively view film image quality as beautiful or not. (Everyone used to think the 80's home video look was terrible and cheap, but now it feels incredibly strange and evocative and expressive. The digital video quality from a couple years ago that everyone decried as the death of cinema will have its own feel 20 years from now that will try to be replicated and declared better-than by some.)

Everyone says Team Picture looks like shit. But the whole point was to use a common camera and not manipulate anything, down to not changing the factory setttings. And besides, I don't want to make visually dynamic films. I don't want you, the audience, to have anything to fall back on if you don't care about the characters interactions. I want to make it difficult to see the quality so that you can't like it for superficial reasons.

That being said, we're using the Canon 7D for our new film, Open Five 2, which is generally considered to produce beautiful images, but the reason I'm using it is because it's the new trend.

Did the film change much during the edit?

KENTUCKER: Open Five came together pretty quickly, which was the goal coming off of Holy Land which took years to shape. But yeah, of course, it still changed dramatically over the course of several months.

As far as the basic structure though, there wasn't much wriggle room, in that the film takes place largely over one weekend. We always had specific ideas of how Friday should feel, and how Saturday and Sunday should feel. With Holy Land, I experimented tremendously with the edit. At various points, I had incorporated still photos, home videos, stock footage, and narration.

What was the smartest thing you did during production? The dumbest?

KENTUCKER: Nothing really stands out as particularly smart or dumb. You might think that having your real friends and girlfriend in your movie is dumb. Particularly when you delay important emotional conversations so you can film them (waiting until the shooting schedule allows), but doing in this way is essential to the types of films they are.

I always say the tensions that spring up behind the scenes are always more interesting than the actual film, and I want it that way. The really good stuff doesn't belong in the movies. I hold on to that stuff myself. That's why these films are often considered borderline films. People see my films and say things like the "well, the acting is believable, and the situations are believeable, but it's not a movie."

But to me if the acting and situations are believable the film is a complete success. Those my only goals. I'm not in search of the most dynamic or the most heartbreaking or uplifting story. I'm in search of ordinary situations, nothing over-heated or life-or-death.

I guess this is getting away from the original question.

That’s okay. So, finally, what did you learn from making the film that you can take to other projects?

KENTUCKER: I'm not good with lessons learned. I guess all experience adds up to something, but as far as extracting any single lesson, my brain can't work in that way.

But I'm glad I had a chance to work with everyone involved. And several of them, notably Jake Rabinbach and Caroline White, I'm working on a sequel with. Obviously it is helpful for continuing artistic relationships to put it to the test.

Okay, one more question -- how did you get the name Kentucker?

KENTUCKER: I'm from Kentucky. When I moved to Memphis, I started going by Kentucker. It's a take off on the soldier at war nicknaming system, I.E. you go by the state you're from.

Kentucker stars in the film BAD FEVER, which is premiering at SXSW in March.

Learn more about Kentucker at his website: