Friday, November 16, 2007

Get to know an Asian Canadian Filmmaker: Canadian Spotlight Director, Lesley Loksi Chan

Get to know an Asian Canadian filmmaker #5 (i think)! Lesley Loksi Chan is our Canadian Spotlight artist this year. She's got an impressive cache of work (we couldn't program them all!) so please check out The World of Lesley Loksi Chan programme Saturday, Nov. 17 at 3:30pm at Innis Town Hall. The programme features three world premieres! including one that is "hot off the press" just yesterday!

anyway, on with the interview.

Aram Collier-Where do you draw inspiration for your projects?

Lesley Loksi Chan- Well, all the pathetic stuff is drawn from my own life and all the goodness is stolen from other people’s lives and works. Art is nice. Books are neat. I learn a lot from everyday conversations with my family and friends. We talk a lot of shit, but on occasion interesting content will pop up and I’ll put it in my pocket for later. I think a lot of my pockets have holes though. Good thing I know how to sew.

AC- You have quite a body of work, many of which we didnt have enough space to program. How long have you been making films and typically how long do they take you to make?

LLC- I made my first film at York University. I started going to school there four years ago and I’m still there… I’m gonna graduate soon. For real. My first film was a super8 film and I only saw it once, then I lost it. I really want to see it again, but only because I can never see it again

The shortest time I’ve taken to make a movie is one day and the longest I’ve taken is 8 months. I make a lot of videos at home by myself. Collaborating with people always takes longer...

Hey I just realized something: when I’m collaborating with others I realize that I actually prefer making things on my own. Then I work alone and I realize I am incapable and lonely, so I decide that I should work with others again. Then I collaborate and realize that I don’t like people at all and I really should make projects all by myself forever and ever... And somehow, in between all these serial epiphanies, movies get made. Weird. Whoops I just re-read your question and I noticed that this epiphany-pattern-thing has nothing to do with your question, but I won’t delete it cause I think self-revelations should count for something.

AC-There's always stuff that has to be 'left on the cutting room floor" what would be a "deleted scene" from one of your films? Something you loved but it didn't work.

LLC-Deleted scenes! My sister was just telling me that I need to make a movie with bloopers at the end. It doesn’t matter what the movie is as long as there are bloopers. Can’t go wrong with bloopers. Everybody loves bloopers.

Deleted scenes that I love but didn’t work? I don’t love anything. Or anyone. Remember that.

But my DREAM deleted scene would be one where a gaffer gallops hysterically into the shot and takes a fit because they just can’t stand all the goddamn floral patterns all over the place… OR maybe one where my main actor (who is probably my sister) replaces the fake red wine with REAL red wine and gets shit-faced and starts criticizing the script. Oh wait, that really did happen. Sisters! Bloopers! Gotta love ‘em.

AC -Your films deal with sometimes very difficult subject matter; violence, poverty, parenthood, relationships, race, sexualtiy and love. Yet, they're often wrapped up in a package that is both accessible and provoking. In particular, there's a manufactured tenderness that also makes your films so 'real'. you know what I mean? for example "i no i no" talks about some heavy shit, but your voice over is delivered almost as if you're telling a bedtime story, which creates a very compelling tension. How have you cultivated this style of storytelling? were there any works of other artists that may have influenced this style? (or if its totally your own that's cool too)

LLC - Well, I’m just a cold-hearted bitch and that’s why I can approach such topics with such a sensibility.

In terms of “i no I no”, I think it’s interesting when people talk about/hear difficult stories being told with ease. We expect women to cry, to stutter, to be hysterical and angry about violences. Obviously. Rightfully so. But what might happen if someone talked about violences in an unexpected way? To speak unemotionally about violence (especially a woman) is a very unexpected tone. Using a detached and dismissive tone can be read as a strategy to raise questions about normalized discourse of violence.

In “My Best Rape So Far” I spoke about rape as if it was an everyday occurrence – which it is. To speak plainly about taboo subjects, to use a tone that is polite rather than antagonistic, provokes people. People usually find that video disturbing and heartbreaking, but I’ve also seen people who find it funny too.

Yes there many are others who employ a similar style. Performance artist Karen Finley comes to mind. In 1990 she did an installation called “A Woman’s Life Isn’t Worth Much.” Check it out.

AC - further to this idea of tension in your work is your framing of characters in space. typically, most film and TV we see never shoot people straight on, but you use that a lot, which creates an awkwardness.

LLC - Yes, there are so many films that use symmetry for different reasons. “Harold and Maude” is one of my favourite films that uses ample straight-on shots. It’s so straight it’s absurd.

I used symmetry for certain shots because I think the characters in my movies try to contain and make orderly the messiness of their lives. No matter how hard they try to keep things ‘proper’, the reality seeps through and the imposed structure breaks down. Their realities are leaky and gross, very asymmetrical.

AC - how did you do your animations in Wanda and Miles?

LLC - All the animation was done by hand (stop-motion). I made the puppets and things out of paper and fabric. The scab animation (scabimation) was animated by the brilliant Christopher Walsh. I wanted him to animate the biology because he is a stop-motion genius and I knew he could make stiff fabric and plastic beads flow like a fluid blood stream. I admire his work so much. The animation sequences with the boy scratching his head were supposed to look awkward and clunky so those were animated by me and my fellow classmate Dusty Mancinelli. Dusty was a great collaborator. Both Christopher Walsh and Dusty Mancinelli make films too.

AC - you seem to have some really great textiles and fabrics going on in your films,

LLC - Thank you. Textiles are fabulous artifacts. Wallpaper too. These can draw emotional responses from me just as much as facial expressions and movements of hands.

AC - Are all your films in Hamilton? if so, Can you talk about how Hamilton plays a part, both in your films and in your experience that informs the film.

LLC - Yup. Hamilton. I make films here because I am a homebody. I shoot around here because I’m familiar with my apartment and a smallish radius around it. I’m a wimp. Toronto scares me. Oh but I did shoot in the soundstage at York for “Wanda & Miles”. And I did shoot in Kensington Market for my last movie. Hey I’m growing up, Aram!

AC - What is your next project/what are you working on now? Can we expect to see films like "She Searched For Change", "Renewing My Race Card" and "Puppets That Move" soon?

LLC - After “Traveling to Tuesday” I am going to hibernate and make bean bags. Did you know I’ve been making bean bags? Official Announcement: I’m going to give away bean bags at my screening. So if you come to my screening you might get a bean bag! The movies aren’t that good, but the bean bags are beautiful.

AC - what's the story behind your headshot? (everybody's got a story about their headshot)

LLC - Oh that headshot I gave Reel Asian is only good if you can see it in its entirety – which I don’t think you can in the program. In any case, I like that pic because of the huge white floppy ladies’ underwear hanging out of the dresser behind me, but somebody cropped the image and now you can only see my head. Whoever cropped it should’ve kept the underwear, not my face. I like the underwear because it makes me think of ‘airing dirty laundry’ and unfinished/unattended domestic labour – things that I associate with filmmaking.

LLC - Actually, I’m going to send you my REAL headshot. Last year I was assistant coach for my kid’s basketball team. Making films is nothing compared to that gig.

Lesley Loksi Chan, Canadian Spotlight Director and BALLER!