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PEOPLEText: Ben Upham

Your film has a more traditional narrative quality to it than the video projects a lot of graphic designers are doing which tend to be more abstract and focused on the design and music.

Yes, its been a gradual evolution for me to approach narrative and story. Screenwriting is something of a foreign territory for me, the next frontier. My first big art project after college was NATOarts a fictional arts organization we created that was supposedly the conceptual art branch of NATO. I focused on designing the installations and marketing materials while my partner, Alexander Perls, was the writer. Together we went out of our way to construct very elaborate histories and narratives for all the elements of the organization, an entire fictional universe that confused viewers into thinking it was real. This is what made it interesting for me, to have conceptual art that was very rich and detailed in its execution. I am approaching film with a similar attitude, I am interested in ideas, concepts and communicating a certain emotional tone. But I want to be able to illustrate that world with a rich environment and that inevitably seems to involve stories. Once you reach a certain density of visual or other information, the human brain begins to naturally interpret a story even if there isn’t meant to be one. I want to approach story the same way I do design, seeing it as a collage process, learning the language of narrative elements and then combining those in new and interesting ways to make stories.

Perfect Heat

I liked the soundtrack for the film a lot, who composed the music?

Its a track by Mika Vainio of Pan Sonic which comes from one of his solo albums, Ydin. I was originally using the music as a temp track and trying to find composers, but I felt that it fit so perfectly I might as well try and ask if I could use it. I got in touch with Mika and Ivan Coh of Wavetrap records who put out Ydin and they both agreed. I was thrilled, it was like a dream come true. I am a huge fan of Mika’s music. One of the great joys in filmmaking is watching the combination of music and moving image come together. Its like cheese and meat, peanut butter and jelly.

Perfect Heat

What are your thoughts on Japan and Japanese design?

I was in Japan several years ago, actually we shot a film for the NATOarts project there. It was amazing, I was totally blown away by the alienness of the experience, it felt like visiting another planet. I thought Tokyo would be quite dirty and scary, like something out of Akira. But instead everything seemed very clean and well organized. The shapes of the buildings were unlike anyplace I’d been before, a lot of them look like ship parts with round portholes for windows and metal walls. I love the uniqueness and intensity of Japanese design, there is clearly a lot of passion in Japan for visual communication.

Tell me briefly a little bit about your last film, ‘Golf Xpress’.

Golf Xpress was my first serious attempt to combine design with filmmaking. Its an interactive golf tutorial hosted by a synthetic personality, Bruce Johnson, who has a penchant for violence and psychosis. Bruce Johnson is trapped in his cheesy commercial world of sports TV that is falling apart, devouring itself and him. I think a lot of this film was inspired by my frustration at working in the corporate design world at the time. I wrote it with a poet friend of mine, Peter Twickler, who also plays the lead role. Its a dark comedy, it was great fun to make.

What do you have planned for future projects?

I’m focusing mostly on directing and animating film and video projects and I do client design work through my company Snow23. I’m finishing up an animated video about a school shooting for the German based band, Circ, and I’d love to do more videos in the future. One of the things I love about filmmaking is that it is a collaborative process and I’m always looking for new designers, musicians, writers, etc. to work with. As far as my personal work goes, I’m getting into screenwriting and working towards writing and directing a feature. One of the script ideas I’m developing is based on the life of the Italian designer Carlo Mollino. After he died in the seventies, they discovered a secret cache of erotic polaroid photos he had been taking of women in his villa. The film would follow his life and the obsession he had with these women, in fact (this is my own embellishment) his desire to become a woman and how this ultimately leads to his death.

Miska Draskoczy
Address: 515 Greenwich Street, #203, New York, NY 10013

Text: Ben Upham

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