(actress Sarah Coleman)
Last summer I embarked on a project called HELL. Nine short films (really short 1-2 minutes each) with nine different actresses interpreting the nine circles of Hell from Dante’s Inferno. My inspirations for the idea were varied: Long ago, I entered a one-minute play contest with a one-minute version of the Inferno and always wanted to return to the idea; my work seems to be fond of the Underworld lately (Hell, Persephone, Weeping Woman, and Titania); I was busting out of a skin I’d been wearing as an artist far too long and my creative brain was experimenting with new styles and more direct messages; I was looking at artists I admire like Molly Crabapple and her “Shell Game” series of paintings – beautiful, evocative, fearless and female and knew that was inside me somewhere and it was time for it to come out. All that together started a journey of risk and trust with my actresses and myself. And I think it’s some of the strongest work I’ve ever done.
We’re currently in various states of production. Lust, Limbo, Anger, and Violence are all in post, Gluttony is in production, and Greed, Fraud, Heresy and Treachery are in pre-production. (I must confess the script for Treachery is proving to be a lot more fun than I ever thought!)
(images above: Limbo, Anger, Violence)
The best thing about this project so far are the conversations I’ve had with each actress as we write the story for their circle together. They’ve confided in me some very deep feelings and dark secrets as to how their particular circle of sin has affected their lives. What has resulted is a different style and unique voice (with my direction) for each short. It was unexpected really. I didn’t know they would reveal so much to me – which I will never confess to anyone else. And in turn, I shared some hidden bruises and wild thoughts that I never thought I’d tell. It means the world and has given me one of those projects that changes and strengthens me as artist. And for that – I am forever grateful.
As I make progress with each one, I’ll post about it here. First up – LUST.
LUST features actress Sarah Coleman – also a painter and producer from Los Angeles. We’ve decided to take a darker look at lust and focus on society’s nervous reaction to it – those instances where sexuality is seen as a threat and not as a pleasure. When uncontrollable urges are met with a mix of desire and disdain. The scene in “Zorba the Greek” when the widow is stoned was a big influence on us. Why would a village of men who were so in love with, or in lust with, a woman kill her because she dare to choose one over another? Why does yearning turn to anger: When you can’t fulfill it? When you can’t control it? When it’s not acceptable? Is it this that makes Lust a sin and confines it to the Underworld? Why is it not beautiful? And when does it turn ugly?
So many questions, and answers, depending on whether you are the one lusting or being lusted after. That is the point of this series really – to invite the viewer to answer questions about each one of these circles and bring their own experiences to the screen. We’ve certainly laid bare a lot that we never really wanted to talk about to make the shorts, and I must say it’s rather freeing.
We shot “Lust” on a beach near Destin, FL. Joining Sarah were George Kendrick and Tito Rogers – both of whom look like they’ve walked out of a 1960’s Italian neo-realist film, perfect for the style I chose for this short. All the films are in black and white – with hints of color. (“Anger” is the only film in full color, because I think anger is colorful)
For the most part I grounded my camera on its tripod and and framed her story inside a box that gets smaller and smaller. The image closes in on her as the intensity of the men grows and backs her into the ocean. It’s not an easy thing to play and my actors were wonderful. When you’re making such a short film, and one that is making somewhat of an open ended statement you don’t have time to get deep into a character or watch them grow throughout the film. Their emotions change quite a bit in two minutes – and it’s alarming. Maybe her choice at the end (not seen in the clip below) is not what you would have done. But who knows until you’ve been there? If you have, then you’ll either relate to the film, yell at it, applaud it, or hide from it. As long as you’re honest with yourself – that’s all I’m asking.
From here I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. HELL will make the film festival circuit starting this summer, but I’ll put clips online for viewing so everyone can see the difference in sins.
“Abandon all hope ye who enter here.” Welcome to Hell.
To view 30 seconds of “Lust” (without soundtrack) click HERE