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Washington Voices

Head Juice is on a roll

Thu., June 18, 2009

Filmmakers’ surprising passion: film

If you didn’t know what was going on, your imagination would certainly run wild. Their hours are sporadic, not 9-to-5, and they often carry odd things like a stuffed chicken, a petrified squirrel or a bag of bones into the old warehouse on Spokane’s North Side.

If you go around back and peer through the fence into the yard area, piles of rusty cans and strange twisted things might make you wonder if Frankenstein is lying on a slab inside. If you are so lucky as to be spying when the back industrial door slides open and get a peek inside, you will probably think that you’re “not in Kansas anymore.”

It is recognizably a kitchen and a grand room with a fireplace, but not the kind you would find in an ordinary house; rather, in the dreams/nightmares of Tim Burton or Dr. Seuss. It is created chaos – askew, twisted and melted. It is the set made for Head Juice Productions’ latest short film.

“Our current project is an attempt to channel the ideals of German expressionism into a modern work. Everything on the set was made to be recognizable but distorted and twisted, reimagined to such a degree as to make them hardly recognizable as their functional counterparts in the real world,” Mike Corrigan said.

Corrigan, Derrick King, Travis Hiibner and Gary McLeod are the four filmmakers that make up Head Juice, which began in 2004. The quartet does not work in video but film – 8 and 16 mm. “We’ve all admitted to ourselves that were it not for film, with its beautiful luminescent qualities, depth of field, serendipitous and unpredictable nature and richness of tone, none of us would even be making films,” Corrigan said. “It’s the pleasure, the thrill, the privilege of working with such a magical, physical medium that gives us the rush, and that binds us together as a filmmaking team.” The team has made a few films, including “What’s in the Barn?” The film won first place in a short film competition at the Northwest Film Forum in Seattle. The prize, $2,500 and some free equipment rental, has helped fund Head Juice’s recent production, which is yet to be titled.

“It’s a Grimm’s-style fairytale that will incorporate many styles of filmmaking,” Hiibner said.

Working with film is more difficult than video and requires sharp skills. Video is easier because you can do retakes as often as needed and it’s cheaper. Film is hand-processed, often in buckets in a dark room. “Time and money is always an obstacle with a project; even the smallest film becomes incredibly expensive and difficult. We use equipment that barely functions and most resources that support film are not local, so Seattle is a common journey,” Hiibner said. “One thing working to our advantage is a creative bunch of friends with the same mindset and love of art. These friends are our actors, resources and support. They are wonderful and we are forever grateful, plus they work for cheap (beer and food). Without them it just wouldn’t be possible.”

The four filmmakers are attracted to experimental/avant-garde filmmaking where rules hardly exist, giving free rein to the imagination. “What we really love about film is that it encompasses so many different forms of art.” McLeod said, “Writing, composing music, acting, photography, painting, design and many more elements must all come together to make a strong film. Anywhere there is a weak link it really brings down the quality of the entire piece. That makes filmmaking very challenging. What makes it rewarding is that if you do it right you will captivate people and they will be drawn in and lose themselves in your art.”

Head Juice hopes to have their experimental fairy tale completed by September.


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