“Movies are regarded in the sequence of Mythology, stories and drama,
as expressions of often obscure fantasies in the people
among whom they are produced and diffused.”
Martha Wolfenstein and Nathan Leites.
The First Point,
Narrative films use sequential images to communicate statically, which is why the diversity and assignment of opposition becomes very important to communicating story through the medium. The story, most-often requires an oscillation, or conflict between the protagonist and either an antagonist or the environment. The conflict as it relates to the story, assigns two points in which the story begins and ends. The opening (first point) introduces the protagonist(s) and conflict. The end (second point) closes the story by resolving the conflict. The body of the film is comprised of the oscillation between the protagonist(s) and the conflict. Throughout, the film imposes believability into the arch of the story as it progresses from its definite beginning to its end and the body. Composing the language in which a proposed objective reality is introduced into our own subjective realities and read as a fluid story. Objective reality alludes to a reality that exists outside of your mind and subjective reality suggests the interpreted inner reality, in which all of us live separate from one another. In other words, subjective reality is the world in which we perceive ourselves existing in as individuals.
Lindsay the Alchemist is my narrative film.
Lindsay (Pip Dwyer) is a twenty to thirty-something locked in a basement with nothing to accompany her aside from the bare essentials for survival and a Video Camera for a companion. Lindsay has done this because she is changing into something. She has little information as to what she is becoming, though she believes the outcome present a threat to the general public. Lindsay’s camera becomes the outlet for nearly all her thoughts and revelations through her time locked up.
“Lindsay the Alchemist” (2006)
Running time: 21:05
Lindsay was developed through a combination of medical, theoretical and heuristic research. With a lot of attention placed on the character and themes of isolation. The medical research was organized around symptoms of mental illness, such as Schizophrenia, Depression and Bi-Polar Disorder, however for the sake of consistency, I’ll only focus on symptoms of Schizophrenia (though some are shared between each illness) as it relates to character and story development.
Many of the characters idiosyncrasies were referenced directly in the performance and some written directly into the rhythm of dialogue in scenes. In the early development of the Lindsay character a lot of effort went into constructing the physicality of Lindsay through the application of symptoms of Schizophrenia. How a Schizophrenic would behave in various situations, one example is the symptom of disorganized speech, in which the Schizophrenic often connects sentences or words by association and not logic. So in some cases words and sentences often come out incoherent, disorganized and end up sounding like a word jumble. This is most noticeably featured in scenes eight and nine, in which Lindsay explores all these traits fully.
(See script for Scene 8 & 9 Dialogue)
Schizophrenics exhibit inappropriate behaviour for a given situation, in some extremes catatonic behaviour during a particularly rousing event, or displaying excitement and are active during periods that require a person to be docile. All of which were depicted in scenes six and seven, in which Lindsay although is waiting on an impending attack through a manifestation of her physical change is occupying her time conversing with herself and dancing. There are numerous characteristics to Schizophrenia that affected the physicality of Lindsay that were originally envisioned and written into the character like, flattened speech, awkward gesturing and slowed movements. All of which were outlined during rehearsals with the actor (Pip Dwyer) who played Lindsay, and were integrated into her characterization and performance of Lindsay.
Some emphasis has been placed in clinical studies of transmutation, both chemical and human. Carl Jung had made some relative connections to people desiring a form of alchemy. Jung used a base term called “Axiom of Maria” as a metaphor for the process people undergo in becoming individual. This is through the process of alchemy, in which two opposites join and become dual characteristics, the two then become a third and that third is the resolve required for the fourth, the fourth is a state of rest, peace and wholeness that a person had not possessed before. The process of moving from the third to the fourth is a transcendent, literally accomplishes the person to a new level of consciousness. It was through these terms and theories that the title was derived from.
Photos by Marshall Byrd Sterling
“Is gender a deadly virus? A malignant infection injected into babies from birth, that point where
the culture war between the sexes fuses with the molecular process of cellular division,
becoming hard-wired into our identity as girls and boys,
then women and men?”
Arthur and Marilouise Kroker
Developing a sense of self.
The word, the sentence, the phrase carries as much importance today as it has before. The only difference being the reductive forms in which we read and understand today through developed icons. In “Mythologies” by Roland Barthes the contemporary Myth and its language is broken down through the science of semiotics in what Barthes calls a “tri-dimensional pattern”. This pattern is comprised of, first a signifier, second the signified and third the sign. The sign is the associative whole of the signifier and signified. The signifier is the ambiguous form in which the sign is adopts. The signified is the content in which it represents. With this we are now engaged with Barthes premise for contemporary mythology. Combine Barthes language of myths with Fredric Jameson’s interrogation of individuality from “Postmodernism and Consumer Society” in which Jameson outlines the abandonment of individual autonomy as depicted through the enlightenment and modernist periods in favour of today’s reality in which the idealism of an autonomous person is not only passé, even ridiculous in many ways.
“Individualism and personal identity is a thing of the past;
that the old individual or individualist subject is dead;
and that one might even describe the concept of the unique individual
and theoretical basis of individualism as ideological.”
Jameson’s bleak perspective on what he refers to as “the Death of the Subject” can then be carried over into Adorno and Horkhiemer’s critique of industrialization and the emergence of the corporate citizen from “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception”. In which the authors outline the homogenization of culture through generalities transposed on to a population through uniform or standardized production methods. Essentially lowering the standards of the consumer by accepting products manufactured through mass production, reducing people to a type of “one size fits all” mentality, for lack of better words. The lowered standard and homogenization of production methods transpose themselves into forms of culture, including art. Needless to say its effect on the language in which we view culture is passed through all commodities and imbued in the population. Now we draw back to Barthes and his proposed language of myths, using the critical groundwork laid by Adorno, Horkhiemer and Jameson we ask, how we view representations of ourselves?
It is in frame of Adorno and Horkhiemer that the reinforced identities of gender are present. Present through simple reductive forms, generalizations and stereotypes that we have developed in the ever-broadening call to arms in the free market. In other words, gender is so passé. And, oh wow!!! Gender is the new pink.
Lindsay is my manifestation of the remains and the cultural significance of the attack and the death, the violent eschewal of limitation through a homogenized stigmatism of forced labels, or what Barthes would call Myths. With no sense of iconography or classification through personified characteristics that may connect gender to culture in anyway Lindsay is nameless and faceless, but another story occurs in the forensic identity and this is a pivotal juxtaposition that is what the Krokers argue to be the birth of the third sex. This in it is raw form can be considered a behaviorist position, since it is relating the study and deconstruction of the environment to strip the layers of conditioning away to reveal what is the individual. This proposed “New Sex” is one that does not have imposed signs or clear limitation through definable margins as seen through the hetero-normative, white, male gaze, the gaze born of colonialism and industrialization, through the lowered standards imposed by our “one size fits all” mentality and the abandonment of autonomy.
Here is my conflict, and I accept it. I wrote Lindsay as a human, without acknowledging gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and denomination, sculpting the character out of what is universal to us all, an experience. However, this is a tool of convention the same as gender, I am using the same reoccurring themes to tell the story of this film that almost all narrative films use. I am familiarizing the character and the journey through shared knowledge and emotion. This story was to be told almost like recalling a memory of your own, one in which you have performed or lived something that someone else may know nothing about, but is still relevant to you as a person. Ultimately I am utilizing the same pastiche I am criticizing, through Barthes language of contemporary mythology. Drawing upon universals as signification, and apply the character of Lindsay as the form to compose the myth, the grand myth of Lindsay the Alchemist. There is a reason behind this. Lindsay as a character, I sought to be indelibly human, someone we could all identify with in some form or another. It was my idea that in order to create a character that could move past the confines of common physical identifiers that would compromise the integrity of the character and the story. I had to remove elements that I found to be limiting. And then activating the character through identifies that are slightly more ambiguous and do not affiliate the character with cultural tropes such as gender or sexual orientation. Identifiers like mental illness accommodate physicality and cadence in which the basis of the characterization could commence. The casting was decided by simply choosing who I felt was the best performer.
I started working with the actor integrating the scripted attributes of Lindsay into her own and improvisation to further the characterization of Lindsay. Collaborating with her to project the Lindsay actualized.
Storyboards & Scouting.
“The expression “change places” shows how closely we identify a person’s behaviour with the environment in which it occurs.”
Character vs. Environment.
Environment vs. Character.
Lindsay’s naivety is reflected in her selection of space for her confinement. The basement Lindsay has locked herself in is cold, stale and dirty, an inspiring place for self-abuse and isolation. It is a place that has endured the duress of time, quiescent and still. Potentially archaic in contrast to the character, but influential in determining Lindsay’s defeat and re-contextualization of her circumstance, the basement is framed with the character in mind. The basement is void of stimuli; a break in that void is always activated by Lindsay (e.g. Scene four in which Lindsay recalls the first manifestation of her proposed physical changes). This theme is repeated throughout the piece. Lindsay occupies the space, and is the only source of entertainment. Her boredom becomes visible, and her patience is worn out by the waiting, until she resolves her situation by deciding to leave the basement. However, through her own doing has trapped herself, so the environment is activated in scene twelve in a shift in conflict. The conflict being that Lindsay has resolved her previous struggle with the physical change, but through her won actions has locked herself in an unforgiving environment, and discarded the only key.
Script & Logistics.
The Second Point,
the end in service of a beginning.
My Narrative film uses sequential images to communicate statically, which is why the diversity and assignment of opposition becomes very important to communicating the story through the medium. The story, often requires an oscillation, or conflict between the protagonist and either an antagonist or the environment. In Lindsay the Alchemist the oscillation occurs in a single character with a set of self-assigned extremes, acts of self-mutilation and self-imposed imprisonment. The conflict as it relates to the story, assigns two points in which the story begins and ends, in this particular piece the origin is designed to establish the character in opposition of some ominous change that may or may not actualize. The second point being that the initial conflict is resolved, but Lindsay’s choice to lock herself in the basement, leaves her even more frightened and truly alone with herself. The body of the film is comprised of the oscillation between the protagonist and the conflict, the initial manifested of a supposed change, and then the anxiety of waiting for something else to happen. Throughout, the film imposes believability into the arch of the story as it progresses from its definite beginning to its end, and the body.
Make Up & Teaser.
Photos by Marshall Byrd Sterling
Sam Pryse Phillips
Make Up Art
Continuity and Assisting Art Director
“Waiting,” “No Control” and “I did this”
Written/produced/performed by Benjamin Dickerson (pomophobe)
“Opening credit suite” and “End credit suite”
Written/produced/performed by Pat C and Brenden K (Museum)
Mom, Dad, Stac’, Bilbo, Rob, August & Vaughan