By Ryan McPherson
When it comes to cinematic experiences there are popcorn flicks, indie darlings, and then there’s a film like Slo Light. A film that might only be able to be categorized as a moving painting. Or maybe filmed experiments of artistic expression. Or maybe a music video encompassing the emotions of an entire album.
I guess it’s safe to say we have no idea how to categorize it at this point. Judging from what we have seen, it’s like nothing we’ve ever seen. Slo Light is a partnership between director Dominic Lahiff, producer Cynthia Angel, and musician Neil Davidge of Massive Attack fame. They had a vision to turn what we know about cinema on its head and if the teaser trailer is any indication, our heads are definitely spinning.
We had the pleasure of speaking to Angel about the questions we were dying to have answered; unfortunately it only created more questions and we feel we’ve only scratched the surface. We hope to continue to speak to her throughout the process and provide you with updates as they come. Please check out the trailer we have embedded and if you are able, please consider making a donation to their Kickstarter campaign.
This is a 12 part series based around the music of Neil Davidge. What came first, the story or the music? And where did the idea come from to put them together?
We first collaborated with Neil Davidge in 2013. We had been commissioned to create a film for the American Museum Of Natural History. I reached out to Neil to see if he’d be interested in creating the soundtrack as I’ve always been a fan of his work with Massive Attack
and thought why not, the worst that can happen is he ignores me or is not interested. Neil replied with excitement at the opportunity and sent us his album Slo Light
and asked us which track we’d be interested in licensing. We listened to the album several times and chose the track “That Fever”.After completing the film for the Museum of Natural History we continued to listen to the album. It haunted us. The more we listened the more we could discern a strong narrative thread running throughout .The different shades and movements of the tracks suggested both light and dark moods, masculine and feminine.We had long since wanted to tell a story which would shift from the male to the female perspective and in doing so would challenge traditional audience expectations. A kind of reverse take on Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho
if you will. Too often in films are we asked to identify with a male protagonist and his quest to overcome insurmountable odds. Too often do we see female characters subjugated to secondary status by the male gaze, by the lens of a camera and by social construct. We’ve always enjoyed films which reverse these roles and confound expectations- classic films noirs such as Double Indemnity
, Scarlet Street
and Out Of The Past
, 70s horror such as Don’t Look Now
and modern-day dark fables like Gone Girl
and Ex Machina
.Drawing on our inspirations and Neil’s music, a story began to take shape, we approached Neil and his team with our ideas and they loved them and came on board. We did a music video for him for the lead track off the album, “Gallant Foxes”, which explored the themes just a bit. Ever since, we have been working on developing the story, our approach and visuals for about 2 years now. We love working with Neil, our styles mesh perfectly: his cinematic music and our visuals seem to be a beautiful marriage of image and sound.
The Slo Light film will be unusual both in its narrative structure and its cinematic format- 12 chapters each set to a track from the Slo Light album.
It seems like every aspect of your project is attempting to break the mold from what we’ve come to know as “standard” Hollywood cinema. You make specific mention of how destructive the male gaze can be, but yet you can easily find numerous examples in mainstream cinema. Why do you think this has been the standard in the film industry since, essentially, its inception? And do you think it will take new and non-traditional story telling like yours to change these standards?
The innovations of the 90s independent film movement have been for the most part subsumed by the mainstream. The tropes of mainstream cinema are now more worn and clichéd than ever- overtly masculine movies full of CGI aliens/robots/superheroes. The male gaze championed by the historically male driven studio system with a man standing behind the lens of a camera is still writ large.
However there is hope. With the rise of the internet and digital distribution we are again on the cusp of a new revolution. Different voices are being heard and different stories are being told. I think audiences are more open to and seeking a different perspective, a female perspective.
We hope that in making this film it will inspire those who are dispossessed, disenfranchised or voiceless will have the courage to come forward and tell their own stories and have their own voices heard.
Judging from the trailer, there is definitely some aspects reminiscent of noir films, but there is so much more. How would you categorize Slo Light for those curious as to what to expect?
Slo Light is a mystery revenge thriller which draws on elements of noir to create dreamlike visuals. As far as a category, it is difficult to narrow it down to just one. Slo Light is a nuanced, keenly observed psychological study and is especially interesting to me in that it offers a provoking exploration of women’s relationships with their sisters, friends, lovers and sons. The creative input, actors and crew together bring a wide spectrum of outlook and experience including American, Colombian, British-Irish, Ecuadorian, African and French to name a few.
It’s not often a film lacking dialogue gains widespread appeal with general audiences. Were there any concerns involved with this creative decision and how it might be received?
There are concerns involved with producing a dialogue free film as it is not something contemporary audiences are used to. However cinema is a primarily a visual medium. If the images created are captivating enough then they should be capable of holding an audience’s attention. Returning to a type of pure cinema enables a filmmaker to reshape and redefine the medium in new and beautiful ways. By making our film dialogue free we have made a conscious choice to create a sensory experience. Neil’s music is extremely cinematic and married to our visuals our aim is to evoke emotion and feeling through movement and sound on a visceral level.
From what we can tell, it appears your actors have very challenging performances. What went into their casting and how did you decide who could meet those challenges?
We went through an intensive casting process where we broke down each fictional character’s story into a series of key moments. Actors who auditioned were asked to act out these key moments many times over. After going through several rounds of auditions over the period of a couple of months we gradually narrowed it down until we arrived at our current cast, two of whom can be seen in our teaser trailer.
On the basis of my own experience of working in the industry, I know that at this stage in my career as a novice independent producer, it would be highly unlikely that a large studio or corporation would be prepared to take the risk of backing this untried project.Yet I firmly believe that such innovative initiatives should find expression in American cinema and so I am appealing to others who share my vision to help us bring this project to fruition by pledging a donation to make our vision a creative reality.
What can you tell us about where you are currently in the process and when should we be looking forward to the completed project?
We are currently fundraising via Kickstarter
and via private investors and if successful will release the completed project early to mid 2016.
For more information follow Slo Light on Twitter, Facebook, and their website.