Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Bar Snakes

They Bite Like Snakes, or They Fool Around Like Kids

An Interview with Alex Warren and Kate Adams

October 2020


CRAIG KELLER: Why the short format, or rather: The short format: now more than ever?

ALEX WARREN: The short format — now more than ever, yes! Why not? What is time? 

Where's the invention? Where are the people who burst out of themselves? In this case with Bar Snakesit felt nice to focus on a simple and tense structure. Also, we have no money, so this was a cheap way to do it. 

CRAIG KELLER: But the one obstacle that arises for me in terms of getting provisionally lost in a film (of any length) is: How to watch: Vimeo, YouTube, etc... and on iPad, iPhone, or sitting down in a desk chair before a computer. To throw the film up onto an AppleTV or Roku or Fire et al takes a couple steps before. Maybe none as off-putting as what you'd do anyway to get something off of an iTunes rental, if one were to tally the number of button clicks from cognitive choice to now-the-film-is-playing. What are your feelings about this at this particular point in time (which could be drastically different even a year from now)?

ALEX WARREN: Yeah, I agree, lots of various and potentially annoying/distracting options to get your streaming situation up in an inviting way.

I think that any sort of experience of getting lost in any artform takes a desire and an effort from the viewer/listener. There's always going to be an obstacle. Getting to the theater from across town, streaming from the living room at your home, watching something with a group, the helicopter flying over your house multiple times during the movie, etc. There's always something.
Maybe it's essential for us as an audience to try and take ourselves back to a time when we cared. If the movie is worth a shit and you have the ability to access desire, then a lostness is possible regardless of the viewing medium. Maybe an additional question could be how do we find ways to access our deepest emotions and feelings during a time of seemingly endless, mindless consumption options?  

CRAIG KELLER: I'm no COVID-refuter, but what changes, in all seriousness, were exacted upon the shoot due to the virus? If you could say a little about the table-shot, maskless, that would be great, as it's an observation of asshole'ishness, and yet how nothing can really stop a crush, and yet is really shot as it is, maskless.

ALEX WARREN: We shot outside on the patio of the Lyric Hyperion Theater which made it easy for the small crew to spread out. Everyone not in front of camera wore masks and actors wore masks in between takes. Kate and I felt comfortable doing the scene together without masks after we both were tested the day before and got negative results. 

CRAIG KELLER: Kate, what is your story in general, in terms of background? Are you LA born? If not how long have you lived there? How did you meet Alex?

KATE ADAMS: I’ve lived in LA for seven years now. I was born in London and grew up in New York. Alex and I met on the set of a short film Former Cult Member Hears Music for the First Time by Kristoffer Borgli. I was immediately struck by his kindness and humor and was so excited to work with him again, and be directed by him.

CRAIG KELLER: Do you still spend any amount of time in London? If so, what's your sense of the difference in movie culture comparing that city to New York or LA? I'm leaving out a lot of regional provisionals, but I might expand the question a little wider based on your take (if any).

KATE ADAMS: I don’t spend much time in London anymore, so I can’t really speak to the movie culture over there. I do go back and forth between LA and NYC fairly regularly and I would say the cities bring out a different creative geometry in people — the expansive, suspended, over-saturated LA environment amplifies the dreaminess of imagination or fantasy; the dense angular, grid-based overlapping sense of NYC nourishes a sense of reality, tempo, and accountability of actions. I think those distinctions influence the type of film projects and acting that resides in each city. 

CRAIG KELLER: So tell me about the dating landscape now in LA — the COVID-era to begin with, but also the kind of post-Tinder world that everyone who uses the apps have gotten pretty acclimated to as a regular norm of life. Given the immense circle of friends in the city, would you say apps are less of a crutch than elsewhere? I can tell you that Tinder in Phoenix is a dire, dreadful bit from the standpoint of a guy like me or more generally people like us. I'll only sling the stereotype-truths offline.

KATE ADAMS: I would say the dating landscape in LA is extremely bleak. I’ve never been much of an app dater — I’d rather trust my compass of real time and space when someone strikes my fancy and take it from there, rather than commit to an entire meal or spend my precious time in a poorly lit overcrowded bar with someone I don’t really know or particularly like. I will say, I found the apps briefly amusing from an anthropological perspective but I found myself meeting up with people I thought would lead to absurd situations or “scenes" rather than from an earnest mate-seeking perspective and wasted a good amount of time that is better spent on actual Creative Ventures. That being said, I live in Highland Park and have witnessed several app date meet-ups from afar so I think it’s still a thing. In this COVID-era, I have definitely witnessed a post-quarantine carnal desperation that definitely lends itself to the immediacy of app meet-ups and hook-ups. 

CRAIG KELLER: Do you still sense a struggle in meeting someone (friends, dates, etc.) while having to traverse neighborhoods, which nevertheless all connect in a puzzle-like super-city (though it's no Tokyo or London), or does the ease of ride-sharing services just make it maybe less stressful compared to the experience of the saddo in Allentown, PA, who's running to a many-ways-distanced Hooters? Or someone in East Mesa targeting a Scottsdale night out using a $100 round-trip Uber?

KATE ADAMS: I don’t notice much neighborhood distinction in LA other than the major East/West divide. We’re so accustomed to our cars as our main locale, so I think a drive or a ride-share to meet someone who seems vaguely promising would be within the realm of normal behavior. I think? Though I dont know how many people are taking ride-shares since COVID. I myself tend to avoid them because I am very sensitive to car smells and a scented air freshener tree can ruin my night.

ALEX WARREN: I grew up in a place that's very spread apart, so I know what you mean. I miss that expanse of nature. Living in this urban environment is nice because accidental friendships can spark at any corner in any inch of the city.

CRAIG KELLER: Alex, this is a loaded question, but living where you do and given what you've said, do you ever feel like there's just an overdose of friends? As I get older I make it harder for people to reach me, and now given all the things we're in the eye of, it's another reason I've put off moving to LA, especially because I can fly in at a moment's notice in an hour. I'd rather be alone conspiring in my apartment. What I'm missing is the geography. And now we're coming into cyberpunk territory.

ALEX WARREN: Certain friendships are taxing, for sure, but it's me that stresses myself out. I struggle with over-commitment. I'm a curious little dog with a tail that wags when he's asleep.

Yeah, I really love the idea of living in solace and space, a Bergman's Island life with my thoughts and things and the birds. Quarantine days look like that, sometimes. But it's really not for me. I need people. People are entertaining and absurd and hysterical. I need to make new acquaintances. I want to watch people arguing on the street. I want to get out of town.

Our high-tech low-life modernity coupled with the global pandemic has accelerated this cookie-cutter template-based approach to art and music and movies. It's the same with friendships. Like, if you agree with me on this and this and this, I guess that makes us friends. Instagram recommends I become friends with you and you and you because we like movies. That's so boring! And it's infuriating when considering the source and what vested interest IG actually has in you and that other person and your local community. It's not real. It's corporate gagging. 

I only feel overdosed by bullshit culture and a lack of courage in modern American existence.   

Is Repo Man considered a cyberpunk movie? Alex Cox is interesting.

CRAIG KELLER: What's familiar and around the central shot for me: the cinema of Altman (and Hong), with regard to the long take but the careful zooms (or two variations, back and forth, on one zoom technique) as the two of you are talking. It's a perfect touch because it captures Kate's demeanor to link her to the tradition of S. Duvall, and Alex your cadence and gestures remind one of any number of Altman males, like Michael Murphy for an example.

ALEX WARREN: I love Michael Murphy, thank you. Tanner '88 is my shit. I'd love to work with him.

No one does the zoom like Altman. He was so loose, so inventive and carefree. 

Also, I feel like Kleber Mendonça Filho (Bacarau, Aquarius) is a modern master of the zoom. I remember first seeing Neighboring Sounds and loving how he treated the photography of scenes. 

The cinematographer for Bar SnakesRobby Piantanida, has a conductor's touch. He understands rhythm, so I didn't try and overly choreograph how we used the zoom. I asked him to watch our rehearsal a few times and we discussed starting on the hands and eventually landing on my face, and that was it. He was very connected to the performances and operating at his discretion.

KATE ADAMS: I guess I sort of am hesitant to make references like these in regards to my own work — Shelley Duvall and Altman are so often mentioned (pretty much every story board or pitch deck I have received in the past 3 years has at least one mention to 3 Women). I think that tone is easy to mimic but the essence of what makes these things so great and timeless has very little to do with style. It’s their specificity. There is an earnestness to Shelley Duvall which I greatly admire, but again, to bring my own version is its own story.


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