[Read] Interview with Joeri Pruys; open source film program

June 14, 2011

Joeri, can you please introduce yourself?

I’m Joeri Pruys, a 33-year-old filmmaker living in Rotterdam. In 2000 I graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague. I lived as a painter for a couple of years, but it never felt right for me. I started disliking the idea of sitting all alone in my workshop all day, inhaling toxic fumes. After a while I realized that my real passion was in filmmaking. I love the fact that you make something together with a group of people, and that everybody involved plays an important part. The process of collaboration with actors and technicians continues to be very exciting and liberating for me.

When I started making films four years ago, I really didn’t know anything about how to make a film. I had to invent a lot of things from scratch. That made it really hard sometimes, but it was also very stimulating. I think it enables me to think very freely about storytelling and cinematography as compared to people who have a formal education in filmmaking.

My films are usually pretty experimental. Most of my projects involve some kind of technical challenge, trying to find new ways to tell a story or convey an emotion. I like playing with shadows, textures and colors. I guess I can never really let go of my background as a painter.

Your film ‘Fascination’ will have its premiere at the Incubate open source film program. Can you tell us more about the film?

‘Fascination’ is one of my favorites so far. It’s got nice textures, catchy music, an interesting technique, and a pretty girl. So I am very excited to show it to people at Incubate.

For a long time I have wanted to do stuff with projections. I was especially inspired by a video installation by Hans Breder, called Tlacolula. I saw that in New York. He projected Mexican street scenes on a curtain flowing in the wind, and created a distinctive, mysterious mood with very simple means.

My film features actress Jorien van der Keijl, who dresses herself in front of a white wall. She moves with the music, which makes it look like she is doing a striptease in reverse. I watched a lot of Betty Page striptease films as an inspiration.

I have made several short films with old jazz on the soundtrack. For this film, I chose the piano piece ‘Fascination’ by James P. Johnson, recorded in 1939. So that’s where I got the title of the film.

For the film, you’ve created a technique which gives the film its layered look. Could you tell us more about this working process?

It’s complicated to explain, actually. It’s ten images stacked on top of each other, each of them containing Jorien dressing herself. The ‘bottom’ layers are very vague and purplish, while the ‘top’ layer is sharp and in normal colors. How did we do it?

We first let Jorien dress herself in front of a white wall and filmed it. Then we projected this video on the wall, put Jorien in front of this wall again and then filmed her dressing herself again, in almost the same way. And after filming this second take, which now contains two girls, we projected this video on the wall and again filmed it with Jorien in front of it. Etcetera. The only difference is that in every take she walks into the frame at a later point in time. We did that ten times. So there are ten overlapping girls in the end. You have to see it to understand it, really.

What I like about this idea, is that we did everything on-set and in-camera. There was no editing, color correction or compositing involved. What you see is what we filmed on the set that day. It’s very pure.

I really had no idea how it would turn out when we started. I just had to trust this hunch of mine that something special would happen. For instance,
the strangely vibrant colors are a result of the fact that the camera and projector were not perfectly calibrated to each other. So that was one of those little surprises that sometimes happen when you’re experimenting. It’s what makes filmmaking so exciting for me: seeking risks, trusting your instincts, and letting your imagination take over.


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