Student creates experimental film for final project

by Crystal Branden

As the semester rushes to an end, film majors like Luke Safely are finishing film projects in anticipation of their film jury exhibitions.

Safely’s project is a 16mm experimental film that applies a form of hand animation, pixelated footage and film to create a collective image.

“With experimental film, you must be able to quickly adapt,” Safely said. “For this project, I wanted to apply a new means for myself to film that involved taping plants and paper to clear leader”

Leader is a kind of film attached to the head or tail of a film to assist in threading a projector.

Projects like Safely’s are time-consuming and require a lot of trial and error.

“I was able to get the paper to work after about 30 hours of experimenting, but sadly the plants kept jamming in the projector, so I had to scrap that idea entirely, and switched over to making transparencies of the plants to apply to the clear leader,” Safely said.

Safely’s project is untitled at the moment, but has an overall theme of struggling with faith. Safely views film as a means of sharing ideas and feelings and hopes his project will relate to its viewers.

“The goal of my project is to hopefully share an idea that I spent a great deal of energy struggling with in the hopes of finding someone who has the same struggles,” Safely said. “I feel that film is like a beacon for us as humans to be able to come around and say, ‘I relate.’”

Unnatural animations and unusual transparencies are oddities in Safely’s project and are features he was deliberate about.

“The process of experimenting with film is always a new, unique process to work with, and that is why I enjoy it,” he said. “With experimental film, I can keep doing new things, challenging myself more and more with each project.”

After imagining this project for a while, Safely has finally been able to apply outside inspirations after getting it started.

“Stan Brakhage and Peter Kubelka inspired me a lot with the idea of rhythmic patterns and the idea of using the light of the projector as the main driving force of the film, and how the light is manipulated by the image running in front of it. Sound design is inspired by structural filmmaker Hollis Frampton and the visual poetry of Jonas Mekas,” Safely said.

Safely’s project has presented its own challenges and unpredictable problems. He said a huge issue, which he did not foresee, was running taped pieces of clear leader through his projector. The paper and tape became gummed up in his projector and caused a jam in the gate, which can cause the film to burn up if left too long.

This problem had Safely taking the projector apart multiple times to clean paper and tape out of the projector, even shocking himself a few times after forgetting to unplug the projector before disassembling it.

“With experimental film comes large risks and challenges. With the process of applying paper to clear leader, I didn’t know if any image would project due to the thickness of the paper,” Safely said.

Safely spent a more than 30 hours getting the paper process to work, which was followed by 3 hours of work per 5 seconds of film. Safely had to tape over individually cut sprocket holes cut out with an X-acto knife, which was a challenge for him. Cutting out 2880 sprocket holes meant Safely spent 120 hours of production for a total of 2 minutes of film — a meticulous process that has been the biggest challenge overall.

Safely’s film project separates itself from others by being experimental, which is rare in the MSUM film department. The film is also not digital, which is not as common among advanced students in the film program.

“Most students these days are usually forced to work with 16 mm in beginning filmmaking and intermediate filmmaking, and then they continue on with digital video work, never looking back,” Safely said. “I have always had this extreme attraction to the physical format, and having to work directly with your hands on these projects brings a whole new respect to the idea of filmmaking for me.”

If chosen and accepted during a film jury exhibition, Safely’s film would screen alongside other student films Dec. 11 at Glasrud Auditorium. Safely encourages interested students, if his film project is not shown Dec. 11, to contact him via Facebook to set up a screening. Though an experimental film without narrative, the project allows viewers to infer deep connections, feelings, and experiences from the film.

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