Magazine article Filmmaker

With These Hands

Magazine article Filmmaker

With These Hands

Article excerpt


Brent Green is a self-taught filmmaker and artist who lives and works in the Appalachian hills of Pennsylvania. His unique hand-drawn and stop-motion short films have played venues including the Sundance Film Festival, the L.A. Film Festival and the International Film Festival Rotterdam. He was also one of Filmmaker's 25 New Faces in 2005. Recently he wrapped up filming his first feature-length film, Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then. Shot entirely in stop-motion using human beings, the film tells the true story of Leonard and Mary Wood, two people joyously brought together but separated through forces far beyond their control - a schism that resulte in creation of something wonderful. The making of Green's new film has been a process unlike any other. He crafted it by hand with little more than the help of his friends and his own ingenious creativity. Here he talks of the daunting, obsessive production of his new film.

Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then premieres at the IFC center in New York City May 7.

Leonard Wood lived outside of Louisville, Ky. He built bis house into a kind of healing machine to try to save his wife's life when she was diagnosed with cancer. Rural Pennsylvania, where I live, looks a lot like the area around Louisville. I have six acres of land and very little money, so the only way for me to tell Leonard's story was to make it on my own property. I had to reconstruct the house. I couldn't make the film a hand-drawn animation or shoot it on miniature sets because Leonard's act of building the house wouldn't seem so Herculean. He built this thing himself, by hand, with no money over the course of 20 years. I knew my movie about his life had to embrace a similar kind of crazy ambition.

When I decided to rebuild Leonard's house - which I first saw when working on Christoph Green and Brendan Canty's Burn To Shine series in Louisville - I started by making a small-scale model so I could decide where to place the trusses, how much wood building the whole thing would actually entail, and how I would make it with what I had or could access. Luckily, two of the things I had were falling-down barns. I knocked them flat, stripped the wood and the giant old beams and got to work. I spent my version of a fortune at my local hardware store on screws, L-brackets and electrical wire (the whole set was wired up proper - it's a really pretty thing). I pulled the toilet out of the abandoned faxmhouse I live next to. (It's the house where I grew up, but it's empty now, with a huge hole in the side I haven't been able to fix, yet. This year... the film has to do well, but this year....) So, most of the film's building supplies came from abandoned farmhouses and barns in the area and Dewald & Lengle, my local hardware store.

Building the set outdoors had its upsides and downsides. The biggest upside was in making the house look old and lived in. We built the floors and interior and exterior walls first, no roof, and finished the rooms beautifully. Some of the rooms have old cloth wallpaper, others are painted, and we made really nice-looking hardwood floors out of planed-down two-by-fours. We built the floors, put up and decorated the walls, and then waited. The rain and wind did amazing things to them. The house began to look incredibly worn and lived in. The floors warped. Mice moved in. It had to look old. It did. It was gorgeous.

To further control the lighting and try to increase the amount of time we could shoot in a day, Donna K., who plays the character of Mary Wood in the film, sewed 34' tall black cloth curtains that we could use to cover the walls around the set. As the film goes on, the curtains are pulled back and you see more and more of the walls.

Everything I built for the film was built entirely with my filming needs in mind. I wanted to be able to circle a room at any point and see entirely new and interesting details in everything from the furniture to the wall to the set as a whole. …

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