Experimental Filming

Posted: December 11, 2010 in Uncategorized

Me and Sunny both saw The Trippy Chippy as an experimental film so we did some research on experimental filming.

 Avant-garde” is a word from the French, meaning “ahead of the crowd.” In contemporary English, we’d say it’s on the “cutting edge.” Avant-garde film makers want to experiment with new ideas, forms, techniques, and expressions–and are often said to be “ahead of their times.”

Avant-garde films are characterized by a high degree of experimentation–whether it be in manipulation in narrative materials, in highly stylized visual representation, or in radical departures from the norms or conventions current at the time, avant-garde film is always a vehicle for the filmmaker’s expression. Often, avant-garde films focus on the lyrical, the abstract, formal beauty for its own sake—and therefore may avoid conventions of narrative. As such, you might call them cinematic or painterly “poems.” Abstract film has also been called “absolute” film. Avant-garde films are often iconoclastic, mocking conventional morality and traditional values; the filmmaker’s intense interest in eccentricities and extremes may shock for the viewers.

Indeed, the avant-garde film maker’s purpose may be to wake or shake up the audience from the stupor of ordinary consciousness or the doldrums of conventional perspective. Such highly expressive and unconventional films may become cult classics–and acquire the description, avant garde, as a result.

Some avant-garde films are called “experimental, ” a term popularized by David Curtis in Experimental Cinema (New York: Delta, 1971), in the sense that the films may be experiments to explore how the camera can emulate and/or enhance human visual perception. In an interview for the Millenium Film Journal, Rose Lowder, a contemporary French avant-garde (or experimental) filmmaker, says that:

You can see on the screen things that aren’t actually on the film. A very simple way of demonstrating this is to make holes in the filmstrip with an office puncher. If you draw a line on a piece of transparent leader and then punch a hole in every alternate frame, the line seems to go through the hole. But if you draw the same line and then punch holes in two successive frames out of every three, then the hole appears empty. For a year I explored the possibilities of these simple juxtapositions. I also tested colors to see how they could interact over a series of successive frames. What’s the point of all this? There’s a lot of talk about the smallest unit of cinema being the frame, but in fact, that’s not the case at all. As these experiments demonstrate, pieces from different frames can make up what you’re seeing on the screen. In other words, you can construct an image on the screen with bits from different frames. You can change very slightly parts of a frame or several frames–change the color, the thickness of the lines, whatever–and a completely different thing happens. If I draw a line on every single frame and then punch each frame, the circle will appear as a circle with no line through it. If you leave a frame between each punched hole, then the line can go through the circle. And if we put two frames of the line between each punch-out, the hole is much whiter on the screen and the line looks darker. (http://mfj-online.org/journalPages/MFJ30,31/SMacDonaldRose.html)

Me and Sunny both enjoy the whole idea and concept of experimental filming as we did it last year, we both found that in order for Trippy Chippy to really work we needed to use some of the conventions stated above.

Here are a few experimental films:

Paul Sharits “t.o.u.c.h.i.n.g”:

Stan Brakhage, “Mothlight”:



By Harmeet


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