SOMERVILLE, Mass. — Auspicious Phoenix Productions released the trailer for QUIETUS on Thursday, giving another brief glimpse into the new films that the company will premiere on its upcoming roadshow tour this summer.
Directed by Joy Song (BRYCE, FINIS), the short concept film offers up a series of meditative tableaus illustrating a nameless woman (Maureen Renee Hughes, THE IMMIGRANT) undertaking a process of rebirth. The woman is aided along the way by her past self (Josette Oberton, YEAR BY THE SEA) and future self (Jan Waldman, DREAMERS, SUNNY SIDE UP) while her observant doppelgänger (Clara McKay, STUCK ON SOMEDAY) follows at a distance. Newcomer McKenzie Fuller rounds out the all-female cast as Hughes’s body double in several scenes.
Song, who hails from Singapore, explained that the film is about finding one’s self, referencing the Sartrean idea of “existence precedes essence” which resonated strongly with her and ultimately served as the springboard to write the film.
“I thought that was super interesting,” she said in an interview on Tuesday. “I always think in terms of what makes us who we are, and is it within our power to give ourselves identity, or is it the external environments that we live in that construct who we are?”
Effectively translating that existential notion to engaging images on the screen was no small task, and Song explained that her process involves a reversed approach compared to a traditional narrative. “I don’t write the story first. I just have the idea and I marry it with the image,” she said.
Song starts with words. She fills an Evernote file or a notebook with a collection of “phrases, words, sentences, or even pages that stick out.” From there, she shifts over to images, poring over photographs and paintings to find the representative visual touchstones that will help to construct the film’s metaphoric imagery.
“With that information at the back of my head, it just steers me towards what imagery I want,” she said. “I’ve done it long enough to realize that I don’t do it consciously … I can just scroll through really fast until one image just captures my attention, and immediately I know within three seconds of looking at that image I’m like, ‘There’s something in that.’”
Foregoing dialogue entirely, the eight-minute film’s imagery utilizes fluid long takes and dolly moves executed by cinematographer Oleg Bolotov (BLOOD HIGHWAY, LOS ANGELES IN FLUX) and Steadicam operator Andrew Fewsmith (YOU ARE HERE, PAPER TRAIL) to visually articulate Song’s desired concepts. This was an intentional decision on Song’s part — she stressed that the film had to be presented in a universal, relatable way, so as to not alienate viewers or unnecessarily filter down her ideas through the specifics of spoken words.
“It becomes obvious if I try to use words,” she said. “How can you even try to convey the process of rebirth or finding yourself through words rather than action? I think action tells so much more than just seeing things.”
Song remarked that she always wanted the film’s imagery to have a sense of a moving painting, evoking in viewers the meditative state or mindset of studying a canvas hung in a gallery. “You have to reflect on it,” she said. “You don’t go in the first five seconds ‘Damn! I know what it is!’ You always have to look at it, turn your head a little bit.” She hopes that her film will elicit a similar engagement and response from viewers.
“The style — at least for this film — is that I present you with images that form a sentence, hopefully, and then you take in the images and hopefully they linger. And that’s when the interpretation comes.”
QUIETUS is the second film made by Auspicious Phoenix Productions, and was the inaugural production at company’s Somerville studio. It joins a slate of four other original short films that will all debut as part of the 2017 Auspicious Phoenix Productions Rolling Revue, a coast-to-coast roadshow exhibition of the company’s work. Tour stops are being planned for Boston, New York City, Houston, Denver, and Los Angeles. An e-list signup is currently available on the company website to be notified when tickets go on sale Spring 2017.