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HOFR #10: Mumblecore

July 27, 2012

There are multiple, excellent reasons that mumblecore would take off in Saint Louis. For starters, the style’s been around for the better part of a decade. And all Saint Louisans know that it sometimes takes a minute for our acceptance of new-fangled trends to take hold. But when they do, we often act with particular, even peculiar enthusiasm; as a result, the irreverant cinemasmack.com website recently cited Saint Louis as the fifth-most popular town in which to shoot a mumblecore feature (or elongated web series) in 2012.

Mumblecore’s a very affordable style of filmmaking, making Saint Louis — an already-affordable town — the perfect place to undertake shoots. Eventually, as mumblecore takes hold in a town, a sort of cottage industry emerges.

The attic you see in the photo? You guessed it: Avery’s Attic.every producer-editor-actor worth his/her salt undertaking their own project before long, while also sharing time in the productions of their mumbling brethren.

For those still unfamiliar with the style, mumblecore’s built around a handful of truisms.

* Characters are on a search, generally for love, or for some key to the central meaning of life. These searches usually take place amidst the person’s immediate peer group, ala co-workers, neighbors, and the lovers of former lovers. In terms of physical spaces, lightly-appointed apartments and coffeehouses are the prime picks for location-shooting, as most interesting activities in life take place in these places, already.

* As noted, sets are minimal, even downright sparse. Even as mumblecore films generally center most action in the bedroom of the primary character, these rooms are to possess little, scarcely more than a futon, a flimsy nightstand and some scattered clothing. Wall hangings, or any other sign of whimsical personalization, are minimal, leaving bare walls onto which characters can project their deepest fears and wants.

* That said, most mumblecore films will feature at least one scene in a bathroom, most likely in the tub.

* Which brings up another mumblecore truth: at some point in the film, both male and female cast members will wind up in the buff. Cinephiles vary on their responses to this, from feeling it’s a celebration of gender-breaking male nudity, to annoyance that the scenes feel inevitable and trite. But without at least one such scene, the film is not mumblecore.

* Nor is a film mumblecore without one, lengthy, ad-libbed scene in which 10% of the project is played out in a one-take monologue, with tight framing of the speaker’s face.

Already in this series, we’ve visited the arts nest of Evans Pascal, Sant Louis’ most-prolific mumblecore filmmaker, who is currently working on his third feature of 2012, “Avery’s Attic.” And we were able to check in with an exclusive look at the experimental Jaworski proudction, “Yogi Battle at Bent Tree.” Today, we get an opportunity to offer a look at the mumblecore process, itself, as Pascal and Jaworski (nee Mandy Mee) work with another area mumblecore veteran, Kevin Avery.

* Characters are on a search, generally for love, or for some key to the central meaning of life. These searches usually take place amidst the person’s immediate peer group, ala co-workers, neighbors, and the lovers of former lovers. In terms of physical spaces, lightly-appointed apartments and coffeehouses are the prime picks for location-shooting, as most interesting activities in life take place in these places, already.

* As noted, sets are minimal, if not downright sparse. Even as mumblecore films generally center most action in the bedroom of the primary character, these rooms are to possess little in the way of material objects: scarcely more than a futon, a flimsy nightstand and some scattered clothing are needed. Wall hangings, or any other sign of whimsical personalization, are minimal, leaving bare walls onto which characters can project their deepest fears and wants.

* That said, most mumblecore films will feature at least one scene in the bathroom, most likely in the tub.

* Which brings up another mumblecore truth: at some point in the film, both male and female cast members will wind up in the buff. Cinephiles vary on their responses to this, from feeling it’s a celebration of gender-breaking nudity, to annoyance that the scenes feel inevitable and trite. But without at least one such scene, the film is not mumblecore.

* Nor is a film mumblecore without one, lengthy, ad-libbed scene in which 10% of the entire is played out in a one-take monologue, with tight framing of the speaker’s face.

Already in this series, we’ve visited the arts nest of Evans Pascal, Sant Louis’ most-prolific mumblecore filmmaker, who is currently working on his third feature of 2012, “Avery’s Attic.” Next week, we’ll check in with an exclusive look at the experimental Mandy Jaworski production, “Yogi Battle at Bent Tree.” Today, we get an opportunity to offer a look at the mumblecore process, itself. We see Pascal and Jaworski (nee Mandy Mee) work with another area mumblecore veteran, the producer-director Kevin Avery, on the aforementioned “Avery’s Attic.” Though these takes will likely wind up on the cutting room floor, the chemistry between them is evident.

HOFR: Mumblecore from Thomas Crone on Vimeo.

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