For the Love of Karl

Title card, no caption necessary.

I’ve whined enough. Sure, I’m broke, old and I never leave the house but the motivation to see a bunch of Karl Lind short films was strong. Despite a low-grade feverish, mild sickliness I’d been feeling, a slight cold that was neither arriving nor going away, I kept thinking I can’t bag this. Every filmmaker in this town deserves an audience especially when their work is packaged up neatly and shown at as nice an auditorium as the Whitsell. Karl was kind enough to offer a promo code to defray the cost. My lack of money was no longer an issue. I kept thinking I can’t not do this, no excuses, no thoughts of having too many other things to do. This focus on getting to the screening became the mantra, “for the love of Karl.” I imagined myself holding a sign with the slogan in the back of the theater. Later, I realized this approach would have resembled a character out of one of his films.

Karl Lind warms up the crowd. Ben Popp stands by.

I have a long history with Karl steeped in mystique. I knew his films would fill in the blanks. Initially it was someone who knew him, their name since forgotten, who spoke of this filmmaker Karl Lind. It started a legend. There was the time I saw him judging entries at a film event at Disjecta. I was impressed by the elbow patches on his blazer. The first movie I saw of his was at a Portland Underground Film Festival screening at the Clinton Theater. I went to see a Jim Haverkamp short but Karl’s film caught my attention with an excellent supporting role and music by Ron Gassaway. Somewhere in the dark theater was Karl. Years later we worked a Puppet Software video conference job and I got to pick his brain. From social media I discovered his  pinball obsession and Devo fandom. I even got him into an online sparing match with a filmmaker something about a scene in a short film where he’d be in his underwear holding a chicken. I only jokingly thought Karl would be right for the job. There was also an appearance on the Peasant Revolution Band Variety Hour TV show that I directed. Getting to know Karl the person is still different from knowing his filmmaker persona. Finally the screening which happened Thursday, February 8 offered me a chance to see the other side.

Walk in the Rain, 2003

Fourteen short films later a question and answer session followed. Karl mentioned he was impressed with the amount of questions being asked. It was opportunity to find out more about his creative process. He talked about collaborating and compulsion being the reason he makes films. His methodology was described as “dealing with chaos and a lot of repetition.” A love for cartoons inspired some of his more frenetic style. I was struck by Karl embrace of the rough edges of video which gave his films a textured feel notably in the unfinished A Walk in the Rain from 2003, a film that is exactly what the title describes.

Later when I looked at my notes scribbled in the dark scrambled lines jotted at odd angles, I laughed that it took on the feel of one of Karl’s films. There had been an bombardment of images to sort out. I had also been taking pictures of the movies for film stills. I never wanted to be that guy fiddling with my phone at the movies but there I was. One film in particular captured the spirit of Karl. I got so caught up in it that when it was over I realized I hadn’t taken any photos. The video was a Devo song covered by a local band The Hand That Bleeds. I could equate Karl’s creative personality with the character he played—a lab coat wearing scientist type with an assistant frantically juggling 2001, a Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes film references with Gorilla costumes, goofy props—yes, that was a big red button on the bureaucrat’s desk, and mixing it all up as if he was making any of his other films. The video ended with a brain cut out of a man’s skull bursting into flames, an appropriate metaphor for anyone absorbing his movies.

Striping, 2006

In a collaboration with poet Cat Tyc, copious amounts of distorted video and digital hash were employed providing fragmented blocks of color. Karl explained this by rattling off the brands of various cameras followed by numbers and letters which brought a smile to my face.

Karl Still Ron Meditation

Meditating with Angels, 2011

Collaboration included editing visuals for poets reading poems and making music videos. Karl’s Meditating with Angels was the film I remembered seeing years ago. It used special effects and a guided meditation narration written by Jennifer Keyser to create a humorous look at the process of meditation.

The pre-show hype had been good. In their Get Busy section, Willamette Week proclaimed that “Karl Lind makes some weird-ass abstract films” while Ron Gassaway posted on Facebook about Karl’s showcase being a chance to see films that are “politically inquisitive and socially surreal but never boring, fusing strong compositions and fresh aesthetics with comedic undertones and thoughtful timing.”  My overview was how his films speak to “the increasing onslaught of visual and aural clutter people are constantly bombarded with in today’s world.”

“Fearless Leader” by Rustlah

With budgets for his projects ranging from “little to no money” Karl seems to use ingenuity to create stylized music videos. His work for the song “Fearless Leader” by Rustlah employed green screen technology as well as other video trickery for maximum visual impact.

“Handrea” by Banimal

I was also able to see the long-awaited Banimal video “Handrea,” another demonstration of resourcefulness that created a humorous narrative. The video had a gritty appeal that centered around the bad dream scenario of the main character dating himself in drag.

Lullaby, 2003

Karl described the use of found footage as the oldest trick in the book but it’s really more about how images are used with narration or a piece of music. In the end if guys in gas masks are cross dissolved with the spotlight of a film projector something compelling is happening.

Untitled video

I learned more about a possible Charles Bronson fixation Karl might have along with his willingness to step in front of the camera. The last video screened, whose title I’m still waiting on, featured a naturalistic performance by a convenience store owner. In the store, Karl’s character struggles to put together enough change to buy a 40 and a can of Spaghetti O’s, a commentary on the rigors of life as an independent filmmaker perhaps? Always committed to his projects, Karl shamelessly sports a pair of pantyhose on his head and endures a slow motion beat down from a golf club wielded by the clerk as he exits the store.

Karl Still Poem CU

Frozen Sea

Karl Lind: Video Collaborations & Unclassifiable Video Ephemera offered a chance to see the evolution of a filmmaker’s work. Karl might be more comfortable with the term devolution. I thanked Ben Popp, maybe too profusely. He’s the Film Services Manager and Programmer at the NW Film Center who showcased Karl’s work. They go back ten years to their micro cinema days. Seeing these films was the realization of what I hoped living in Portland would be—that chance to see the work of a local filmmaker of some renown on the big screen. Sure I still had more questions than answers, but Karl’s a friendly guy. Someday he’ll explain everything.

* * * * *

The NW Film Centers next local filmmaker showcase will feature the work of Jason Rosenblatt and be held on Thursday, March 15 at 7pm at the Whitsell Auditorium.





Digging Trench Digger


I met Jeff Dodge at a party my sister-in-law was throwing in her back yard years ago. I overheard him talking to someone about cameras. He was talking camera. Throwing out brand names with letters and numbers. I was new to Portland and I hadn’t talked much camera with anyone. It wasn’t just cameras we talked about. Jeff is interested in just about everything, history, recording music and film making. He started Trench Digger Productions as a way to catalog, organize and explore his interests including his short film series he’s named Darge Dinner Theater.

Soon after meeting Dodge, I got the call to assist on his feature length film, Jeff Steele: Children of the Doomed.  He was shooting in the wilds of eastern Oregon. My mind was blown by the chance to spend time in the high desert area of Malheur County. The Pillars of Rome and Leslie Glutch were two of the surreal locations where we shot.

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 4.42.07 PM

Being on a set and seeing what people had to do to complete a movie was an education in itself and getting the chance to visit the wide expanses and empty landscapes of the eastern part of the state has been one of the highlights of my Oregon experience.

Now I’m completely biased about everything I have to say about Trench Digger. I had the opportunity to work on Dodge’s latest production KXLN Nebraska. I ran camera, acted and even got a writer’s credit. KXLN Nebraska has an improvisational element to it. It’s also rooted in the characterization of Mitch Humbucker by Mike “Woodman” Johnson who worked for years as a radio DJ. Mitch Humbucker might seem like something of a Howard Stern clone.  With the movie set in 1982, Mitch would have had no way of stealing the then, mostly, unknown Howard Stern’s act. In Nebraska we find a bored, frustrated and shaggy headed DJ slogging through his AM radio shift with nothing better to do but badger his show guests. Jeff Dodge plays a version of himself as a world-weary touring musician trying to cope with Humbucker’s venomous onslaught.

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 3.56.58 PM

Jeff Dodge as Jeff Dodge in KXLN Nebraska. (Video still.)

Jeff Dodge remains a hero to me. He’s a guy with an active mind that never stops. It’s like there’s a shark in his brain that has to keep moving. It’s inspirational to see ideas that seem to explode out his head. I’ll be watching Trench Digger to find out about his upcoming projects. I may find myself participating in them. Why wouldn’t I? Jeff has always been generous and willing to help me with equipment loans, work opportunities and tales of Dodge family history and stories about his work as a sound man.

Every year, around this time, we celebrate the guy’s birthday. He throws the party.

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 3.56.28 PM

This blog’s author as the bossy intern in KXLN Nebraska. (Video still.)

Watch KXLN Nebraska:

Got time to watch a full length feature? Here’s the link:

Read all about the goings-ons of Trench Digger Productions and learn some history:

Holy Bleep! The Church of Film

C of F 1

There’s something amazing about the thought of a curator or curators pushing the envelope to screen crazy and mind blowing films. From the looks of it, this is what the Church of Film is doing. They’re making it easy. All you have to do is show up. If you’re trying to make films, taking classes and in need of inspiration here’s another outlet. It has always felt like the random film experience, one without preconceived notions, can have an impact by creating an unforgettable cinematic experience. What you do with that experience is your business. I’ll never forget an almost accidental encounter seeing Pasolini’s Canterbury Tales on the big screen presented by a film club while in college. I walked back to the dorm across the drill field in a weird state of bemusement that I’ve yet to shake. Same goes with Ralph Coon’s Whispers From Space which I only saw because the trains were delayed due to heavy snow fall. And then there were many random films I stumbled onto at the East Gallery in Washington D.C. I’m guessing any cinephile has a list like this. It feels like the Church of Film is creating a venue for the possibility for film goers to have these types of experiences.

I find it inspirational that somebody out there is making a tremendous effort to bring a cinematic culture of weirdness and obscurity to what I hope will find a receptive and appreciative audience. So yeah, that one named guy who’s been singing about getting someone to take him to church—well this is that church. He and I and everyone else should be heading to the Church of Film.

The Church of Film folks are digging up the stuff and freaking it out. Who knows what they’ll be screening next but you can stay informed by checking out his link:

C of F 2

Money for Movie

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 4.40.59 PM

‘Tis the season and money is sure to be flowing during the holidays so I ask you to take a few moments and consider a plea from a film maker asking for funding. It’s coming from film director Bryan Hiltner who is raising money for a short film called Elena Vance. Bryan has impressed me with his past work on short films so it’s eye opening and educational to be able to follow the progress of this film from its early stages. The money Hiltner collects will up the ante for the film’s production values. In an intro video on the Indie GoGo site, he does a great job of summarizing the film and makes a persuasive case for the many ways donations will benefit the movie. Hopefully this will sway you to donate what you can.

Here’s a link for the Facebook page for the movie. I have a feeling Bryan will offer up lot’s of details about the production of the movie. So, like it.

This is one of my favorite films written and directed by Bryan:

Summer’s Gone

 Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 4.38.46 PM

The last couple of weekends of the summer of 2014 in Portland, OR were hot and then it rained and it was easy to see where summer was over. If I could go back to any time this summer it would be to the one afternoon spent soaking up sun on my skin along the Clackamas River, from time to time jumping into the icy water. High Rocks, a short film I blogged about, has a sequel. Filmmaker Jason Blalock headed back to High Rocks ten years later to poke around and see what had changed. There’s a certain intrigue seeing that this movie also has a news reporter in it snooping for a story. She seems sharper and more cynical than the reporter in the previous film and it reminds me even more of the documentary versus TV news approach to story telling that Ross McElwee explored in his movie 6 o’clock News.

Next summer I’m visit another swimming hole, probably in late August to give the water a chance to warm up a couple of degrees. Watch High Rocks before you watch the sequel to find out what happened to Taz and if the High Rocks ever got safer and a little less crazy.

High Rocks II:

Info on Ross McElwee’s film 6 o’clock News:

My High Rocks blog post:

High Rocks

Sitting around on a Sunday morning in late August wondering what to do it occurred to me that we should go to a swimming hole. After six years of living in Portland, I still had not done this. In doing some online research, my wife, Ronna, found a link to a documentary short called High Rocks named after the recreational swimming area on the Clackamas River in Gladstone, OR.

It’s hard to turn away from watching people drink and dive, break out Laff-a-Lympics style diving maneuvers and get rowdy on giant sheer boulders in a scenario fraught with danger from ice cold water, river currents, undertows and inebriation. Sometimes the right amount of fascination can be found in seeing people behave badly. Filmmaker Jason Blalock takes viewers right to the heart of High Rocks where you feel like you’re in line waiting for your turn to jump. Shot in 1998, High Rocks is a time capsule transporting us to a place where things could get a little out of control.

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 4.46.30 PM

High Rocks link:

More about Jason Blalock:

Portland Film Beat

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 4.38.43 PMTwo of my heroes, film makers Bryan Hiltner and Michelle Vincig, participants of the former monthly screening series Attack of the Flix (I’ll write about it someday) were interviewed on the public access show Portland Film Beat. A cross section of the Portland film community has already made appearances on the show which are also available on YouTube.

Here’s a link: