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Serge Garcia

Serge Garcia
What is a question? Why did author Padget Powell build his novel The Interrogative mood around them? How can this novel be adapted to the screen? What is a voice-over? How can it appeal to you, the viewer? Can it question you? Challenge you with new questions? Or should it rather address a character? If so, which one? Why is it captured in this way, in its moments of hesitation? Which city has it chosen to create its pockets of freedom? Is it not precisely the interrogative form, constantly reiterated and never conclusive, that allows for this space of freedom?
(Nathan Letoré)

Interview with Serge Garcia

1) Could you comment on the title? Is the work conceived as the first part of a wider cycle ? Why desolation ?

The film actually began as a music video for my friend Marc Merza and his ambient music album Desolation Tape which he recorded on a 4-track recorder in one take – Cycle One is my favorite song of that record. Marc’s music underscores the film. It veers from the conventional music video style into weird art film territory so I wanted to make sure the film references Marc’s project and his music. It’s basically what can happen when your friend asks you to shoot a music video for them and gives you a little bit of cash and creative freedom to do whatever you want.

2) Your film is built around a series of questions, asked as a voice-over. Could you comment on this construction?

I would have loved to hire Tilda Swinton to do the voice over but I couldn’t afford her so I recorded the VO at home under my duvet cover with a small digital recorder. Adding a voice over also seemed like the only approach to merge Padgett’s novel into the project.

3) The questions are mostly taken from Padgett Powell’s The Interrogative Mood, which is entirely built around questions. How does one decide to adapt such a work? How did you decide which questions to select?

One of the things I love about Padgett Powell’s novel and its idiosyncratic style is how question after question forces the reader to actively participate in the reading experience. I wanted to experiment with the same concept and somehow adapt it to screen so I wrote a few of my own non sequitur questions and selected passages straight from the book that I felt could build into a sustained tone so it would’t feel too random and work in the context of a film. It was a playful experiment that I thought would fail but it ended up working out. Once I had a fine cut ready I tracked Padgett’s contact info on google and sent him a cold email with a link to the film to see if he’d give me permission to use the work despite not having any money to offer him. I can be a little bit of a defeatist sometimes so I though he’d never answer. I thought if I got lucky he’d answer and send a cease and desist letter to keep me from making the film public or something to not bring his name and likeness down. I guess he liked what I did because he eventually responded and said that he’d be the film’s angel. Embedded in its’ all-question format are ideas and emotions that can measure the gap between our moral compass, social consciousness, libido, and existential dread – great stuff ready made for a film all packed into one if you ask me! The novel also offered a new way to break the 4th wall so I just went for it.

4) The voice-over and its questions are separate from a character who is seen on screen. Who is this character ? How did you film the actor ? Why separate the voice-over from the character?

I suppose I could have had the character in the film ask the questions and break the 4th wall but I think that would have felt too cliche for me. The separation between voice over and the character allows the audience to enter the world in the film in a unique way that also leaves space for them to listen, see, and hopefully to reflect upon themselves as film progresses and the questions pile up. The character on screen is left ambiguous so the audience can make up their mind about who they are- that might seem like a cop-out but that’s kind of the point. The imagery in the film is also a little wink to the queer subtext and my interest in challenging narrative tropes that perpetuate normative gender roles and sexuality. The character is played by my friend Rufus Backman Ossandón aka Butcherqueen and they’re a performance artist from Sweden and work with similar themes within the context of their drag alter ego. The idea behind the scenes was to place Rufus’ character in banal moments to capture the rhythms of everyday life in a way that plays with the passage of time. Simon Köcher was in charge of the cinematography and our approach was to basically film it like a documentary. We were meticulous about composition and creating space for movement in the frame but everything else was done to make it feel like a documentary. I took inspiration from the photography of Nan Goldin, Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, and Agnes Varda’s Vagabond. They are some of my favorite artists.

5) The film culminates in a shot during which, for the first time, music is heard and the camera moves. Could you comment on this choice?

Music is heard through out the film- it gently comes in during the first scene. It’s Marc Merza’s song Cycle One. The 180 degree pan in the last scene is Simon cleverly combining two shots that I had on our shotlist into one. That was the last and most difficult shot for us and I credit him for pulling it off. We were at the tail end of the last roll (we only had two rolls of Vision3 500T/5219 35mm film) and only had one take to film each scene. I think we rehearsed the blocking and camera movement for a little more than an hour- basically as much as we could considering we were quickly losing light at the point of the day. Once Rufus, Simon, and I felt comfortable we just went for it. It was hectic and nerve-racking but it worked out. The camera movement wasn’t planned, in fact I wanted every shot to be a static long take but the pan gives the film a really nice anti-climactic ending.

Interview by Nathan Letoré

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Technical sheet

USA, Sweden / 2021 / 10’

Original Version : English.
Subtitles : English.
Script : Padgett Powell, Serge Garcia.
Photography : Simon Köcher.
Editing : Serge Garcia.
Music : Marc Merza.
Sound : Serge Garcia.
Casting : Rufus Backman Ossandon.
Production : Serge Garcia (Trouble Pictures), Marc Merza (Trouble Pictures), Melissa Lindgren (Story).
Filmography : Grand Central Hotel, 2021. Live To Be Legend, 2020. Noncompliant, 2019. A Child Of House, 2019. Jackie House, 2018. The Longer I live – The Longer I live, The Less Chance I’ll Ever Recover from What Life Keeps Doing to Me, 2015. Butcherqueen, 2013.