In the clouds

Experimental filmmakers and musicians team up for Suspended Animation

Dan Browne

Local experimental musicians and filmmakers are about to take over Manitoba Hydro Place for Suspended Animation, an event that will feature the screening of local experimental films alongside a live soundtrack.

Music will be performed by the eXperimental Improv Ensemble, a student group that’s existed for almost a decade under the direction of Gordon Fitzell, a music theory and composition professor at the University of Manitoba.

“We often inspire a different approach to playing since we usually pick up on different elements of the film that audience members or the original soundtrack might not, such as the colour or the texture or the oral structure,” Fitzell notes.

“We review the films, we discuss them and we try to collectively decide how we will approach each film to make sure we have the resources to pull it off. Everything else is what we end up improvising.”

For Suspended Animation - which coincides with Culture Days - the ensemble is comprised of Jennifer Bachynsky, Samantha Selci and Tristan Zaba, while Fitzell will be controlling the overall sound and contributing some live electronics to the performance.

“We have a keyboard player, a guitar player and a singer, but all of them will be performing on a variety of other different instruments as well,” he says. “There’s everything from a violin to an old-school synth module.”

Fitzell teamed up with Winnipeg Cinematheque earlier this year and has been working closely with it to make the event a reality.

“Cinematheque gave me films to choose from and I ended up selecting ones I felt had enough variety and continuity to be part of this project,” he says. “I was looking for very obvious differences and similarities. I wanted some that were black and white and others that had bursts of colour. I wanted some that had a realism aspect while others that had abstract elements.”

Suspended Animation will feature 11 Canadian experimental films, most of them made by Winnipeg filmmakers. Scott Fitzpatrick is one such director: his 2011 clip For Magicians made the final cut for the festival.

“I’m super excited to see what they come up with because I’m not beholden to the soundtrack that’s with it right now,” Fitzpatrick says. “My work is mostly image-based and I’m not as interested in the sound usually.”

Each film will be projected on a variety of different surfaces in the Manitoba Hydro Place, most notably helium-filled weather balloons.

“Re-envisioning that space is also a big part of what we want to do visually,” Fitzell says. “We were looking at a few options across town and the Manitoba Hydro building is a large space people can wander around and seemed to have all the elements we needed. We’ve also been able to decide which elements of the architecture we want to inhabit, such as the waterfalls, the walking bridges and the high ceiling.”

Published in Volume 69, Number 4 of The Uniter (September 24, 2014)

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