I was sitting at my computer after a long and relaxing bike ride sipping a big tumbler of hibiscus tea mixed with Topo Chico fizzy water and catching up on video broadcasts of Democracy Now streamed over the internet. There was a musical break between guest. Some groovy far-out jazz. I was hoping Amy Goodman would announce the performer after the break — she doesn’t always do this. It had a faltering beat, artfully off-kilter, and the brass and woodwinds were stabbing and shrieking all topsy-turvy. I was thinking something sweetly pretentious from the ’70s. My money was on the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Nope. It was Fela. Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer. He’s one of those names I’ve heard for decades. Always at the top of several of my musical heroes’ own musical heroes list. For some reason I’d never got around to listening to his work. I wasn’t expecting this fearless mix of Steve Coleman and Anthony Braxton. Hop onto YouTube and type in Fela. It’s brilliant free jazz with an west African beat and hints of R&B and soul and there are sometimes live shows featuring voluptuous dancers wearing little more than costumes created out of what I’m guessing is about eight ounces of coconut husks.
Last week I received a phone call from Janet Vasquez. She wanted to know if I would be available for the next Film Forum that the San Antonio Film Commission hosts at the downtown public library. The fourth Tuesday of each month. Begins at 6:30. Free and open to the public. I’ve been wrangled in to sit on a panel at least once before. This time around the topic is Experimental Films. Yes, I know. It is unlikely I was at the top of the list. In fact, Janet has brought in two legitimate panelists. Leslie Raymond and Gisha Zabala. They are the real deal, video artists who produce critically acclaimed work on a regular basis. I’m beginning to think that Janet wanted me to represent Luminaria Arts Night in San Antonio. I’m co-chair of the film committee, along with Veronica Hernandez. And, yes, we’d like experimental films submitted. (Actually, we want all sorts of film proposals submitted — get thee to the web site and make your proposal, be it narrative, doc, experimental, or none of the above: http://www.luminariasa.org.) There was a moment when I thought, okay, I’ve done my fair share of experimental films. You know, “El Jardin,” “The Prometheus Thesis,” “In Memoria / Wind,” “Melancholy” (with Russ and Christy), not to mention my fave, the “Generic Lemon / Lime Beverage” faux promo in my lone mockumentary. But, of course, that’s kids stuff compared to the other panelists.
And then, today, I got an email from Janet asking for a bio for the Forum. I looked at what I’d previously written for: a.) The Paisano Fellowship (denied); b.) The Texas Filmmaker’s Production Fund (denied); c.) The Artists Foundation (denied this very afternoon — thanks for fucking nothing!). I came away with with a heady melange of sensations … all having to do with me being a a grand flop. I also learned that my impulse to do as little work as possible and crib a previous written bio wouldn’t work. Not because all the previous ones seemed crafted to alienate, but because they weren’t crafted for an audience curious to see folks involved in a field other than narrative moviemaking. Here is what I sent to Janet:
Erik Bosse is a writer, photographer, and filmmaker who has been working in San Antonio since 2003. He currently sits on several committees of local arts and cultural organizations, including Luminaria, and the San Antonio chapter of NALIP. In 2006 Erik traveled to Mexico to produce a short documentary, “Dia de los Locos.” He has been actively collaborating with artists, poets, choreographers, and indigenous rights activists. Recent work has appeared at Cine Festival, Weeping Woman Gallery, and Centro Cultural Aztlan. Next month Erik will be down in the Big Bend region taping interviews for his new documentary on one of the lesser-known cucuy stories, “El Bulto.”
Actually, this Bulto piece will probably be my Luminaria proposal (yep, I can make my own proposal, even though I’m on the committee … and with my track record, will be turned down — oh, the mortification!). I’m heading down to spend a couple of weeks in Redford, Texas (aka El Polvo) with my friends Enrique and Ruby. I’ll be there with my new camera, nosing around and shooting scenes of the recent flooding — the worst in recorded history. The hamlet of Redford (population about 125) is a farming community at the southern tip of Presidio County. The crops are watered by the Rio Grand. The recent flooding has swallowed up all the tilled land in the floor plain of the Redford valley. I suspect the water has slowly been receding in the two weeks or so since I last spoke with Enrique, but it’s going to take some time for the waters to completely go away.
I’m hoping there will be at least three interview subjects who will be willing to tell me on camera about their eye-witness accounts of bultos, amorphous floating entires whose ambiguous and never-articulated agenda can make them maddeningly terrifying. Harmless, sure. They’ll just scare you to death.
My new camera. Have I written about this? I have three unpublished blog entries I’ve not gotten around to posting. I guess I have yet to share with my blog readers (whether or not they care) that I have recently purchased a Panasonic DVX100b camcorder. I’m not presently in the financial situation to upgrade to the HD format, but the DVX is a damn fine workhorse. The best standard definition camcorder in it’s price range. Hell, it’s come down about a thousand bucks since I bought my trusty Canon GL-2 ages ago.
Here it is, perched on a tripod beside my GL.
I’ve been shooting here and there, getting to know it. In fact, last week I was at Say Si meeting with Andy Miller and Travis Thomsen. We were standing out front talking, and who should walk by but my favorite teenager and second favorite local filmmaker, Jessica Torres. The last time I spoke with her and her mom it was all about buying a DVX — she was not yet sold on the idea of HD and she wanted her own Panasonic DVX100b. When I saw her at Say Si I told her I had just bought a DVX. She got a bit pouty, as if I were bragging. “No,” I said. “I’m poor, yet I managed to do it — so can you.” She smiled and held up her hand for a high-five. And I did not leave her hanging.
It’s all possible. You just have to work for it.
One of my ex-students called me up recently. He wants to make a film, but he doesn’t have a camera. He’s from a continuing education class me and Pete taught on filmmaking, and I assume he’s at least 30. Clearly he can budget for a cheap miniDV camera. A trip to a pawnshop should reward you with a decent camcorder for about three hundred … maybe less. And if you have a recent PC, it came bundled with Windows Movie Maker. It’s essentially a free editing program. So, if you want to make movies, buy a camera and a computer. You have the tools. Go to the library for some good filmmaking books. Problems come up, look for solutions online. Also, open yourself up to the local filmmaking community — anyone and everyone … professionals and like-minded amateurs. But, the bottom line is, get off your ass and go out and make movies. You have that camera and that computer, right? (Because if you don’t, you’re no filmmaker — this is like wanting to be a writer, but not bothering to purchase a pencil and some paper. You are not helping yourself. Why should I want to help you?) Take your tools and use them, dammit! Your camera and your computer are your paint brush and your canvas. Go out there and create. And then come back and share your vision. (These words are, of course, directed more towards myself than this former student.)