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Shaking It Up On The Internet

Shaking It Up On The Internet

Articles - Directing

You have vision, a story.

You have mood, and a philosophy. How do you coerce these elements

into a film? Tiffany Shlain, an award-winning honors graduate of

University of California Berkeley, has always learned best by doing.

With a fresh flmmaking history behind her, including a short called Hunter and Pandora, several interactive movies, a medical

CD­ROM, and tons of software, Shlain has just gotten started. In

her search for mentors she did a documentary on Bay area women filmmakers

and co-taught a 16mm film production course at her university. Her

interest in the brain and creativity inspired Zoli’s Brain, her

first feature film, which is now in post­production.

Zoli’s Brain, adapted from a script she crafted while

still in school, was produced in 16mm black & white after graduation.

"I decided to learn from experience. I raised a lot of money

by throwing parties, put 40 people together for the crew and started

production with about a thousand dollars." The end result was

both "the highest time of my life and the hardest." Zoli’s

Brain, a film about creative block, was in fact written during

"a creative flurry" and filmed in a surreal, madcap atmosphere

which cloned the film itself. "It’s about a sculptor who has

a creative block" Shlain explains. "The film takes place

inside his mind, which is visualized as a surreal world. All the

metaphors of the mind are taken literally. There’s the membrane

bank, biological clock shop, the restaurant where thoughts are entertained.

"Brain cells" were shot on Alcatraz. Two forces fight

for control of the brain – the peace of mind patrol and the revolutionaries.

The peace of mind patrol wants to censor its artist and the revolutionaries

want to free him. Everyone has their vision of how he can get through

his creative block."

A still from Tiffany Shlain’s Zoli’s Brain.

Say it ten times fast.

Ironically, Shlain found herself trapped in the same creative

block Zoli’s Brain speaks of while editing the film. "All

of my films kind of predict what’s going to happen in my life …

While I was editing the film, the money pressures became really

intense and I lost perspective. I sold everything … began to only

see the problems and was going crazy."

In many ways, Zoli’s Brain is about Shlain’s own creative

struggle as well as that of artists in general. "The struggle

is really about making a film and not worrying about what my feminist

professor’s gonna think of it or what my dad’s gonna think of a

nude shot of a man. It’s really about being true to yourself and

not necessarily going down to LA, not compromising what you believe


"I believe a mute artist is not an artist; that we need

to be able to reach people, let them live through viewing. I have

this one main vision, kind of like a cyclopean eye or the

eye of a fly. I get a crew together and I want to make sure my vision

comes out but that everyone’s individual vision comes out also.

That collaborative effort is definitely what I love about filmmaking."

The difficult editing period on her first feature eventually

led Shlain to an interactive film class in Seattle. Here she finally

had access to equipment which would "allow me to do the sound,

the most important, expensive and difficult part, on computer."

Now a Seattle resident, Tiffany believes multimedia is "a way

of overcoming a lot of financial pressures. You can do a lot of

the very expensive things on the computer and get it out to a lot

of people. That’s one of the biggest problems of independent films

– everyone wants their film to be seen, but how do you get it shown?"

She believes that independents can now compete with formerly untouchable


Though Tiffany still wants to make features, multimedia allows

her to make films without overwhelming concern for financing and

distribution concerns. "We’re gonna cut the fat out of the

need for distributors. Even video stores will carry CD-ROM, but

nothing will replace the silver screen. The Internet will just shake

things up.

"Being able to transfer films on the internet as a form

of exposure for the artist is gonna be fantastic."

Shlain is currently working on a multimedia demo, which she

hopes will be done by the end of the year.

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