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
"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.