Untitled Oyster Film

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TYPE
: Hybrid Short
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Pre-Production

LOGLINE

The ghosts of over-farmed oysters haunt New York City, the former oyster capital of the world, as environmental hopefuls attempt to repopulate these queer heroes.

SYNOPSIS

Oysters were, and are, quintessential New York. This hybrid experimental documentary explores their gastronomic and sexual symbolism as queer heroes, multiplying as communities and filtering their environment. Oysters that once filled the harbor linger, haunting the city with cautionary tales of greed while environmental hopefuls work to rehabilitate the water.

ARTISTIC STATEMENT

Oysters’ anatomy, history, and associations inform the elements of our hybrid approach, using narrative scenes to collapse time. As we explore locations of historical significance, we use a wide frame to layer elements of symbolism within a single image. For example, shucking oysters on the present-day streets of modern day lower Manhattan, reenacting a common sight from the 1800’s. This collapsed history also allows us to engage with archival footage in a playful way, not relying on it for factual documentary content, but as a way to track humans’ understandings of this resource and its connotations through time. Our narrative scenes actively engage these historical documents through recreation and reference. Underwater cinematography explores this murky, oft-invisible world beneath the city, with editing techniques that connect the bustling human community above with the bustling bivalve community below. Our camera manipulates scale between these two worlds, conflating the micro happenings of oyster reproduction with the huge piles of shell waste waiting to be regenerative. Through our lens, both seem extraordinary and large, privileging ideas of collectivity and community as a force as opposed to focus on an individual oyster’s lifecycle. Inevitably, some characters in this story are harder to represent visually than others, and the unseeable foes such as sea level rise and climate change are characterized through identifiable recurring melodies in the original score. Untitled Oyster Film differs from other food films by challenging perceptions of who holds intimate knowledge of the oysters and the environments they are found in. Trending away from sit-down interviews with human subjects, the camera instead focuses on the holistic lifecycle of oysters themselves as they are raised, farmed, transported, shucked, eaten, and restored to the the ecosystem. Emphasis is placed on the meditative movements of the routines of the skilled laborers, as well as close-ups on their faces to engage the intimacy of their work and the physical relationship between their hands and the food they’re preparing or the creatures they’re growing. We hope to create anti-”food porn” -- not creating imagery that invites consumption but framing consumption critically, as a part of a full lifecycle. Another unique element of our process is the structure of our team. Led by director Emily Packer, early collaborators were brought on to expand the groundswell of ideas, engaging all contributors to take on creative ownership as a collective rather than contractors under a top-down directive. The film is being made with the understanding that abolishing an auteur narrative through community-oriented filmmaking and shared creative power is certainly how the oysters would do it.

KEY CREW

Emily Packer - Director
Emily Packer is an experimental non-fiction filmmaker with an interest in border culture and border theory. She was a fellow in the 2018-2019 Collaborative Studio at UnionDocs in Brooklyn. Emily graduated from Hampshire College in December of 2015. The following year, she organized a three-day art event in San Diego and Tijuana, where she screened her second feature film, La Frontierra Chingada. In addition to her independent work, Emily is a freelance editor, producer, and serves on programming teams for film festivals in New York City. Emily collects voicemails for future use; consider yourself notified.

John Marty - Director of Photography
John Marty is an experimental filmmaker who works with analog and digital mediums. Based in New York City, his work has been seen in festival circuits throughout the United States. His first feature film used ethnographic methods to explore the mysterious world of truffle hunting in Italy. John graduated from Hampshire College in the spring of 2016 and worked the following year as the Alumni Intern for the Film/Photo/Video Program. While working as a freelance videographer and editor, he also tends to his various house plants.

Lindsey Philips - Lead Editor
Lindsey Phillips is a documentary filmmaker and editor based in Brooklyn, New York. In her work, she celebrates unique traditions and idiosyncrasies of place, culture, and communities, finding the humor and humanity in complex places. She is known for directing and editing "The Exceptionally Extraordinary Emporium," a film about the significance of costuming in New Orleans, and “My Name Is Marc, And You Can Count On It,” about Cleveland’s late-night commercial cult icon Marc Brown. Her award-winning films have screened at numerous festivals across the country, have appeared on PBS's Reel South, and her work has been featured on The New Yorker, Time Magazine, Vox, and CNN’s Great Big Story.

Liz Beeson - Executive Producer
Liz Beeson is a photographer, writer and digital producer whose work focuses on story and discovery. Her work has appeared in Curbed New Orleans, GoNOLA.com, goINVADE, neutrons/protons, Damesly.com, Harness Magazine and Thrillist. During her time in New Orleans, Liz produced and served as the production manager for an original series hailed by the press as 'the New Portlandia' and featured on Indiewire's list of web series that could be 'the Next Broad City.' Liz is heavily involved in women’s rights and currently serves on the boards for the New York Women’s Foundation and Girls On the Run. Liz is a culture enthusiastic and believes that artistic expression creates better communities and she is excited to explore ways in which the arts can address today’s societal issues.

Emma Yi - Associate Editor
Emma Yi is a visual artist, independent filmmaker and performer based in Beijing. She graduated from the City College of New York with a MFA degree in Digital and Interdisciplinary Art practice. Through utilizing and de-familiarizing crucial moments of everyday life as materials of artistic practice, her works are often conceptual, including conflicts inherent to human nature, functions of objects, hidden power and social construction, based on post-structural theory. Yi was a Collaborative Studio fellow at UnionDocs, and her works have been exhibited in solo and group shows, including The PALAZZO VELLI EXPO in Italy, Bronx River Art Center, NARS Foundation, The Border Project Space in New York, El Museo DE Los Sures, Cloud Gallery and other public spaces. She has also organized curatorial projects at Chashama, Center for Performance Research and Fou Gallery.

Ben Stillerman - Producer/Assistant Camera
Benjamin Stillerman is a PhD candidate in Social Psychology at New York University, a 2019 UnionDocs fellow, and a founding editor of the collage journal ctrl + v. He directs, produces, shoots, and edits music videos and documentaries. His poetry has appeared in Landfill, Salamander Magazine, and GASHER Journal, and Virga Magazine. He lives in Brooklyn.

Trey Tetreault - Producer
Trey is a director, producer, writer, and actor originally from Richmond, VA. He graduated from Virginia Tech in 2014 with a BA in Theatre Arts and Cinema. Since then, Trey has been actively pursuing a career in the theater and film industries. He has produced, directed, written, and acted in a wide variety of projects ranging from Saturday Night Live to his own fully produced web series, I’m Fine (YouTube). He continues to explore new opportunities and seeks to educate himself in all areas of production. Apart from this project, he is currently developing another series for YouTube and directing a short film with his production company, Holding For A Plane Productions, and writing a full length play to be produced in early 2021.

Josh Margolis - Archival Producer
Josh Margolis is a Brooklyn based archival producer with a keen interest in art and visual culture. He is best known for his work on Abstract: The Art of Design (Netflix), American Experience: Norman Borlaug (PBS), Rebuilding Paradise (Nat Geo), and The Fourth Estate (Showtime). Josh graduated from Ithaca College in 2017 with a Bachelors of Science in Media Production. In 2015 he co-produced a documentary short following a community of Syrian refugees who had recently resettled in Detroit. The film was selected as an Editor’s Pick by The Atlantic magazine, won Best in Show at Docs Without Borders Film Festival, and had played at numerous other festivals. Outside of work Josh can most often be found wandering around the MET, Brooklyn Museum, or any of the other “pay what you wish” art institutions in the city grumbling quietly to himself about corporate manipulation of copyright laws.

 

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