"There is no question that I'm an Underappreciated Moviemaker... But why stop there? Not just Unappreciated but Neglected, Ignored; sometimes Mocked, Insulted, Scorned... My movies have been accused of not being real... And what's strange about it is I've consistently tried to "sell out". That is, I've consistently tried to make movies which I felt would be entertaining and compelling for the public." - Dick Turner
[tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE note: In order to inform the interested public who the UNDERAPPRECIATED MOVIEMAKERS are whose work will be screened at the UNDERAPPRECIATED MOVIEMAKERS FESTIVAL. I've asked all the participants to date to provide:
1. a bio (short or long, you decide - short ones, obviously, tend to be read more)
2. a picture
3. a list of your works (either complete or selected - but make sure you list your earliest movie to substantiate that you've been at it for 30 or more years)
4. 1 or more links to relevant websites
5. AN ESSAY EXPLAINING WHY YOU'RE UNDERAPPRECIATED (This is very important. What I'm hoping for is not only an explanation of why you feel underappreciated but what it is about you & your work that you think leads to people neglecting &/or rejecting it. This can be a socio-political-cultural analysis of what might be shortcomings of our society.)
Dick has been the 1st reply & his #5 essay could practically be used as a manifesto for the festival.]
Dick Turner (Henry Dickinson Turner, Jr.)
Born Baltimore, Maryland 2 December 1959.
Lived Baltimore until 1996.
Now living in Paris, France.
I am a composer/musician/painter/film maker. I have made occasional excursions into other realms, like theater and sculpture. For the purposes of the Unappreciated Moviemakers Festival, I will concentrate on my film work. There are links to examples of my other work below for anyone interested.
In or around 1976 I began composing my first pieces of music, doing my first paintings and with my brother Henry, shooting reels of Super 8 film more or less randomly. After a while, these became more ambitious and developed and in 1979 we started making a short feature, Strangers (45 minutes, sound, color). This kept going on for the next sixteen years.
My brother Henry & I were inseparable as collaborators for about 20 years. On these films (see list below) I would serve as actor, composer, costume designer, set decorator, script co-developer, co-producer, truck driver, etc. basically everything except the cameraman and director.
When my brother moved to California I decided to move to Paris, France. I was so used to working with Henry that for several years I didn't make another film. It was like an equation that took time to re-evaluate. This break in production was also perhaps due to my moving to Paris and starting from scratch, becoming a father, focusing more on composing and painting etc. Also, I didn't have a network at first which, to produce narrative films like mine, is necessary. Money was also an issue
But, after a time I did start steadily producing films again. The first two of these will be presented at the Unappreciated Moviemakers Festival.
· A LIST OF WORKS
Films made in collaboration with my brother Henry
1976 First films, often just Super 8 shot with no idea of a story, some little films with titles like Apocalypse Joe, Specter
1979 Dance Macabre Super 8, 8 minutes, b&w, to be accompanied by a recording
1980 Strangers Super 8, 45 minutes color, sound
1985 Trashmonster, 16mm, color, sound
1989 Pym 16mm postproduced on video b&w, sound
1991 Wilber Whateley's Sex Drive 16mm b&w, sound
1995 Gun to My Head/Gun to Your Head 16mm color, sound
Films made after my move to Paris.
2010 - 2012 La Grosse Commission (Shit Happens) 45 min, sound, color
2014- 2016 Nature Morte avec des Oranges (Still Life with Oranges) 50 min, sound, color
2017- currently in production La mort est courte (Death is Short) a Trilogy of three short films; the first two of which have been shot.
I've also shot many music videos for my group Traditional Monsters, plus made random short films.
· ONE OR MORE LINKS TO RELEVANT WEBSITES
Facebook page for La Grosse Commission (Shit Happens)
Facebook page for Nature morte avec des oranges (Still life with Oranges)
· AN ESSAY EXPLAINING WHY YOU'RE UNDERAPPRECIATED
There is no question that I'm an Underappreciated Moviemaker... But why stop there? Not just Unappreciated but Neglected, Ignored; sometimes Mocked, Insulted, Scorned... My movies have been accused of not being real... And what's strange about it is I've consistently tried to "sell out". That is, I've consistently tried to make movies which I felt would be entertaining and compelling for the public.
I make narrative films that usually cost me every cent I have. I'd have to be crazy to make a film knowing it was doomed to neglect. Each time I have set about making a film I have been convinced that the movie I was planning would be a "hit", meaning whoever got to see it would find it interesting and it had a chance to "live".
But that's not the way it's turned out.
Let me list a few events from my "film career":
· Actors wanting their names off my movie La Grosse Commission because they were afraid it was damaging their careers. (The expression "La Grosse Commission" means both "shit" and "The Big Job").
· A journalist making fun of my movie based not on the content (for he never saw it) but again, for the title in Liberation (a well-known French newspaper) my film La Grosse Commission was chosen as one of the worst film titles in 2012. When I wrote the author of the article to explain my intentions in having chosen that title and to invite him to a screening I received no response.
· The above Liberation article led to the "star" of the film to tell me that I had deceived him when I gave him the major role in my film. That the film was a total failure and he regretted doing it.
· Hearing from an inside source (the niece of the President of the festival) that the judging committee of the Cannes Film Festival openly ridiculed my film during its pre-selection screening (obviously it wasn't selected for the festival).
· A cinema professor standing up during the debate after a projection of Nature Morte avec des Oranges and saying that I "A film like this should not have been made!"
Maybe you're thinking since all these different people, festivals, actors, even a Professor didn't like my films there could be a good reason: The films must be bad!
But perhaps you noticed that these "critiques" (with the exception of the last, which I will deal with below) make fun of the titles, of the lack of success, even of the later embarrassment of having been in the film, in short, of everything in fact but the content.
Now, I find this interesting because I worked as hard as I could to make these films with the highest possible degree of developed content that I could come up with.
One example. Why did I choose to make a film (La Grosse Commission) using excrement as a theme? Well, besides the almost unlimited literary references which inspired me (Céline, Proust, Rabelais, Thomas Mann, Jonathan Swift, Chuang Tzu, Freud...etc.) I wanted to reference the biological reality of the body without recourse to sexuality. Why was this? Because I feel that almost always, when sexuality comes up, thought flies out the window, thus excrement had a greater chance of maintaining a certain intellectual distance and thus a greater chance of its underlying representation of biology being understood as a philosophical theme.
I wanted to engage thought.
I have some beliefs. I like thinking and I hate being manipulated. Also, why present false dilemmas? Why make "dramatic" movies that produce false images of what we are as people? The people I have met have never seemed like those I've seen in any film. I can't stand watching the insulting one-sided representations of what I am supposed to be in films, or hearing it in music, or etc.
In short my desire was to make films that DO NOT EMOTIONALLY MANIPULATE OR FALSELY REPRESENT the audience and ENGAGE THOUGHT. That is, give the audience something else from what they normally get. So I avoid sex and violence and focus on ideas.
Let me define what for me an independent filmmaker is:
An independent filmmaker is someone who makes films which express his or her own ideas and not align themselves with the ideas of some social group.
Thus in opposition to the Independent Filmmaker I put the "Commercial Filmmaker" on both the high (big budget) and low (small budget) level. Against all received wisdom let me say: Money is not an issue; it's a question of intent.
Let me explain what I mean by intent. A common reaction to my films is to think that if I had had a bigger budget that the films would be "better". By this they mean that they would more closely resemble "Hollywood" or commercial films. This is incorrect. Perhaps if I had had more money I would have put in dolly shots, or a crane shot, or have had a make-up artist or had more expensive props but the film itself would still probably be unsatisfying to most viewers. This is because I believe the soul of my films isn't commercial. I didn't set out to make a Hollywood style film and fail because of lack of funds, this was never my intent. I set out to present a series of ideas and did it to my satisfaction which due to very limited funds lacks the gloss that people are accustomed to in commercial products.
But I believe that, even if I'd had all the money in the world, my films would not have met with success because they are fundamentally different than commercial films.
The Commercial Filmmaker may be someone who makes Hollywood films or TV shows, others may be filmmakers who cater to the art crowd or the festival crowd as represented by one of its many genres gay & lesbian, "strange films", black, Asian, Christian, Jewish, Taoist, etc. Look at a festival list sometime for a curious mirror of recognized society.
Now what am I saying here? That I lump all these films together? High and low budget? That I find these types of films to be suspect or even worse, usually without any artistic or human value? That they are full of lies and misrepresent human reality? Well, yes, that's exactly what I am saying.
They are usually statements of some form of conformity.
I believe in the INDIVIDUAL. I believe that the artist, if his or her work is to have any value at all, must therefore be an INDIVIDUAL. That it is our life's work to uncover who we are as individuals and never to let up. Whether gay, straight, asexual, male, female, black, white, Chinese, Eskimo, old, young, tall, short and regardless of religious affiliation the work of an artist is to discover themselves and not to express, or rather re-express or reinforce, the received stereotypes belonging to some known category.
And so, if it is the job of the moviemaker to represent false ideas of people, create false manipulative situations and reinforce false social stereotypes, I would have to agree with the self-proclaimed professor who said my film "Nature morte avec des oranges" should never have been made.
There are other issues that can be taken into account to explain my Underappreciated status.
I am self-produced. Not having a producer means I have no network, etc. Whoever gets the chance to see them? I have unsuccessfully tried festivals, self-distribution, etc. However on the positive side, no producer always means: I am free to do what I want.
The Market Economy is also to blame: it needs product. It needs the reproducible and predictable to smoothly function, whereas the art of the individual is neither reproducible nor predictable.
Further, unfairly, they work hard to create a situation where only their product is available, to limit competition. The Market Economy needs to limit thought; it needs to limit the desire for choice.
Thus dissident voices are few and far between and practically never heard.
So what do we get?
Film is what you see in movie theaters or on television. Music is what you hear put out by a label, on the radio, on television. Art is found in a museum or in an art gallery and purchased by collectors and investors. Jeff Koons is a genius, Beyoncé, Rihanna and Jay-Z, great musical artists; Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are great filmmakers. Toy Story is a great film: Steve Jobs said that, it must be true. Literature is Harry Potter. I could add: Knowledge is what you get in Universities.
But really, why should they take a risk on something when they have a sure thing almost every time? How can you convince someone who made a billion dollars off Star Wars 8 that the film has no value other than a reflection of a social malaise?
For what I see in the world of so-called art is exactly that endless images of a social malaise. The art products that one finds "on the shelf" (meaning theaters, radios, television) have no artistic value, but they are endlessly interesting as symptoms of an illness, a social disease, a plague: a cage of the mind.
And that's why the art of Individuals is not found on the shelf. This is scary because it means certain ideas are not allowed.
Let me risk the following statement: I believe that it is perhaps the absence of these ideas that makes the appreciation of my films difficult and maybe impossible.
Once when I was a child I was at the Baltimore Zoo and I saw a gorilla in a cage which would vomit and them eat the vomit, vomit again, eat it again, etc. I asked my father why the gorilla was doing it and he said: That gorilla is an intelligent animal but it is so bored that it has nothing else to do except vomit and eat it.
I think my films are about people living in those cages. That's what I see in our current society: Vomit Eaters. It is just reprocessed and reformed with some added salt to make it taste better.
So yes, I'm Underappreciated, but ultimately, I don't blame anyone for it, I think it goes with the territory. There's a story that Arnold Schoenberg quotes in his book "Style and Idea". A Roman orator was giving a speech and at some point while he was speaking the assembled crowd began to cheer. He stopped and asked them "What? Have I said some nonsense?"
Star Wars 8 has made over a billion dollars, not counting toy sales.
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