We rang in the New Year at the Dryden Theatre with Jon Moses and Albert Birney’s The Beast Pageant. Here the filmmakers take us through their journey to create the ‘strangest — and most tuneful —folk avant-garde dispatch of recent years’:
In 2005 we visited the Dryden Theater to see the great filmmaker Walter Murch discuss sound and film editing. We were so inspired we decided to move here. We got jobs at the theater selling tickets and popcorn. One day while squeezing coconut butter into the popcorn machine The Beast Pageant quest was born.
We had no idea what we were doing. The story emerged from sharing dreams and playing Nintendo. We wrote the script on back porches over many early mornings. We found our 16mm Bolex camera in a dumpster behind a Hospital in Baltimore. We filled an entire basement full of broken televisions, abandoned computers, creepy mannequins, and tons of rusty scrap metal. When it was time to begin shooting we rented a small, one room studio in an old brick building a few blocks from where we live. Our studio was surrounded by cabinet and chair builders so we shot at night when it was quiet.
Rochester was the perfect place to make The Beast Pageant. There are trees, you can see the sky, and there are plenty of sad decaying factories crying to be captured on film. Since Kodak is based here we were able to buy, develop and transfer the film locally. We had a budget of zero dollars. We would save up money for a few weeks, buy film, and then save up for the next batch. We found most of the props and costumes in the garbage. A friend was renovating a house so we got old floor boards, sinks and doors. We built the sets with paper-mâché, cardboard and discarded wood. Our crew was a beautiful bunch of friends that we met around town. Actors were plucked from the Dryden lobby. Making the film was like solving a giant hairy puzzle. We constantly edited and welcomed the happy accidents along the way. The Beast Pageant felt like a living thing, an organic master telling us what it wanted, making unusual demands like gathering pounds of dead fish and being covered in cottage cheese. It constantly changed and evolved until the end product was clear and the monster was alive!
Jon Moses, Albert Birney… and where it all began.
Roxana Aparicio Wolfe is the Curator of Education and Online Communities at George Eastman House.