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FILMMAKER MAGAZINE: "Trailer Watch: Ricky D'Ambrose's Notes on an Appearance"
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FANDOR'S KEYFRAME DAILY: "Ricky D'Ambrose pitches Notes on an Appearance"
FILM PULSE: "Kickstart Sunday: Notes on an Appearance"
A young man’s disappearance is at the center of a spare, tidy feature-length narrative film, set inside New York City apartments, subway stations, bookstores, and cafes as the supporters of an elusive political theorist embark on a covert program of indiscriminate violence and censure. But Todd and Madeleine, who search for the missing David, soon enter the company of strangers who promise diversion and sexual intrigue, and the reasons for David's disappearance become much less preoccupying—and less meaningful.
SNIPPETS & SILENCES
The earliest draft of Notes on an Appearance was written more than eight years ago, during a sharply defined period in my life. Between 2008 and 2012, on the tails of my education, I worked piecemeal in New York, typically with empty pockets, beset with low spirits, a disillusioned former recruit to the dubious world picture that marked most of my childhood: the Nineties world, of continuous plenty and aplomb, in which History had ended. (They said the world—this new world—was too big to fail.)
What began with sprawl—as a clunky ensemble vehicle about a handful of young people collectively living out the consequences of a discredited worldview—is now much more compressed, even miniaturized. The result is a scrapbook movie: newspaper inserts, handwritten journal entries, city maps, postcards from overseas, typewritten manuscript pages, snatches of chatter and glimpses of action are hoarded to convey, at least obliquely, something of the unspoken circumstances surrounding a disappearance.
This means minimizing, even eliminating, some of the usual expository techniques of narrative filmmaking—psychological portraiture, for instance, or descriptive “backstory,” which motivates and lends plausibility to a character’s statements and acts, typically in the name of verisimilitude. And in their place? A surface of objects (photographs, notebooks, coffee cups, train tickets) and sounds (street rallies, dense clusters of footsteps, overheard chatter, doors continuously opened and closed) without any corresponding symbolic value or charge. I like this surface-oriented, uninflected, ahistorical treatment of people and things, especially for a film that has more than a passing resemblance to a detective story, in which the search for a missing person is supersaturated with arbitrary signals and small, provisional clues.
Like the paper journal left behind by the vanished David—a neatly inscribed list of daily expenses, filled with travel tickets, drawings, receipts, and postcard reproductions of paintings—the film won’t be confessional. Instead, I’d like to make something akin to a silent talky: a movie that dispatches information selectively, in bald snippets, and that draws from a rich fund of recurring narrative silences, detours, and elisions.
This script wasn’t written to be timely. But a film about loss, set in a dim, sickly period of extremism and emergency—and in which the reasons for a character’s disappearance are either hidden from view or else totally incomprehensible—is, I fear, especially relevant now. On a more intimate level, though, it’s a film that synthesizes so much of what I’ve been thinking and feeling these past few years.
Writer and Director: RICKY D'AMBROSE has written and directed five short films, including Six Cents in the Pocket (2015), which was selected to compete for the Golden Bear at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival, and was included in the 53rd New York Film Festival and the 2016 Viennale. His video-recorded directors talks—with Chantal Akerman, Bruno Dumont, Matías Piñeiro, among others—have been published by MUBI Notebook. He has written about film and the arts for the Nation, n+1, the Times Literary Supplement, Film Quarterly, the White Review, and Filmmaker Magazine. His most recent short, Spiral Jetty (2016), premiered at the Museum of Modern Art and at the Film Society of Lincoln Center during the 46th edition of New Directors/New Films. He lives in New York City.
Producer: GRAHAM SWON is an American producer, distributor and filmmaker. Feature films as producer include Matías Piñeiro’s Hermia & Helena, Jem Cohen’s Counting, and Ted Fendt’s Short Stay. Upcoming projects in 2017 include Dan Sallitt's Fourteen and new features by Bingham Bryant, Ted Fendt and Matías Piñeiro, as well as Ricky D'Ambrose’s Notes on an Appearance. Swon was named one of Filmmaker magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film in 2016. He is currently in post-production on his first film as writer/director. He currently works as the Director of Theatrical Sales at U.S. distributor Kino Lorber, and previously managed theatrical distribution for The Cinema Guild.
KEITH POULSON is a Brooklyn-based actor, filmmaker, and musician. His acting credits include Somebody Up There Likes Me, Listen Up Philip, Bad at Dancing, Hellaware, Stinking Heaven, Little Sister, and Hermia & Helena. He has also worked once or twice as a DIT, Casting Associate, PA, Sound Mixer, Key Grip, Best Boy Electric, Songwriter and Extra.
TALLIE MEDEL is one-third of Cocoon Central Dance Team. Film credits include Sylvio, The Unspeakable Act, Joy Kevin, Uncertain Terms, Stinking Heaven, and The Arbalest. She is presently working on a CCDT short with Rachel Wolther and Alex Fischer, and on features with Daniel Laabs, Dan Sallitt, Caleb Johnson, and Christopher O'Neill.
BINGHAM BRYANT is a director and producer living in New York City. His feature film For the Plasma was selected for BAMcinemaFest, Jeonju IFF, Entrevues Belfort, IndieLisboa, and Maryland Film Festival, and was released by Factory 25 theatrically and on video in 2016. Most recently he produced short film Dear Renzo, by directors Agostina Gálvez and Francisco Lezama, which has played the Viennale, FICUNAM, Entrevues Belfort and BAFICI film festivals. As an actor, he has appeared in Ricky D'Ambrose's Spiral Jetty and Dustin Guy Defa's Dramatic Relationships. He is currently developing his second feature, a ghost story loosely based on Poe's "The Domain of Arnheim," with producer Graham Swon.
BUDGET & SCHEDULE
We’d like to make Notes on an Appearance with a principle in mind: minimize the time and money that’s typically spent on feature-length narrative filmmaking while maintaining total aesthetic control. And while we believe that films should be produced with less waste and lower budgets, it’s impossible for us to make a film without some base capital. The $15,000 raised from this campaign will be the vital first step—without your contributions, it simply isn’t possible for us to move forward with production.
50% Cast and Crew Salaries:
One of the most challenging aspects of filmmaking is making sure the entire creative team is compensated. Notes on an Appearance will adhere to Screen Actors Guild (SAG) requirements, and all our performers will be paid per union standards. Most of the members of our crew will be working at reduced rates to help make this film possible, and it’s essential that we pay them a fair wage. Your dollars will help pay the salaries of our hardworking team.
While we are borrowing as much of it as we can, we’ll still need additional camera, sound, and lighting equipment to make this film properly. Kickstarter contributions will make Notes on an Appearance look and sound as good as possible.
20% Insurance, Legal and Administrative Fees:
From LLC registration costs to production insurance to material shipping, there’s a long list of incremental fees that we need to pay in order to complete the film fairly and safely.
10% Finishing Fees and Completion:
Once production ends, the film will need a final color correct, sound mix, and a DCP (Digital Cinema Package) for film festival screenings.
If this campaign is successful, we'd like to begin principal photography in August 2017. Post-production will be finished by December 2017, making the film ready for festivals in early 2018.
Richard Brody on Ricky D'Ambrose, in the New Yorker: "A critic’s constant fear involves missing something good, especially something by a filmmaker whose career is just getting started. This fear is all the more intense in New York, where it’s not possible for a critic to see all the movies being shown and where, as a result, something important may be playing nearby and yet not be noticed. So it is with a short film that was in last year’s New York Film Festival, Six Cents in the Pocket, directed by Ricky D’Ambrose, which I caught up with belatedly and which, at its best, is revelatory."
Steve Macfarlane interviews Ricky D'Ambrose for BOMB Magazine: "D’Ambrose orchestrates brilliantly distinct micro-sensations, the likes of which are typically naysayed by film professors liable to draw crass narrative recommendations between a short film’s length and its implied density of plot. These counteractions of noise and image can be both dislocating and sonorous at once—like the barest of strings plucked against each other."
Mark Asch on Ricky D'Ambrose, for Brooklyn Magazine's "30 Under 30": "While most low-budget filmmaking today is defined by chance and chaos, quotation and improvisation, D’Ambroses’s shorts aspire to a classical formal rigor—rigor in the sense of self-denial and spiritual transcendence."
And, from March 2017, an interview with D'Ambrose about his short film Spiral Jetty, which premiered at the 43rd edition of New Directors/New Films.
ESSAYS & INTERVIEWS
Watch Ricky D'Ambrose's video-recorded interviews with filmmakers Chantal Akerman, Bruno Dumont, Matías Piñeiro, and others, on MUBI.
Ricky D'Ambrose on the making of Six Cents in the Pocket, for Filmmaker magazine.
Read Ricky D'Ambrose's essays and reviews for the Nation magazine.
Risks and challenges
Each of my last four films—all of them shorts—was a chance for me to work through a few recurring ideas. Many of these ideas were about form, and about being able to try out, and finally retreat from, some of the things I learned by watching the movies of Robert Bresson, Chantal Akerman, Straub-Huillet, Michelangelo Antonioni, Michael Snow, etc. In this sense, the shorts have done their work. They've also convinced me that a film can be made cheaply, with a small and sympathetic cast and crew, and with very few technical demands. A functioning model, in other words, for the way a feature-length film, like this one, can be made.
However, Notes on an Appearance cannot be made without a band of advocates—that is, without the guidance and good faith of sympathetic people who share not only our excitement for this film and its future, but who recognize that there are alternatives to the commercial cinema in this country that require special, continuous attention and care. Your support will contribute to independent filmmaking, by which I mean filmmaking that’s independent of traditional sources of film financing, commercial production houses, awards-circuit aspirations, and families with well-lined pockets. We hope you can join us.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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