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Pig/Pork is a musical documentary film that explores the world and interconnected systems of the industrialized hog farm.
66 backers pledged $5,136 to help bring this project to life.

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Pig/Pork follows a pig through the seven stages of the highly segmented industry of containment hog farming: breeding, gestation, farrowing, weaning, nursery, grow finishing, and slaughter. But it will do so in a way that is intended to blur and interrogate the prescriptive nature of the documentary film genre.

Most non-fiction films about food origins offer little or no moral ambiguity; I wish to aestheticize the containment pig farm system rather than demonize it. Instead of objectifying the subject with a particular political agenda, I plan to turn the containment farm into an unexpected location of beauty. Rather than commenting directly on the complex economic, environmental, or ethical ramifications of hog farming practices, Pig/Pork will offer an aesthetic perspective on industrial farming processes in carefully considered camera shots. Cinematographic composition, camera movement, shifting centers of attention, and accentuated duration will be the formal structuring elements.

More industrial symphony than exposé, this film will be a lyrical meditation on the containment hog farm in seven movements, and will include musical and operatic elements. I am collaborating with lyric coloratura Julianna Tauschinger-Dempsey, a professional musician and opera singer, on the conceptualization of performance-based and musical reenactments that will be incorporated into the film. I am interested in the unlikely juxtaposition of this "high art" form with the subject matter instead of the more popular tropes associated with the pig picking; banjo playing and North Carolina folk music. 

https://vimeo.com/channels/205031

Natural sounds will also be exploited towards rhythmic and musical ends. Each audience member will inevitably respond to these images and sounds differently, however, since cultural and personal food beliefs are as deep-seated and sometimes as fraught as any political orientation. The film’s structure and form will allow for multiple interpretations.

One containment hog farm has already been selected and some preliminary footage of the “grow finishing” phase has been shot. Over the next several months, I intend to locate and photograph additional containment sites and incorporate musical and performative elements into those photographic views.

PIG/PORK is a film that I have been considering for some time. I have been interested in the systems of food production since completing a film called Nile Perch in 2013. In it I follow the complex system of fishermen, middlemen, factories, and international export of this invasive fish species in the Lake Victoria region of Uganda. After finishing Nile Perch, I wanted to focus on something a little closer to home and thought that large-scale factory hog farming would be a topic with both visual possibility and local, contemporary relevance.

I am an omnivore who likes nothing more than a heaping plate of Eastern-style pulled pork barbecue. I know that there are more pigs than people in North Carolina, yet I rarely glimpse those pigs in my daily life. It is only during my drives through the rural roads of eastern North Carolina that I am made aware of their existence—when my olfactory senses are piqued by the powerful odor of a hog farm wafting through my rolled-down automobile windows. I have decided to follow my nose...

My last four short films have been shot on a Konvas 2M, a Russian MOS Camera from the 1970s. This camera, along with a set of vintage Lomo squarefront anamorphic lenses, has allowed me to develop a relatively portable option for shooting in 35mm Cinemascope. My recent work is truly engaged in the substance of celluloid film and the process of making images by photo/chemical means. I find that the tactility and the deliberation inherent in this process also provokes a particular relationship with image and subject that I find interesting in this world of easy images and crisp HD reality. While my previous projects have utilized unorthodox print and sound stocks that I have hand-processed in my basement darkroom, I am shooting on traditional color negative camera stocks for this project.

Steve Milligan (Cinematographer) surrounded by fans.
Steve Milligan (Cinematographer) surrounded by fans.

 The funding for this film has been partially secured through a North Carolina Arts Council filmmaking grant as well as a grant received from the Fandor FIXshorts program. Please help me raise the remaining $5,000 necessary to complete the film. Funds will be used to pay for film stock and processing as well as to pay the musicians and other collaborators.

Other FiX/Short Projects

I am excited to be in such good company! Please check out the fellow FIX filmmakers and their incredible projects:

Every Fold Matters by Lynne Sachs and Lizzie Olesker, a hybrid experimental film that looks into the charged intimacy of washing clothes in a neighborhood laundromat.

The Eternal by Daniel Stuyck, an existential ghost story about a pizza delivery driver who receives a cryptic transmission from beyond the grave.

Hench by Ani Simon-Kennedy (Bicephaly Pictures), an absurdist dark comedy about two kidnappers and their latest victim.

AND Tombstone Rashomon by Alex Cox (who directed Sid and Nancy and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) which is over on Indigogo.

Risks and challenges

As I've previously mentioned, there are more pigs than people in North Carolina. One might think that documenting their existence would be a simple task, however, increases in contagious swine viruses and other negative publicity in the pork industry has made entry into the commercial hog farm a very complicated affair. I have identified a few farmers who believe that transparency is ultimately beneficial to the pork industry and who are proud of the innovations in the industry that are improving the environmental impact of the hog farm.

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Funding period

- (29 days)