For a couple years I’ve been threatening to adapt Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” into a short film that combines the best parts of that story with some truly unique sound design ideas. If I was a good salesman I might say these sound design ideas have never been done in a film before. Of course, that’s probably not true. Moreover, does anything make you want to roll your eyes more than hearing a sentence like “never been done in a film before?” Probably not. So I’m not going to say that sentence, but you get the idea.
I don’t believe there is enough form experimentation in narrative films. Even “arthouse” indie-minded films tend to showcase a story in traditional ways. Though the content is shocking, out of order, or shot in a unique way, on the surface the audience is still watching a scene shown in a frame with as little interruption as possible. Film has the opportunity to use both sound and sight to express a story, but movies tend to tell the story visually, with the audio only enhancing the visuals, always in sync, rarely contradictory. I see an opportunity to use those tools separately.
I’m interested in film as an experience, rather than a mouthpiece for a story. Most movies in theaters try to get out of the way of the story—they want the audience to forget they’re watching a film entirely. But I’m interested in using the form to give the audience a unique experience. In the same way as most movies, many novels seek to relay a story. Poetry, however, uses rhyme, rhythm, spacing and line breaks to deliver an experience to the reader. I want to do the same thing with Cathedrals.
WHY ADAPT “CATHEDRAL”?
Carver’s “Cathedral” presents a great opportunity to tell a story through an experience. One of the major characters in the story is a blind man. Blind people use what they hear to understand their world. They’ve learned to live without eyes. Therefore, I want to present his part of the story in the same way to the audience. I want the audience to hear the story first, and see it later, so that hearing becomes the dominant way to take in the story.
For parts of the film, the visuals will be delayed several seconds, so that the scene feels slightly out of sync. Like a blind person, the audience will use their ears to take in the full story, rather than just their eyes.
I’ve tested this effect before, and it has a couple amazing effects:
1). It focuses your attention to the sounds, and how they connect to what you’re seeing.
2). It makes you feel a bit stoned or drunk, which matches what happens in the story.
3). Most importantly, it creates a strange dissonance that mirrors the dissonance between the characters on screen.
The film becomes an experience.
When the climax of the story occurs, you will feel that experience emotionally, too. I can’t wait for you to feel it. It’s going to be shocking.
Sawhorse Productions is helping me create this experience. We’re planning on shooting in mid-January. Unfortunately, as of now, all the money needed to create this experience is coming out of my own pocket. That’s why I’m asking for any help at all in the creation of the project. Perhaps you want to donate some of your time to providing props for the set or PA-ing on our shoot.
Feel free to get in touch with me. I would be tremendously grateful for your help. Shoot me an email, and I’ll send you the script.
Thanks for reading, everyone.
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