It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that sand will get into pretty much everything it manages to contact. And while washing the grit away is one thing—however long it takes to get it all—working with the granular material in film, and protecting delicate gear as you go, is a bit more troublesome.
“It’s very dangerous, because it just gets everywhere,” aAron Munson says. “When you’re shooting with cameras that have fans going in them … you really have to be careful about that.”
It’s something Munson found himself facing, along with collaborators Eva Colmers and Gary James Joynes, over the course of making their experimental short 2.57k. Working with 80 cubic feet of sand—being whipped into plumes of dust by dancers, no less—while keeping it out of the cameras was, uh no, day at the beach.
“But on the screen,” he notes, “it’s beautiful.”
Sitting beside him in a Whyte Avenue coffee shop, Colmers grins her agreement. The pair, two-thirds of 2.57k’s collaborative core (Joynes is out of town), have no lingering resentments about their material of choice: sand was central to the 14-minute short that blends all three’s talents.
2.57k began without much shape, just a desire to collaborate: after Colmers, a filmmaker, saw Joynes’ work at a media-arts conference, the two fell into discussion and agreed to find some future project to work on. A few meetings later, they weren’t any closer to a firm idea, but Colmers brought Munson on board, and between the three of them, sketched out ideas for the experimental short. (The weekend’s screening of the finished 2.57k, before it heads off to film festivals, will be paired with a few selections from each of its central collaborator’s other works, too.)
The bedrock of 2.57k is Joynes’ art: a mix of audio and visual, he uses frequencies to manipulate sand into patterns, effectively painting with sound itself. Different frequencies produce different patterns, but 2570 Hz is one in which the sand won’t actually settle into a pattern, but continue to swirl and dance.
“[The frequency] was something Gary had found before, and wasn’t sure if he could find again,” Munson says. “We wanted to capture it with the camera we had, not knowing that it would be the title of the piece.”
That camera in question was a high-speed Phantom, which they used to film Joynes’ process at 1000 to 1500 frames per second.
“A three-second moment actually takes a minute-and-a-half to play out in real time,” Munson says.
“We witnessed something that the naked eye is not privileged to see,” Colmers adds, beaming. “The beautiful patterns of Gary’s, that he is driving through the frequency on that metal plate—suddenly you watched what each sand grain was doing.”
That’s one component of 2.57k. The other part shifts perspective from micro to macro: in, and on a pile of sand we see two figures engage in mix of movements that sometimes attract, sometimes repel each other.
“I come from the theatre, so I needed some kind of loose, dramatic thread—even though its experimental,” Colmers notes. “Hence the two performers/dancers, who lead us through that loose story.”
And a whole lot of sand, too, which was provided by Sand Recycling, the only company they could find that would take it back (and clean it for future use) afterwards.
They had rehearsed some ideas with the dancers beforehand, but once the sand was delivered and filming began, unexpected moments and ideas presented themselves too.
“I really enjoyed that process,” Munson says. “There’s times when I liked everything laid out, storyboarded, but it’s nice to sometimes to be able to throw that out the window and say, ‘I want to try this.’ In the moment, a lot of times, that’s when inspiration comes.”
Sun, May 24 (1 pm)
Metro Cinema at the Garneau