Late last month, MoMA opened its six-week exhibition of Creative Capital-supported films with a one-night-only performance of “HERE [The Story Sleeps],” a hybrid film/concert and sister project to writer/director Braden King’s upcoming feature debut, “HERE,” which is currently in post-production. After that performance, indieWIRE had the opportunity to discuss these projects with King as part of a larger conversation about his beginnings in filmmaking and his creative approach.
A filmmaker and visual artist, King has previously garnered acclaim with his music video work, short films, and the documentary project, “Dutch Harbor: Where the Sea Breaks Its Back.” In addition to Creative Capital, the eagerly anticipated “HERE,” starting Ben Foster and Lubna Azabal, has received support from the Sundance Screenwriters and Directors Lab, Rotterdam’s Cinemart Producer’s Lab, the Sundance/NHK Award, Tribeca’s Rockefeller/Renew Media Fellowship, and the Cannes Atelier.
While drawn to photography and music as a teenager, King says that he always felt a pull toward narrative feature filmmaking, but that he’s “taken a meandering path towards it, trying to find a cinematic voice that felt true” to him. He notes the influence of street photography on his first short films, and also describes the process of working on “Dutch Harbor” as very much how a photographer might work: “I didn’t go in with a story in mind; I was looking for a moment, a feeling. I’ve always been very suspicious of stories. I need to deal with them in a way that feels honest and personal.”
King credits the support of the various funders and labs that have gotten behind “HERE” with helping him explore his relationship to storytelling, especially singling out the learning opportunities at the Sundance Labs. In reflecting on the entities that have supported his work, King notes: “I feel a great sense of responsibility to make the best project that I can, to honor the commitment and investment they’ve made in my work.”
With “HERE,” King has embraced narrative, but in his own manner. “I found a way to use non-fiction elements in what feels like a self-expressive way, using an existing set of locations but trying to map a fictional story on top of them.” The film is a road movie about a transformative romantic encounter between two loners – an American satellite-mapping engineer and an expatriate Armenian photographer – who find themselves in Armenia traveling together through unexplored terrain.
King’s careful contemplation about storytelling, mapping, and their limits in cinema are directly of a piece with the explicit mapping themes present in “HERE,” and organically inform the concurrent projects that his collaborators and he have developed around the narrative. The MoMA concert, which incorporated scenes, outtakes, and behind the scenes elements from the film together with evocative stills, topographic maps, and a live accompaniment from King’s longtime composer, Michael Krassner and the Boxhead Ensemble, was one such project, described as exploring the dream life of a cinematic narrative. While hesitant to embrace the term, these transmedia elements have long been part of King’s work – “Dutch Harbor” toured with live music events, for example. “I don’t know how to make this narrative without doing this kind of project – this is how we work together.” He describes this multiplatform approach as “a struggle to give shape to the dream form I’m obsessively trying to uncover” about his projects, and notes that the different approaches influence one another. In addition to the narrative and the live concert piece, King also notes that other projects around “HERE” include “Postcards from HERE,” a series of impressionistic videos chronicling the production, which may become a feature itself; an original soundtrack release; and potentially an installation.
While he expresses a passion in describing these various elements, King also notes that his goal is to make the film itself accessible. “If an audience is interested in engaging further on another level, [these other approaches] will allow for a different experience.”
ABOUT THE WRITER: Basil Tsiokos is a Programming Associate, Documentary Features for Sundance, consults with documentary filmmakers and festivals, guest curates the Out at the Movies film series at the Jacob Burns Film Center, and recently co-produced Cameron Yates’ feature documentary “The Canal Street Madam.” Follow him on Twitter @1basil1.