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Art as Allegory: A Father’s Mission to Reconnect Through the Making of “Remission”
- Monday, Sep. 27, 2021
It is not in every experimental film that you find a man questing to reunite with his estranged daughters through life-sized, otherworldly creatures – living beings that personify his self-destructive behavior from war-related PTSD. It is true in the case of the short film Remission, which premiered on September 27th on NoBudge.com.
The visual, allegorical style of Remission is an imaginative departure from how PTSD has historically been explored in films. Following an unknown soldier trapped in a state of living paralysis, three creatures emerge as extensions of his trauma from battle and the resultant nihilism that he struggles to overcome. Visions of a distant little girl haunt the soldier and lead the creatures on a vast, lonely pilgrimage in hopes of restoring their once sacred connection.
The short film is based on co-writer Paul Kaiser’s personal experiences. He served in both the United States Army Infantry and the United States Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and was deployed throughout the Middle East during the most recent campaigns. While serving, he was subjected to combat-related trauma and its subsequent collateral damage when he returned home. Most damaging was his experience being detained by hostile forces.
Kaiser and his friend, director John Charter, wrote the script together. Their motivation stemmed out of Kaiser’s heartbreaking, ongoing battle for reconnection with his estranged daughters. Kaiser, a fine artist, has not had contact with them in years. His art is the only way by which he can “speak” to them, with the hopes that one day they will see his work.
With no previous experience in creature design, Kaiser created the large-scale costumes over the course of six weeks in a makeshift workshop at Charter’s home. He discovered his process through hours of trial and error, inspired by costume-making videos from Henson Studios, the artist Nick Cave, and the paintings of Bosch. Kaiser continually reworked the engineering of his creature designs to make them more lightweight and resilient to harsh conditions. His most labor-intensive costume, inspired by sniper ghillie suits, was constructed by pulling individual strands of used burlap coffee bags to give the creature a naturally tattered and worn “fur.”
From the desolation of California’s Death Valley to the giant sequoia trees of the north, each shot composed by Charter and cinematographer Rainer Lipski could easily exist as a standalone image found in a painting or fine art photography. The crew adhered to a visually rewarding but inefficient shoot schedule, filming only during the “magic hours” of dawn and dusk. This painstaking approach resulted in 20 shoot days across 19 California locations to achieve the final seven-minute film. By the time the filming was complete, the team had persisted through run-ins with rattlesnakes, wardrobe malfunctions, flat tires, and off-road driving to remote areas without cell phone service, to name a few adventures.
Ultimately, what the filmmakers managed to create is a meditative, almost biblical journey in which creatures travel great distances across desolate landscapes to evoke a sense of loneliness, longing, and commitment at any cost. The creatures, who are an extension of Kaiser, would travel to the ends of the Earth to make their offering – a relatable journey for anyone who has lost contact with a loved one or has had to overcome a traumatic experience.
Remission has earned accolades from around the world, including Slamdance (Department of Anarchy curation), the Brooklyn Film Festival (Audience Award Experimental Film), Sapporo International Short Film Festival (Best Production Design), and the Best Experimental Film award at Evolution Mallorca International Film Festival, as well as Oxford Film Festival, among others. The film screened at Academy-qualifying festivals including Interfilm Berlin, LA Shorts, and Hollyshorts, and numerous MovieMaker Top 50 Festivals including Mammoth Lakes and Sidewalk. It has been exhibited at Richard App Gallery, Venice Institute of Contemporary Art, and the LA Art Show.
Remission is available to stream for free on NoBudge.com.
Directed and Written by John Charter
Art, Production Design, Costumes, Music, and Written by Paul Kaiser
Cinematography by Rainer Lipski
Princess Eleos: Alice Kidd
The Unknown Soldier: Paul Kaiser
Artemis: Zach Smith, Sidney Cumbie, Javier M. Santoveña
Lord Cadmium: Ursa Major, Raffael Ponce-Valencia
Marquis d’See: Mackinzie Dae, Alan Maxson, Marcus Ray
The King whose White and in the Crowd: Jim Charter
Hieronymus: Jonathan Gaietto
Muses: Molly Kidd, Ellie Kidd, Chiara Sechi
Producers: Sarita Choy, Paul Kaiser, John Charter
Assistant Director: Dan Finkel
Production Coordinators: Jess Vanacore, Amber Kidd
Gaffer: Robert Oliva
Drone Operators: Allyson Maynard, Jordan Galloway
Camera Assistant: Marcello Peschiera
Hair and Makeup Artist: Jacqueline Holden
Dressmaker: Janine Brown
Art Department Assistants: Jonathan Gaietto, Roberto Ortiz, Daniel E. Knosp
Boat Captain: Matt Arnold
Underwater Diving Support: Mike Gerz
Behind The Scenes Photographers: Jessica Katharsys, Juliet Frew
Behind The Scenes Videographer: Juliet Frew
Color: Nick Sanders @ Ntropic LA
Color Producer: Kevin Miller
Color Assistant: Manny Vinas Barreras
Sound Designer: Morgan Johnson @ Barking Owl
Music Engineer & Mix: Brad Dujmovic
VFX Supervisor & Animator (Animated Desert Sequence): Reynier Molenaar @ Pixelmutt VFX
Animation Artwork: Paul Kaiser
Special Thanks: Ntropic LA, Barking Owl, Pixelmutt VFX, Sven Dreesbach, Jim Charter, Claudia Charter, Ward Charter, Stephanie Charter, Constantine Papanicolaou, Austin Saya, Jesse Jesster, Alexis Nelson, John Gehrke, Sheryl Bowman, Shannon Bowman, Molly Miles, Marion Swank
Dedicated to Isabelle and Eowyn
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