SWISS ARMY INTERVIEW FILMMAKER PAT FRANCART Posted 07 May 2018
SWISS ARMY sat down with filmmaker and director of their music videos, Pat Francart, to discuss film, inspiration, skulls, Pat’s brain and more. Check out the interview and both music videos below…
SA: We’ll start simple: When did you start getting into filmmaking and what was the catalyst that brought you into it?
Pat: I was probably eight or nine, and I went to my cousin Justin’s house. He and his brother Jonathan built a miniature set with a dinosaur and a caveman, and they were shooting stop-motion with the family video camera. When they showed me the finished footage, the dinosaur bent down and grabbed the caveman in its teeth and lifted him up. It was magical.
SA: Who/what are some of your favorite filmmakers and/or pieces of work?
P: James Whale’s “Frankenstein,” Orson Welles (especially “F for Fake”), and George Romero, who was and is an inspiration to regional independent filmmakers.
SA: You used some pretty cool and old cameras for these music videos. Tell us a little about those.
P: We shot “Paris Mountain” with a 1970s-era Bolex, which is a wind-up home movie camera. It’s an agile camera - no batteries, extremely fast and easy to use. You can go from firing off single frames and making insane stroboscopic images to shooting slow motion just by moving your thumb.
We shot “1,000 Pardons” with an Arriflex SR-II, which is essentially a professional documentary camera. That particular camera traveled all over the world with a National Geographic filmmaker named Kenneth Love.
Swiss Army - Paris Mountain
SA: What made you decide to use film instead of a more modern, digital format?
P: My day job in commercial and industrial film is totally digital and “modern.” Personal work shouldn’t feel like your day job or you’ll just have day job ideas. The more I can differentiate my personal working methods from my day job working methods, the more I can differentiate my work.
SA: What challenges did using film bring while shooting the videos?
P: Film itself is never really a challenge. If you can use a light meter, you can shoot film. The challenges came from other nonsense I decided to put myself through, like hand processing and scanning. The only restriction is on shooting time. You have finite film. But I like that because I hate long shooting days.
SA: Once you’re done shooting a video on film, what happens next?
“Paris Mountain” is hand-processed and hand-transferred 16mm. By that I mean I literally crammed the exposed film into buckets of photographic chemicals, then digitally photographed each frame of film by hand. I shot negative film, but processed it in the wrong chemicals to produce a positive image. Kodak calls this “a highly unstable misuse” of their emulsion. I had to teach myself how to bucket-process color film, which involves a lot of time and temperature control. All of the red flashes on the film are products of accidental film re-exposure from light leaking through the red caps of the processing tanks.
“1,000 Pardons” was processed professionally by a lab, but lab scanning is expensive, so I employed my friend Nathan Inglesby to build a film scanning machine. He produced what is essentially a 3D-printed reverse projector, where the projector lens is the lens of a mirrorless digital camera that photographs each frame as it passes by. It runs at a speed of about one frame per second. We shot about 22 minutes of film, and I digitized about 16 minutes of that, which comes to about 23,000 frames, which took around six hours to capture. Focus, jitter, and workflow issues meant I captured all that footage at least twice, so twelve-ish hours of capture time.
Swiss Army - 1000 Pardons
SA: How does shooting a music video compare with, say, making an experimental film or feature movie?
P: It depends on your working methods. In my case, it’s closer to an experimental film. I like to work from a single visual idea and marry my techniques to that idea.
SA: Some of the visuals of these videos are insane. What was your inspiration or references for them?
P: “1,000 Pardons” was directly inspired by a scene in the 1932 film “Vampyr,” where the protagonist finds himself awake, but paralyzed in a coffin.
“Paris Mountain” has a lot of antecedents - mostly “underground” filmmakers like Jonas Mekas and Marie Menken.
SA: There are a lot of skeletons in both videos. Are you obsessed with death?
P: I would say my skeleton is obsessed with stardom.
SA: For the 1,000 Pardons video, how on earth did you obtain a coffin?
P: I had one made to Brandon’s exact size by my friend Kevin Moran, who is a carpenter. We’re starting an artisanal coffin business.
SA: From your experience, might anyone in Swiss Army have a future career in acting, if music doesn’t work out?
P: As long as the movie doesn’t take place near water, they’ll all do fine. I’ve never seen grown men so bad at swimming.
SA: What’s next for you as a filmmaker?
P: Hopefully more work on celluloid with more musicians. I like making music videos because I have a short attention span. And probably brain damage from all the photochemistry.
SA: Any shoutouts to anybody before we go?
P: I want to thank Tom Bugaj for re-hiring me at Pittsburgh Filmmakers and putting E-6 photochemicals in my hands. And I always need to thank my partner Sara Zullo for being my all-time assistant director.