George is rich, very rich. He is struggling between the inheritance of his father and the lies he has based his life on. A middle class family man on the one side, a single luxurious annuitant on the other, he is loosing his footing in this double life that threatens to collapse on his fortieth birthday. This is the beginning of an inner dive toward himself, tossed between resistance and consent. A profound life change, for him and his surroundings.
Filmmaker, producer, photograph, poet, Stanley Woodward has directed several shorts
and films essay. The Great Means is its first feature film.
What makes you fascinated with the cinematic language and what was the first film project you worked on?
- What is the cinematic language? The language that sprung from images at first, then from
the conjunction of images and sounds imprinted on a celluloid surface/canevas, and now the
calculus of information transformed into images and sounds. And yet cinematic language lives on. Quite a mystery what cinematic language is.
Cezanne taught us something with the painting of an apple. The subject doesn’t matter, only
the way one looks at it, represents it does. The cinematic language could then be the
modern language of how the eyes, the brain, the heart come together to create a reality in
which we like to engulf ourselves to disappear for a moment, to live something we don’t
dare live, to learn something about the humans we are?
If something fascinates me with the cinematic language it is the way I experiment something
within me through ghosts on a screen: people, places, sounds projected/viewed are the
illusion of the real people, places, sounds filmed/recorded, the memory of who they were
- My first film project was the brief encounter between a human and a ghost on a city
sidewalk. This project was never made/realized as we say in French. It lives on inside me.
Perhaps it was an omen of what I would be searching for cinematically until now: filming the
invisible through the visible of human lives.
Please tell us how your film came to life and let us know about the process from pre-production to completion.
- My film came to life from being almost dead. Like in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, an
old man shouts over the shoulder of his collector: I’m not quite dead yet! The project
appeared not to be quite dead yet. It is the encounter with the actors that brought it back to
life. Their reality, their reading of the script, the adventurous aspect of the project sprung an
enthusiasm that showed me another way to look at the project. They guided me toward the
film. The project was to take place concretely, not theoretically, not in the brain. It was an
experience to live. No one could be sure of anything before making it.
- So the process from preproduction to production was to integrate the filmed work of
residencies with the actors into a newly rewritten script. Editing what I had filmed continued
showing the way toward the film. Like a study of a painting before painting the actual
painting. Consenting to what was showed to me rather than only seeing what I wanted to
see finished leading the way to the production of the film.
What was the most challenging aspect of working on this genre?
- The most challenging aspect of working on this genre of film is that it is at the crossroads of
different genres. I used to call this project a metaphysical action film. A genre unknown to
me. Working with the unknown drives me deeply, but I find myself trying to reassure my
anxieties by bringing the unknown to something known to control it.
Making a film is in my view a fierce tension between creating the conditions for the
unknown - life - to happen and trying to prepare/control what should be filmed from day 1.
So the most challenging aspect of working with this unknown genre was in a way to
unprepare the prepared production work, finding the ways to incarnate the inner adventure
of the main character into bodies, forests, rivers, caves, holes where he could loose/find
himself, thus, letting the cheer joy of life in, in this tragic comedy. Binding together truths
and lies in a never ending dance.
What is your next film project and what are you currently working on?
I am currently working on the next film project: the second part of a triptych that was
revealed to me as I was finalizing The Great Means.
What happens to the main character four/five years after having experienced his Great
Means. The continuation of his cinematic inner adventure. Deeper, more mysterious, less
acceptable aspects of himself shall be revealed to contribute to his metamorphosis.
What is the most creative part of directing a project for you?
The most creative part of directing a project is directing a project. As the project is expressed
into the world things happen in return. Unexpected things. A form of response to what has
been sent out.
The most creative part of directing a project is therefore listening to what resonates to what
responds. I feel I am a gatherer, a collector. The desire to film the invisible conjures me to
listen to what speaks under what shows up when directing a project. This is what is so
creative, joyful, disconcerning about working on a project. Meeting people, places. Calling
for synchronicity. Trying. Failing. Trying again. The most creative part of directing a project
could be acting like a detective leading an inquiry toward the unknown of the project as the
film silently awaits to be found.
Does the language of cinema stand out more than other arts to you? And why?
Language of cinema stands out as cinema, as painting stands out as painting, as music stands
out as music, etc.
But it does maybe stand out as the most recent art form invented. It couldn’t have happened
without the industrial revolution, without the energy that enabled that revolution to take.
place and has led it into its post-industrial age. Could it be the art of the industrial age,
along with photography, if photography is an art? In that sense, could the language of
cinema be the art of capitalism? Might it disappear with the end of this era? Unlike painting,
music, dance, theater, storytelling.
Why do you make films?
I used to think I made films for glory. To be recognized for my work.
I can add now that it is also to find out what is revealed to me through making a film.
Through what I recognize of the film and through what viewers of the film teach of their
views on it.
I view filmmaking as a psychic revelation. It is the more or less sub-conscience echo chamber
of the society it takes place in and of the individual making that film who is part of that
society. As cinema is the art of projection, what we project on what is projected speaks of
our psyche. Cinema and psychoanalysis were born the same year, 1895.
I make films to reveal my soul through others. It is a search. As the character of The Great
Means goes on an adventure to gather the aspects of himself he has lost on the way.
Making films is a probably way to remember what I have spent a lifetime trying to forget.