An Explanation of “Contingency”

Contingency” is a very personal film, and so many people who watch it will not fully understand it. To help those people who wish to understand the film better, I prepared this description of the film. It covers each shot and piece of sound. In addition to an explanation where they came from, I also endeavour to explain why I chose them.

Through out the film I have a continuous background sound consisting of the sound tracks from all my films, layered one on top of another. Over this, I have added snippets of audio from my films and other places. I discuss each of those separately below.

0:00 – Image: Contingency Title – My original intent was to have a simple white on black title for the film. Unfortunately, the film I used was badly outdated and the image was very blue. I was going to reshoot it, but in the interim, I used the bad version. As I watched it, I realized that the “bad” title was more evocative of the theme of the film than a “good” title would be.

0:00 Audio: Just watch me – This is a famous quote from former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

0:03 – Image: A Film by James Beattie Morison – Normally I put the credits at the end of the film, but this would be inappropriate for this film, so I put it here. Many others were involved in the creation of the film I used, but I haven’t included them in the film itself. I’ve listed those people in the various descriptions of t film. The image itself was from images I got for “The Fence”. I didn’t use this particular image in “The Fence” because of some light leakage, but felt it would reinforce the theme of this film.

0:06 – Image: Cut Film – This shot was done specifically for this film. Similar shots in the movie “Man with a Camera” gave me this idea. It represents the control a film maker has over their film, and their ability to accept or reject the images they capture.

0:06 Audio: Things that seem to be accidental – This comes from a TV program called “Inevitable Life”. I chose it because it’s a clear statement about uncertainty and contingency.

0:12 – Image: Poster Flash – This shot consists of single frame images of all 20 of the posters for the $100 Film Festival. I didn’t have a poster for the third festival, so I used the cover of the entry form. This is a micro history of the festival.

0:13 – Image: 16th Avenue Church – This was the location of the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers at the time of the first $100 Film Festival until 1997. It was also the location of the first $100 Film Festival.

0:13 Audio: Jim McAllister – Many years ago before recycling became common, I used to buy apple juice in metal cans. I hated to just toss them out, so I ended up with a pile of apple juice cans in my basement. Many of my friends would kid me about it. One day I found this message from Bernie Saint Pierre on my answering machine. I liked it and wanted to use it in a film.

0:18 – Image: Man walks into the dark – This is a shot from “The Smiling Corpse” a short Super 8 film I made many years before I got involved with the CSIF. It was at the time the longest film I had done and ran about 8 minutes. This was one of the two films I had in mind when I first came up with the idea for the $100 Film Festival. In this shot, the character, played by Neil Taylor, starts to go outside, changes his mind and starts to go back inside, and then changes his mind again and goes outside. If he had decided to stay inside, the story would have turned out differently. A common motif in my work shows up in this shot, a character starts to do something, then changes his mind and doesn’t do it. Here he does it twice.

0:25 – Image: Fort Calgary – This was the location for the second, third and fourth Festivals.

0:25 Audio: There is no reason to believe – This is Bryson Montgomery from “My Most Difficult Case” the film I did for the twelfth Festival.

0:30 – Image: Open the Door – This is a shot from “Extra Special Care” a 16mm film I made in 1990 as a student in a film making course at SAIT. We had 300 feet of 16mm film to make the film and ended up with a film about 4 minutes long. This was the other film I had in mind when I came up with the idea for the $100 Film Festival. I chose this particular shot from the film to symbolize the new opportunities I had when I discovered the CSIF.

0:32 – Audio: As I walked into the room – I recorded this reminiscence of the first time I learned about the CSIF. It was largely luck that I found out.

0:39 – Image: Uptown Theatre – The Uptown was the site for the fifth Festival in 1996.

0:44- Image: High speed ride – This comes from “Weekend in Calgary” the film I made for the first Festival in 1992.

0:44 Audio: Evil laugh – This laugh by Pamela M. Sears and Mary Hennigan comes from “Line of Taxis” the film I made for the eighth Festival in 1999.

0:51- Image: 4th Street – This was the location for the CSIF from 1997 until 2002.

0:53 Audio: God does not play with dice – This is a famous quote from Albert Einstein and the less famous rejoinder from Niels Bohr. I chose it because it made the point that much of what happens is by chance. This comes from a TV program called “Inevitable Life

0:56 – Image: Man takes off glasses – This is a shot of Clarence Boudreau as a conspirator in “Who Shot the President” the Super 8 film I made for the third Festival in 1994. I picked this shot because the character takes off his glasses as if to reveal something, but then he puts them back on to conceal. He could have revealed all, but then he didn’t. This image actually comes from a 16 mm version of the film that I made in 2001.

1:01 Audio: Number 9 – This came from the Beatle’s Revolution #9, which was another inspiration for this film.

1:01- Image: Garry Theatre – The Garry was the location for the sixth through eighth Festivals.

1:03 Audio: Denise invited me – I recorded this reminiscence of the invitation that prompted me to come up with the idea for the $100 Film Festival. In this case, events that had nothing to do with the festival got the ball rolling.

1:06- Image: Man stops and goes back – This shot of Brian Howland comes from “If I Knew . . .” the Super 8 film I made for the fourth Festival.  It is another example of someone who changes their mind and thereby changes the outcome.

1:09 Audio: A heartbeat – This comes from “Who Shot the President”. I had put an echo on her voice saying “who shot the president” and the result was a distortion that makes it seem she is repeating the phrase “a heartbeat”. This was not intentional; I felt it was appropriate for the theme of the film. When I redid the audio for the film in 2001, I wasn’t able to reproduce the same distortion, so I kept this part of the audio from the original film.

1:13 – Image: Uptown Theatre – The Uptown was the site for the ninth, tenth and eleventh festivals from 2000 to 2003.

1:18 – Image: The Fence – This is a shot I did for “The Fence” the 16mm film I did for the fifth festival in 1996. I did not use this shot in the final film. I chose this to illustrate that I could have made a version of the film that was different from the film I did make.

1:21 – Audio: If things had been different – I heard this line in an episode of Law & Order. I wasn’t able to get a copy of the original audio, so recreated it with an artificial voice. I chose it because I felt it supported the theme of the film.

1:23 – Image: CSIF building at Currie Barracks – This was the location for the CSIF from 2002 until 2011.

1:28 – Image: Man answers phone – This shot of Keith D. Humphrey comes from “Line of Taxis” a 16mm film I made for the eighth Festival in 1999. It was originally supposed to be the last shot of the film, but I didn’t use it in the final film. The assistant director, Pamela M. Sears, suggested a different shot. We shot both and I decided the shot she suggested worked better.

1:29 – Audio: I wish it were so – This comes from “My Most Difficult Case”, the 16mm film I made for the twelfth festival in 2004. I chose this line because it expressed many people’s wish that things could have turned out differently. I often think of this as “My Most Difficult Film”. I wrote the first draft of the script in 1990, but didn’t shoot it until 2002. I showed a version of the film at the 4 Festival, but continued to work on it afterwards. I’m still not finished.

1:37 – Audio: Sorry Dave – This comes from Stanley Kubrick’s film “2001: A Space Odyssey”. When I saw this film, I decided that I wanted to make films.

1:41 – Audio: After a long discussion – I recorded this reminiscence of the meeting I went to at the CSIF. Initially, I didn’t think I would have a chance to speak, or if I did, that the ideas I had would be inappropriate. If that had happened, I likely would have dropped the idea for the festival.

1:46 – Image: ACAD – The Stanford Perrott Theatre at The Alberta College of Art & Design  was the site for the twelfth, thirteen and fourteenth festivals 2004 to 2006, and again for the twentieth festival in 2012.

1:48 – Audio: My client – This is Mona Dallmann in “My Most Difficult Case” the film I did for the twelfth Festival. I chose this because the speaker wishes that things had been different.

1:51- Image: Man runs hands through hair – This shot of Patrick Aull comes from “My Next Film” the film I made for the tenth festival in 2001. I didn’t use this shot in the final film. The final film would have been different if I had decided to use it. Note the number written on one of the frames about half way through the shot. I wrote the edge numbers on the work print to help me prepare the neg cut instructions from the video version of the edit. I never intended to use the work print again, so I didn’t bother to remove it. When I did this film, I couldn’t remove it. In the end, I felt it was appropriate to leave it in.

1:56- Image: Plaza Theatre – The Plaza Theatre in Kensington was the home of the fifthteenth through nineteenth festivals from 2007 to 2012.

1:56 Audio: What waits for me – This is Stephen Hanon in “The Fence”. This line expresses the uncertainty that people feel about the future.

2:01- Image: Actors and camera assistant wait for shot – Somjai Santiratikul, Louis Koutis and Alan Cave prepare for a shot. When Louis and Alan broke up laughing, we had to delay the start. This proved to be a very difficult shot to get. I had to do three different shoots over a period of a year and a half before I got a take I could use.

2:07- Image: Poster Flash – This shot consists of images of all 20 of the posters for the $100 Film Festival. The images are on screen longer than a similar shot at the start of the film so people can see more clearly what they are.

2:07 Audio: Any replay of the tape – I was sure I had this quote from Stephen Jay Gould, but couldn’t find it. This version came from a TV program called “Inevitable Life”. I chose this because it is a good description of the idea of contingency. I believe that it was this quote that first got me to think about this film.

2:14 Audio: I wasn’t sure – I recorded this reminiscence about the meeting I went to at the CSIF. I almost decided not to go.

2:16- Image: Splice Film – This shot was done specifically for this film. It represents how a film maker brings together the images for their film.

2:19 Audio: Eat chicken baby – My niece, Morag Morison, said this when she visited me once. I have no idea what she meant by it, although, she is a vegetarian.

2:22 Audio: Steve volunteered – I recorded this reminiscence about the meeting I went to at the CSIF. I had decided not to propose any of my ideas, but when Stephen Hanon volunteered to do something, I felt I had to as well. If he hadn’t, I would not have proposed the festival. Once other people heard the idea, their enthusiasm pushed the idea to fruition.

2:23- Image: Man locked out – This was not a planned shot. I was trying to do the shot at 1:56, when the man walked up to door. I was annoyed because he ruined my shot. For some reason I kept the camera running. Afterward, I realized that the shot fit perfectly with the theme of the film. When I made the film, they had planned to have 20th festival at the Plaza, and I wanted to use this shot to emphasise that the festival might have never happened. It does change the meaning somewhat that the festival didn’t happen at the Plaza.

2:34 Audio: Now suppose they had – This is Stephen Jay Gould. Here he talks about the possibility that another species of human could have survived into modern times. I chose it because what he says could apply to the festival as well.

2:39- Image: Blackness – If any of a dozen things had been different, the festival would have not happened, and on the night of the festival, there would only be blackness on the screen.

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