Film and TV

Kelly Sears Uses Found Footage to Capture Current Crises: See Them Tonight

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What is your medium? Film? Digital?

It's all digital. My background was in film and at some point I started working digitally and really thought about film with these questions about texture and visual kineticness. I had used these old animation tools like the Oxberry and the optical printer when I was in college and then really transposed that very analog way of working into digital processes. I mostly work with AfterEffects with animation and am really using it as if it was this other device that I learned on.

Talk about distribution with this kind of work.

In terms of distribution, everything is digital. There's really great arguments for screening in a variety of venues. It's wonderful to screen in a theater because the image is big and beautiful and there is this wonderful spectacle of cinema. It's great to screen in art galleries because there is this whole other kind of conversation. That's kind of the whole point of showing work is to have conversations around it and to have it connect with our daily lives and how we see what's happening around us.

When you're talking about theaters, are you talking about festivals? Where do you screen?

I would say I mostly screen in film festivals, from the spectrum of experimental festivals to Sundance. Sundance just launched an animation tour, a selection of films from their last two years. Voice on the Line is going to be doing a national tour in that program. You really get different kinds of conversations in different festivals, and that's great. But I also screen in art galleries. I have things online. I don't personally enjoy watching things online, but sometimes that's the only way you're going to have access to stuff. There are plenty of things that I've seen online just because that's my only option.

I was really impressed with the number of views your films had on YouTube. For experimental work, that seems really outstanding.

You know, it's funny. It's great. A previous link that Sundance had hosted for Voice On the Line ended up on Google's homepage one day, and at some point, it had like 100,000 hits -- which for a really scrappy, collage animation that is being critical of the Patriot Act, it's great that people are willing to go there. I think people really want to see different stuff and want to engage with different visual languages and different storytelling styles. I don't think we have a lot of access to that normally. If you really seek out experimental voices, you can find them. But I don't think that's the majority of viewers. That's not to say they won't enjoy that form of storytelling. It seems like people who come across it enjoy it, but I don't think the majority of media viewers are actively seeking out experimental work. How much do you see yourself in that experimental genre? Your work is accessible in a way that a lot of experimental work isn't. Your work's viscerally enjoyable.

I really am a product of experimental cinema, but I'm also a product of narrative cinema, and I love documentary cinema. I try to bring in storytelling structure that can function as a mechanism in the piece, so we can all kind of get into it and circle through it. A lot of my films have voiceovers. For me, thinking about how the voiceover functions in documentary by replicating it, in some ways, and by undermining it in other ways, I think that's a very easy way to get into a piece. If there is a voice and there is a story, you can go along with it.

Read on for more from Kelly Sears.

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Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris