Appleton native and University of Wisconsin alumnus Aaron Ohlmann returns to Madison as the editor, cinematographer and co-producer of Here is Always Somewhere Else, which he will screen for the Wisconsin Film Festival at 9:15 p.m. Friday, April 13, in the Cinematheque venue at UW's Vilas Hall.
The 2005 documentary focuses on the career and life of Dutch conceptual artist Bas Jan Ader, who disappeared in 1975 somewhere off of Cape Cod while attempting to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a 13-foot sailboat. In addition to the documentary, six of Ader's short films circa 1970 and 1971 will be screened during Ohlmann's program. In a Q&A conducted via email, Ohlmann discusses what grabbed him about the project, why he chose the Mini DV format for the film, and the difficulties inherent in serving as both cinematographer and editor for Here is Always Somewhere Else.
The Daily Page: How did you come to be the editor, cinematographer and co-producer of Here is Always Somewhere Else?
Ohlmann: I was introduced to the film's director, Rene Daalder, during a trip to Los Angeles, when he was just starting pre-production. The film immediately piqued my interest and I really liked Rene's reputation as a cultural provacateur, equal parts high art and punk rock. By that time I already had a lot of experience covering all parts of production on shoestring budgets, which I think he liked. So it clicked, and I moved to L.A. later that week.
When, where and how did you first learn of Bas Jan Ader, and what was it about Ader that grabbed you and compelled you to sign on to Here is Always Somewhere Else?
About three years ago I was shown this 12-second film of a man sitting on top of a house, then falling in slow motion to the ground. It was kind of funny, kind of sad, and smelled like mystery. That's our hero.
People who have seen Here is Always Somewhere Else have used words like "miraculously beautiful," "superb," "remarkable" and "stunning" to describe it. How did you react to these
It's certainly quite humbling. You put something out there and you really have no idea how people are going to react. A lot of it we owe to FX3X in Macedonia, who delivered the visual effects, and the band Broadway Project out of the UK, who did the score. Their contributions were epic.
Why did you choose Mini-DV format for the project?
I think it was the flexibility that Mini-DV offers that appealed to us. You can get a good-looking image with little or no lighting and most critically, you can roll tape for an hour at a time, allowing you to focus on your subject rather than logistics or invasive aesthetic concerns.
Does serving as both the film's cinematographer and editor make it easier or harder to decide which footage to leave on the cutting-room floor?
Harder, definitely. When you're present at the shoot you pick up a lot of information that doesn't necessarilly make it onto the camera's frame. If you aren't careful it's easy to confuse the reality of actually being there with the mediated reality you're delivering to the audience, one that has been edited down, remixed, color-corrected and condensed into a little 720x480 pixel frame.
What extras can we look forward to when Here is Always Somewhere is released on DVD?
We shot a really nice interview with Chris Burden, the artist who famously had himself shot in the arm with a rifle. He has a really impressive studio out in the hills of Topenga Canyon and we spent an afternoon with him taking in his new work. Great stuff, but ultimately we couldn't quite work it into the narrative.
What project are you working on now?
A film and content driven social-network about evolutionary technologies, psychoactive drugs and space migration.