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Film teacher presents new work at famous festival

by Stewart Cole

In the early 2000s, the only movies Michael Stoltz knew were from the move to Blockbuster Video — and at the time, he had no idea where to start if he wanted to make his own, especially the kind that interested him.

“I enjoyed them as entertainment, but the idea of ​​making a movie seemed impossible,” said Stoltz, a junior lecturer and director at Binghamton University. “This is before laptops. even having a video camera was somewhat rare. “Maybe a family would have a video camera, but it wouldn’t be something an 18-year-old would have.”

These days, Stoltz makes experimental films, but he started his professional career thinking he would be a musician. During his college years in Florida, Stoltz worked part-time at the school while focusing mostly on what he was most excited about at the time: punk rock. Back then, he lived in a warehouse-apartment where he and his bandmates often played, as the building was a large and accessible space outside the city where they “could do whatever … was possible”.

It was thanks to a chance meeting with a young professor from the University of Florida that solidified Stoltz’s future career. This professor was trying to host film screenings on campus, but attendance was dismal. He decided to look for a new space — and the warehouse was a perfect fit.

“Seeing these filmmakers walk by and load up their projector or gear the way a band loads up a drum set, it really clicked for me,” said Stoltz, who would go on to focus his musical efforts on later pieces of it. “These are people who make creative work.”

Filmmaking became a vessel for Stoltz’s “sonic ideas”—the noises, recordings, and structured sounds he was passionate about, but which did not fit the craft of a rock band.

Stoltz followed his new passion and earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and his master’s of fine arts in film and video from the California Institute of the Arts. Previously working out of Los Angeles, she recently moved to Binghamton to teach. As a moving image artist, Stoltz is particularly interested in the processes of cinema, and many of his works focus on issues of time and sound. He applies a variety of techniques to his films, with some focusing on performers or subjects and others on landscape or architecture. He often uses 16mm analog film, which he edits by hand. He is attracted to this physicality.

“Working with the physical medium, every time you make a cut it becomes more and more difficult to repair. There is no undo button like there is in the Adobe Premiere or Final Cut timeline. Every amendment is very deliberate and very final,” Stoltz said. “If I’m left to my own devices, I can edit something in 1,000 different ways and not be satisfied with any of them. The idea that everything is so finite when you’re physically editing — for someone like me, that’s a plus.”

Many of Stolz’s films have spent time on the festival circuit. Several have screened internationally, at venues such as the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), the Hong Kong International Film Festival, the Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival (BAFICI), the Rotterdam International Film Festival and the International Documentary Festival of Amsterdam, while others debuted stateside at venues like the New York Film Festival and the Ann Arbor Film Festival.

His most recently completed work, Holographic Testamentwill premiere at the Media City Film Festival in Windsor, Canada, November 7-11.

In many ways, Holographic Testament it’s a return to a particular form that Stoltz said he first explored in the 2010s. The quick, direct focus on a subject reminds him of his earlier works, yet its kaleidoscopic, shifting focus is something new. The impetus behind the film, after all, is very time-bound: the reason he became interested in filming his own domestic space came when the ownership of his apartment changed hands, threatening his residence there.

“That part that had been a stabilizing force in my life for so long was suddenly turned upside down,” Stoltz said. “I never expected to make a domestic film or shoot something in my house, nor did I even think that it would be interesting to share it with the world, but it felt very important to keep a record.”

Frame-by-frame footage, with individual images comprising every moment of the nearly six-minute film, Holographic Testament it consists of about two rolls of film and 24 individual frames per second. This creates an almost animated quality to the video. Unlike traditional animation, however, the subject remains still under the camera’s gaze.

Instead, the camera itself changes every time a new frame is exposed. This, in practice, means that the images speed up in a dizzying, disorienting way.

“I’m really into this idea of ​​time manipulation. Cinema and cinema are so useful [in that way], especially for stretching time, making things very slow and lingering. But I’m also into the idea that things are very quick and fast and a film can have this very exciting quality,” he said. “This movie is definitely that. it’s very fast. It’s very intense. but I hope it really energizes and charges people when they watch it.”

Holographic TestamentThat’s not the only thing Stoltz is excited about in the coming months, though. In a nod to his origins, Stoltz acknowledges Binghamton’s more than 50-year history in film — the program helped many of Stoltz’s elders, friends and mentors get started when they were students here in the ’70s — and the desire of teaching a new generation of filmmakers.

“I hope I can help students who don’t already have that clear path, encourage them to be open to new ideas, be honest about what interests them and what doesn’t, and remind people that campus can be a place to find all those things,” said Stoltz, who works with both undergraduate and the first class of graduate film students. “If you look in the right places, campus can offer you so much.”

Although he no longer has to go to a Blockbuster to see a movie, it can be just as difficult as it was earlier in the year to find the resources and audiences so necessary to make movies, said Stoltz, whose passionate about his work as always. It turns out that all of you Really need to start in cinema is to dream that it is possible.

“I wasn’t trying to be the next Wes Anderson. I was really thinking about it in terms of expression and creativity and doing it in this kind of very simple means, like a punk band does. Maybe you don’t even know how to play, but you can make a lot of noise. And maybe only three or four people want to watch it, but you have an audience. Not that the point of making an experimental film is to be dark – but you can be as specific and arcane as you want,” Stoltz said. “You’ll find people who are interested, you’ll find other artists making work that’s in conversation with your work.”

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