Psychedelic filmmaker Sam Kristofski describes working with The Babe Rainbow, his equipment of choice, and the mystery of his lost film The Rare Bird.
The vintage and raw aesthetic of your work is very captivating. What type of filming and editing equipment do you use for for your work?
For 80% of my personal work, I shoot on film. Mostly 16mm but i do some on 8mm and 35mm, too. I like this as it restricts me which pushed me to think a little more creatively and work a little more in-camera rather than having to solve problems in post. You end up editing more in-camera this way and a lot of the footage becomes usable so the editing process isn't so painful. My favorite cameras to use are the Aaton XTR, Arri 416, Arri 435 & LT, Arri SR3, Bolex H16, Canon Scoopic, Leicina Special, Beaulieu 4008 ZM4. Lenses would be Leica, Schneider, Carl Ziess. I like to just edit on an Apple laptop if the project is small.
Who/what influences you most as a filmmaker? Were there any films that really inspired you to get into the industry?
Jean-Luc Godard, Jim Jarmusch, Stanley Kubrick, and the Cohen brothers would be some of my inspirations. I don't think there were any films that really got me into making films. I actually don't know what it was.
What role does music play for you as a filmmaker?
It depends on the film really. Sometimes it plays a huge roll. If the music portrays a particular vibe or feeling it can branch a scene, much like a music video in a way. I prefer older music mostly from the psychedelic era. It's more like shooting on film I think, like they were more restricted back then. But films like No Country For Old Men which I love a lot have no music at all which I really love too.
When doing music videos or other film work for bands, what level of autonomy are you given? Is it a collaborative effort? Are you given a prompt and creative freedom or is it more of a visual orchestration from the musicians?
I usually come up with everything myself. Sometimes the band will send me some photos or stills as references that help me along. But I love to stick to my own a lot through it.
We recently caught The Babe Rainbow live in Asheville, NC. Can you describe some of the work you've done with those folks? Specifically, can you describe the surf film, The Rare Bird, that stars the band.
I met those guys through this guy called Journeyman, or Foothead. He is a psychedelic animator that i work with a lot. I love their music and they tend to give me a lot of creative freedom and we both seem to be on the same tip. It makes the the process fun rather than a 'job' I guess. We made a surf feature film called the Rare Bird and we screened it in Venice CA, and Hossegor, France in late 2015, but then last year a single bag containing the film and every back up drive, (Which we dont even know how is possible) was stolen in L.A. So all we have is the actual film stock left now. It all needs to be rescanned and we might have to seek extra funding to redo it. So this film in itself became rare. But we will find a way to finish it. During the filming of the movie the band wrote their full album which will be released in June I believe.
How is your time spent living in New Zealand reflected in your work?
NZ is like the whole world squeezed into two tiny islands. The locations here make it a filming paradise so in a way you completely unrestricted.
What's the most challenging part about being a filmmaker or director?
I guess keeping the momentum up as soon as you lose it. It's hard to fight back into the game again. It's almost a game of quantity over quality, but if you can do quality at quantity you will be the best, especially early on. Then once you have made it I guess you can do it the other way around, that's what I'm learning anyway.
Find more of Sam Kristofski's work here.