Experiments and Pornography (2007 – 2009)
Kristofer Paetau interviews Ondrej Brody about 3 films:
(Scroll down the page to view the 3 films)
DOMINIK CARPE DIEM PICTURE PROFESSIONAL CHEATING
I remember that you had a “money job” as a cutter for a Czech porn producing company, around 2006 – 2008. Can you tell me a bit more about this experience?
I had to edit about four 20-minute scenes per week. Mostly they all had the same structure, only the “story” or rather say the characters were changing. I was working as an external editor, so I was going to the headquarters once a week with my hard disk. I think I was doing a fine job since they never complained about any scene I edited and the “quality control” was quite strict. I knew some other people working in the same position and they had to rework the scenes quite often. Maybe it means that I have a perfect sense for what mainstream male consumers want in porn. My boss was extremely serious looking guy. He looked like one of these office gray rats never leaving the computer screen. I guess he was online all the time even more than I use to be.
I also remember you were telling me that the work was very repetitive, always following the same standard structures in terms of filming and cutting. What were these rules?
They were no real rules nor written codex but I just had to follow the stereotypes we all know from mainstream porn. Basically they always used 2 cameras during the shooting. So my job as an editor was to keep the image smooth and steady. Switch between the overview and the detail, whenever the camera was changing position. The cameras were never turned off during the shooting of a scene for the purpose of synchronizing the sound and image. So it was a very basic way of working and my main concern was to cut out some fuzzy sequences when the camera was changing position…
Did this job-experience influence in any particular way the 3 films you did during this same period?
I don’t think that this job was influencing my work in any sense. I think that more influential was a meeting that took place already long time before I took this job with a guy called Tim. He is an “independent” (= very small) porn producer from Prague. He actually e-mailed me right after my first porn movie “Noise Pictures”, asking if I was interested in some sort of collaboration and offering himself as an actor together with his then girlfriend Tina. This just illustrates how small the porn world is, a similarity with the art world. Everybody knows each other and news spread very fast. We ended up shooting together almost all these movies and performances I made in that time. Sometimes I used him as my lead actor, sometimes using his studio set as the main shooting location or just simply using him as casting advisor.
What was your motivation or interest as an artist in making these films?
I think that my main interest was using actors who are used to certain forms of transgression, exposed to situations, which are sometimes contradicting their own convictions or preferences. For example, most of actors in gay porn are straight and the porn business is the only business in the world where women actors earn considerably more money than men, etc. These contradictions and mixed up stereotypes are what I find worth exploring if you work with this context.
These films – along with some other films we have made together – seem to have a major inconvenient: they fit into no “industry”, neither the porn business nor the art business. Why?
In the art context, people don’t like anything too explicit, usually they are blocked by the explicit surface of the work and don’t bother to look beyond this. It’s sad but I find these reactions most of the time very superficial and I can see some model behavior in them. People usually end up evaluating and rejecting the works as “superficial” or “slapstick”, without taking the time to watch. Since it is a small world people adopt an opinion that they heard from others without building up their own position. It is a paradox. In the context of porn industry I have no idea since I never tried to penetrate this world. But from what I observed (and you don’t need to be a genius to come to this conclusion) you need to produce a lot of material and have a good distribution network in order to earn some decent bucks. The content can vary, since I guess you can find millions of consumers with ever changing tastes and specific fetishes…
The “porn stamp” has almost always been a “death sentence” for all artists, filmmakers and actors. Do you think this is a fatality?
I think that if you publicly recognize some involvement within the porn industry, it is a serious black spot in your curriculum. Artists like Richard Kern or David Vojnarowicz are publicly describing how they were “blacklisted” by many commercial clients once they had worked in the porn business. This is the reality. Our society is extremely hypocrite concerning this matter. Almost everybody is a consumer of porn but this is usually a hidden part of our lives.
We have recently been speculating about making some “porn-art” again, shooting it in 3D this time. Do you think the future of 3D is in porn?
I think it is, but it is still too early to say anything about this. I just know that they shot the first 3D porn movie last year in Hong Kong but I have not seen it and some of the 3D movies I’ve seen are rather a joke. This is something that is in its early development stage, especially for end consumers. I would like to create some experiments first to test different possibilities.
For artists it is interesting to deal with conventions in order to manipulate them and produce new meanings. Porn in that sense is extremely “conventional” and therefore interesting for artists to work on? Or is it still the taboo factor that makes porn attractive for artists?
I think that both premises are connected. Porn is a great territory to work with since it is completely based on sexual and behavioral stereotypes. Nevertheless not many artists are daring to enter this territory. They tend to stay behind the computer screens as consumers only.
It seems to me that all the 3 films are referencing to different kinds of stereotypes, including music, legends and plot. There is a quiet crude realism in the films thanks to the actors, the language and the settings sometimes. I also find that the films are directed and edited in an abrupt way, mixing scripted material and on the spot improvisation with the actors, as well as long steady landscape shots mixed with shaky camera movements etc. The big question that I can’t help asking once again is: what was your artistic motivation and ambition regarding the realization of these 3 films?
I had many different ambitions and motivations that nevertheless changed during or after shooting, while I was editing. I used in all 3 films my gay friend and great artist Mark Ther as a cameraman. I thought that it might bring into the films depicting typical hetero-stereotypes some edgy or unexpected aesthetics; I don’t know if it really worked but Mark is a great improviser so this was an important decision behind the shooting.
In the first film (Dominik) I think that the idea was to create an absurd situation of a real doctor examining a woman in her late stage of pregnancy. The husband (future dad) is there somehow unwanted and totally ignored. I think that apart from the most obvious speculation: “What is the yet unborn child doing while we are having sex?”, the most interesting in the film is to observe the sometimes-funny communication channels between the 3 supporting characters. And the main character (Dominik) remains a fuzzy technical image on a computer screen.
Carpe Diem Picture is more complex in the set up and editing. I visited the old grandpa several times and a couple of times in his professional porn star role using the spy camera. It stroke me that the guy was always acting, saying the same things regardless if the camera was on or off. He repeated several times that the only woman that turns him on is his old time girlfriend with whom he has been cheating his wife the last 20 years. They have been meeting together in his country house every second weekend. The idea was to capture and re-create this “romantic” story.
The most interesting part of Professional Cheating is the sequence where the camera is portraying the husband who is watching his wife having sex. The camera was on a tripod located near the sofa where the sex action was taking place. At some point the sofa slightly moved and the tripod started shaking in the same rhythm as the couple was having sex. This happened purely by chance and I found it to be the most interesting part of the material we shot, so I based the whole video on that.
DOMINIK 2007, video 18 min.
The film Dominik is trying to create an illusion of an ordinary situation: a gynecologist is going to make an ultrasound check of a pregnant woman shortly before she will be giving birth. The woman is coming to the medical consultation accompanied by her husband. As the doctor invites the future father to see the ultrasound check the whole situation turns into an absurd setup: the ultrasound image examines the child during an intercourse of the parents.
CARPE DIEM PICTURE 2008, video 13 min.
Carpe Diem Picture was shot with an ordinary DV camera and a spy camera. I tried to combine un-staged reality with classical narration based on the true story of the main protagonists: a 81 year old man cheating on his 88 year old wife with a 60 year old mistress. I was interested in portraying the attitude of older people towards sex, infidelity and friendship.
PROFESSIONAL CHEATING 2009, video 4 min. 30 sec.
In Professional Cheating a young man is watching how his wife is being fucked… We can only see faces and feel the camera shaking, as the tripod was placed by accident too close to the sofa. A very moralistic video that ends with insupportably stupid conversation.