Joshua Minor

I saw a number of fine short films at the University of Colorado’s student awards screening last week. One of my two favorites was Joshua Minor’s Once in a Lullaby, a re-envisioning of The Wizard of Oz using footage from the original movie.

The other day I interviewed Josh in the Atlas auditorium, the “scene of the crime” where I watched the films. I’ve split the interview into three separate videos. The first one deals with the film itself: what it’s about, the “making-of,” influences, and winning the award.

In the second portion of the interview Josh talks about himself as a filmmaker: his passion, the art and craft, his experience studying film at the university.

Josh finishes his university degree this year. The third video focuses on his plans for the future.

I appreciate Josh’s willingness to be the guinea pig for this new blog project, and for sharing his point of view as an up-and-coming filmmaker. If you have any questions for Josh or thoughts about any of the issues he addresses, please go ahead and put up a comment.

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19 Comments on “Joshua Minor”

  1. Good interview, John. I’d like to ask Josh how he went about constructing the ”story” or the visual structure of the film. He already said that there wasn’t a particular plan in advance, but what would the process look like retroactively?

  2. NB Says:

    Yeah, good interview. I wish Josh well. I like the fact that he still uses a Steenbeck here and there.

    Planet Earth was a recent BBC wildlife documentary series by the way. It was very HD, lots of spectacular cinematography and David Attenborough (brother of Richard) voiceover.

  3. ktismatics Says:

    I thought the interview process went well — having an interesting and patient interviewee helps. I like the auditorium setting. No external microphone on the camera, but the sound picks up quite well I think.

    Organizing the footage for YouTubing gave me a bit of a sense of what real film editing must be like. I broke the video into separate chunks for each topic of discussion, and sometimes a further breakdown into specific Q&A cycles. Then I sorted the segments into three piles, shuffled the order, trimmed here and there…

  4. II accidentally noted that Josh already had the idea of Dorothy unable to escape Oz, which as you remember I suggested as one way to reshuffle the narrative. Apparently then the story already existed in the form of ”inference” as Bordwell would put it, and I picked it up from the film itself.

  5. ktismatics Says:

    If Oz is inescapable, then you can’t go home again either. The only images Josh shows of Kansas are the eerily horrific cyclone scenes. The nightmare extends itself across both realities.

  6. Okay John, so this is the question: the film does contain ”inferences” to a story arc, which could be constructed (based on the film-maker’s own exegesis) as Dorothy trapped and unable to escape the nightmare of the Oz, but I could not identify why this is being said, in other words, there is no discernible message. While there is nothing wrong with impressionistic design, I find this lacking in the film.

  7. john doyle Says:

    You observed in your prior comment, Dejan, that the story of an inescapable Oz already exists inferentially in the original film. I’d say that most people don’t discern this inference consciously; they perhaps experience a sense of unease that’s dispelled by the Hollywood treatment, where Oz becomes a heroic quest for a restored humanity — mind, heart, nerve, direction — followed by the return to the safety and love of home. It’s a pigrimage narrative, there and back again, with everything reconciled in the end. To pull from this linear story-with-a-message the inference of a darker, non-linear, nightmarish alternate reality and to bring it forward into awareness, without adding any new footage or dialogue but entirely through editing, lighting, and sound, I find remarkable. It seems to be a way of demonstrating the effects on emotion and mood of the technical aspects of filmmaking, which because they operate in the background function as a sort of “unconscious” of the film itself.

  8. As I might have mentioned, during the Pixar lecture in Rotterdam, I asked Kyle Balda whether story information can be transferred via THE EYES, on the unconscious level, and he said absolutely (and screenwriters are aware of this process). My question was more related to ideology, I guess: why is this being done. For reasons that merit a separate discussion, modern films don’t tend to be preoccupied with the question of meaning. This not meant as criticism, but a cultural artefact that asks for expalantions.

  9. john doyle Says:

    I agree that longer discussion could be had about meaning. Again we recognize that this particular film constituted a technical exercise of a prescribed sort, namely a school assignment. Why has Josh had a long relationship with The Wizard of Oz? Why does he imagine an inescapable version of Oz? What do these things mean to him? I’m not sure: I didn’t press him in the interview, partly due to my own immaturity as an interviewer in this format.

    Why do you, Dejan, see the inescapable possibilities lying latent in the film itself? Is this an unconscious fear of the original filmmakers that comes through the images, seeping around the edges of plot and dialogue and character directly into the sensitive viewer’s unconscious? Is this how the Uncanny reveals itself?

    I suppose one can also wonder about what The Wizard of Oz means these days. Dorothy’s Kansas doesn’t exist anymore, so the contemporary viewer can feel no nostalgia that isn’t induced by Hollywood images rather than one’s own past experiences in such a lost reality. Does the contemporary world feel subjectively like the uncanny Oz, where we’re surrounded by unaccountable fields of flowers that, though beautiful, also reveal our distance from the natural world? And now I remember: these were poppies, weren’t they, in the movie, inducers of opioid dreamstate. Are we living in this benumbed nightmare world now?

    This is what happens when we start occupying these films, so I do appreciate your forcing the issue, Dejan. There’s a way of letting oneself be absorbed inside what a film is showing, both intentionally by the filmmaker and unintentionally around the edges of the filmmaker’s distinct vision. Certainly there’s effort and intent put into each frame, but there’s also something that lurks around the edges, imbuing the film with other resonances and overtones, haunting the consciousness with even more meaning that lies underneath the surface of the movie screen.

  10. well josh’s story reminds me of what i hear HERE as well, among the student/youth body: they feel themselves pressurized by the desire of the Market to squeeze blood out of them, and they try to cultivate an own style or world. however one of the problems they face is that the market is somehow able to appropriate the codes of every avantgardism that is invented (we discussed this in detail), so even as you may not be interested in the market, the market is interested in you. and so sooner or later if you’re not rich, you’re gonna have to accommodate the market in one way or another. this is why i champion the kind of an approach that david fincher or david lynch have, in TWIN PEAKS david cleverly exploited the commercial codas of soap opera to tell his own story, provide his own dark vision, and Fincher, too, essentially makes philosophic movies dressed up as crime or horror stories. i don’t think experimental film-making per se holds a bright future for those involved, here in the netherlands at least it’s a surefire sentence to the dole.

    maybe the lack of interest in ”meaning” could be part of this denial to participate in the exchange of enforced codes, but too often (although i don’t say it’s the case with josh per se) i see something akin to zizek’s decline of symbolic efficacy, although i don’t think at all that it comes from the same sources that he designates to it (the break-up of language as lacan would have explained it ). more likely that another FORM of language is more powerful than the one with ”meaning”.

  11. john doyle Says:

    Why do you think so few people are attracted to experimental artwork, Dejan? Certainly for every David Lynch there’s a multitude of directors with technical competence, sometimes even artistic prowess, but who nevertheless generate ordinary or inferior work. And yet these projects attract huge budgets and huge audiences. Experimental films and meaningful narratives don’t cost nearly as much to produce as the shallow and predictable blockbuster with high-priced actors and expensive CGI. The advertising budgets too are virtually nill compared with the big Hollywood ad campaigns. What could be done to resist or alter this situation on the audience side?

  12. Seyfried Says:

    I’m going to slightly agree with Dejan, here – about a a few things actually (regarding last comment). But he’s most right to point out a trend in student filmmaking, where its either sign-posting or technicality…and nothing in between. I think most of what I enjoy about the clip is the gleaning or exhuming of those demons that lay behind the text, but, other than that, its really just Adobe Premiere. Which, unfortunately, isn’t what I want to be led BACK to; it’s just where I want to start (ooh, ah). Perhaps the text is more diabolical left alone?

    I still enjoyed it, I guess.

  13. john doyle Says:

    “other than that, its really just Adobe Premiere.”

    Here are a few variants on this remark, Seyfried:
    “Other than that, it’s really just WordPress.”
    “Other than that, it’s really just YouTube.”
    “Other than that, it’s really just Word.”
    “Other than that, it’s really just the English language.”

  14. Seyfried Says:

    Yes, but we are drawn decisively to the artifice, to the program. Myself, and many friends in high school, did these sorts of things when the high-dollar software programs started popping up all over the file-sharing networks (Final Cut, et al). What championed was the lost of judiciousness, finding that with these do-all programs that anything click-able or could be accented or “darkened”…etc. This is why I agree with Dejan: you get no sense of what made him frightened, which elements were reciprocal in their torment (the appeal of the original).

    As it stands, the kid knows his stuff; if anything, the interview shows that he was rather conscious of these elements while conceiving the project. I just don’t think it plays out, translates and is, moreover, something sort of endemic to a film school culture that I’ve spent way too much time around. Albeit, part of the reason might be the assignments – don’t shoot me!

  15. Seyfried Says:

    I thought the interview was great, of course.

  16. john doyle Says:

    I think I’m feeling protective of the artist’s ego here, and also of my own tastes. I liked Josh’s film when I watched it, and he agreed to be interviewed. I have in mind building some sort of organic entity or flowfield, populated by people who do creative things themselves and who are interested in others’ creative endeavors. Does this mean that all commenters have to come in and praise the work they see here on Ecliptics? Hopefully not: one can benefit from criticism as well as praise. But Josh’s is the very first interview. Will people want to expose themselves in this way, based on how this first interview has gone?

    Suppose, Seyfried, you lived in Boulder. Suppose you wrote a screenplay. I post the screenplay on Ecliptics, I interview you about it, about your vision and your aspirations, etc. Now, what sort of interactions would you like to have with people who see your screenplay and your interview? I’m asking in all seriousness here, and not trying to get you to like Josh’s movie. Would you want to talk about the screenplay, or about yourself?

    The concern I have is that critique is less helpful than questions. Now I recognize that Josh could regard your and Dejan’s comments as questions — what inspired you, why is Oz inescapable, etc. — but they feel to me more like observations of something lacking in the work. Surely one can learn from one’s mistakes, but are they mistakes? Or in conversation with the artist could mutual clarification ensue? That sort of thing.

    Of course it takes two to tango: the interviewee would have to show up and engage the commenter, and hopefully in a way that doesn’t turn into a shouting match.

    So let’s carry on. I’ll respond to comments as I see fit, as of course can the interviewees. But I’m not going to try and script the comments. It’s a new blog, it’ll reach it’s own stride. Glad to see you here, Seyfried; keep commenting. And maybe we can work out some sort of remote interview protocols some day: I youtube the questions, you youtube the answers, etc.

  17. Seyfried Says:

    I’d be more than happy, John, to set up an interview through youtube and trouble myself with the invectives, the criticisms…because, frankly, in a film class you’re not getting the type (macro/micro)analysis you can find here. You surely can’t reach for a box of tissues to stop the influenza–I get that–but, sincerely, it’s worth addressing for the sake of the next effort, if you will.

    Nonetheless, it would behoove Josh to probably hear out some of the advice here. At the very least, for him to reconsider these for a new project or classroom discussion would be great. I enjoyed the film; that wasn’t the point, I guess. Sedated with a scotch-taped maw, I’m at your side.

    “I’m asking in all seriousness here, and not trying to get you to like Josh’s movie. Would you want to talk about the screenplay, or about yourself?”

    I think your questions are more than apt. Obviously, filmmakers aren’t the best people to ask for some of these concerns (look at Lynch; then again, look at Haneke). Still, a little metacognition wouldn’t hurt. My current film, as it stands, is less than perfect, of course. Should be “roughly” finished by spring. I can send a revised script soon.

  18. john doyle Says:

    I guess winning the award made Josh more of a celebrity than I’d realized. Here we have a string of 17 comments about him and his work — 18 now — and not a word of reply from the artist. Maybe blogs are so old-school the younger crowd doesn’t even know how to deal with them. But I understand that the CU film department is old-school, so you’d think they’d have covered blogs in the curriculum.

    Alternatively, maybe people feel uncomfortable responding to discussions of their own work, preferring to reflect privately instead. I think that would be unfortunate, but I guess there are schools of thought going both ways.

  19. john doyle Says:

    Congratulations to Josh. His “Once in a Lullaby” won Best Experimental Film and overall Best Film at the BFD Film Festival here in Boulder Sunday night. Over 100 University student films were submitted to the competition. In his brief and humble acceptance speech Josh thanked Pabst Blue Ribbon.

    The event truly was a BFD, complete with red carpet, paparazzi, show band, and song-and-dance numbers. The main event was the screening of the 3 top nominees in each of 6 categories: photo essay, animation, documentary, best bad movie, experimental, and narrative.

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