Portland based artist Andrew Klaus has been continuously working in a wide range of creative fields including photography, music (as A is for Accident), and film, his most prominent effort. As a follow up to several award winning films, his newest short feature “Inheritance” will be out later this year.
Through out his career Andrew has worked with such notable collaborators as Andy Goldsworthy, Holly Andres, James Bolton, Grace Carter, and Silas Howard. Recently he has begun filming videos for Oregon’s Emergency Medical Services for Children (EMS-C) which serve as instructional films for pediatric trauma situations. This has not only afforded him a living as a film maker, but has also given him the opportunity to film in many new and exciting situations. Did anyone say medical helicopter party?
Jon: When not writing, directing and producing your own films you frequently work as a documentarian for hire. Do you find that having a 9 to 5 job adjacent to your creative endeavors has been helpful?
Andrew: I feel having a day job in your creative field is absolutely advantageous. You make contacts with others who share your passion for film making, which is by its very nature a collaborative field. You pool your resources, call in favors, collect knowledge and offer support to one another- or compete cut throat and blood thirsty. Thankfully for me though, that has been the exception not the rule.
J: It sounds like you find a lot of inspiration in your day job. How have you filtered your experiences working on films for EMS-C into your technical process when working on your own films? There has to be a big difference in the process behind these to seemingly disparate projects.
A: Often my experimental or narrative films have taught me the techniques necessary to produce a product for a client. I’ve learned my best lessons from trying and failing and trying again. Also, I’m a big fan of dumb luck. In experimental film making mistakes often lead to new discoveries, frequently enhancing a performance or an effect.
With the documentary work we shoot largely in real time: one take, with multiple cameras. This means far less room for error. I can never just yell “cut”, reset, and start over. It’s always “think on your feet”. I am just trying to shoot everything as fast and steady as possible. When I cut it all together I rely on my more creative film experience to find the narrative and piece together a story from start to finish. The final product, while not exactly a traditional film, ends up as one that has filmic qualities.
I’ve certainly learned important new lessons from this job. From budgeting in my personal life to bettering my interpersonal relations and conflict resolutions, an invaluable tool for any film maker. Also, I’ve been really inspired by the varied rural locations I’ve been to on my job with OHSU. These are locations which I probably would have never experienced otherwise and I hope to revisit a few of them to shoot creative personal work in the coming year.
J: So when approaching your creative efforts you never find yourself burnt out on filming and editing as a result of your day job?
A: I’m absolutely grateful and keenly aware how lucky I am to get to work in my chosen field. That being said though, like anyone on any job, there are sometimes days, situations, and other people that simply get on my absolute last nerve. I’m trying really hard to remember everyday why I do this unstable and truly insane job, and to be thankful for it. But yeah, some days are just plain awful.
I got really burned out on my upcoming film Inheritance. It was plagued with problems in post production from special effects not working, to being 3k over budget, to plain ol’ challenges in storytelling. It’s a really odd film that was a tough nut to crack when editing.
J: Speaking of “Inheritance”, your most recent film, I’ve noticed that it deviates from your previous work in that its strength relies heavily on the absurd and comedic. I imagine that your day job with EMS-C must also require a sense of humor seeing as you are dealing with such serious subjects. Any funny stories?
A: No, none… Just kidding.
Yeah of course. Let’s see: Recently we pulled up to a Hospital’s Emergency Department and were unloading gear, including the Hi-fidelity medical mannequin we use. When we unzipped the case and hauled out the “dummy”, we were unaware that a few people were watching thinking these big city strangers had come to their small town with a dead body in a suitcase. On an even more recent project no one informed me I would be shooting on some of the largest sand dunes in North America. In the rain. In my Kenneth Cole loafers.
A: After completing my previous loosely themed trilogy I was sort of at a loss for what story I wanted to tell next. The three films were all quite serious. First off there was The Human Remains (2006), a film about a young women in a suicide survivor support group. It was the film that started my career. I followed it up with back to back downers – Lazarus (2007) an experimental film about madness and survivor’s guilt and then THIS HOUSE IS NOT A HOME (2007) a black and white silent horror film.
While preparing for my next film I started making experimental films and erotica. Creatively this was really, really satisfying but it was not something that was readily accessible. Eventually I missed narrative filmmaking. I had this treatment I had written as a fable. It was a horror-comedy about a couple whose lives are turned upside down when they inherit a minor demon. And I decided to be quite literal and instead of lesser, “minor” would actually mean adolescent.
When I started thinking about the look of the film I decided I wanted to attempt to make the kind of schlocky B (or C) movie that I loved as a kid. I wanted to pay homage to the early days of cable TV and direct to VHS creature features, a knock-off of a knock-off of Gremlins.
Sort of Sam Rami meets Woody Allan.
I hadn’t really done comedy before and that seemed really challenging to me. I mean it’s definitely a black comedy. It’s gruesome and kinda adorable in equal measure but I’ve cut my teeth on disturbing, scary and/or emotionally moving- so doing comedy was definitely out of my comfort zone. It’s good to be able to tell a variety of stories and work in several genres as a director.
We’ll see how audiences react to Inheritancethis fall; the test screenings have gone really well. I really like changing directions with each project. My next film I plan on shooting is a surrealist sci-fi film, part David Lynch part Sophia Coppola part Derek Jarman, about a group of people in a sleep study. It may even have a musical number. The plan is to mix stop-motion, erections, singing, and really beautifully composed cinematography.
And even a happy ending for a change… well, maybe.
(for more on Andrew, visit his website, Diggin’ to China)
26 Interviews by Jon Miller
26 interesting people.