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INTERVIEW WITH SAMIR VURAL
We'll Change You
Series curator Kathy High conducted this telephone interview with Samir Vural in May, 1997.
The piece seems to be a metaphor for something larger than
the specific characters that are in it, and I was wondering what prompted
you to make it, and what were some of the overriding ideas you were working
through in the piece?
What prompted me to make it is a combination of growing up in that environment in New York City, in Times Square, and being bombarded by all these different mediums, these different messages, these different noises and sights and sounds that just overwhelm you as you walk through Times Square. Part of what shaped me was being assaulted by media all my life in different shapes and forms and becoming, sort of, interactive with that media and becoming media-literate in a lot of different ways -- understanding what all these different messages and different types of sounds mean, understanding who's saying them, why they're saying them to me, and really taking ownership over my environment. I felt that the best way to take ownership, the best way to really understand it and comprehend it and articulate it would be to try and process it, through making a film, a video, about it. I would try and capture what it has inflicted on me all my life and, sort of, explain it and show it and do it in a way that's not preachy, that's not static, that's not dull. I felt that the metaphors that I used were the way of taking someone who is young, obviously someone who is photogenic, and sort of marching them through -- at a heightened pace -- all these experiences that I've been going through all my life. And just have it all come crashing down on him and just overwhelm him.
Yeah. Part of it is that you're not in it alone. Even if you feel like
it's you against the world, you're not in it alone. Even if your friends
don't get it the same way you do, they're there and they're part of that
stimulation, that over-stimulation that overwhelms you. And at the same
time, they're what keeps you sane or keeps you in touch with reality. And
them coming in at the end is, like, them keeping him in touch with reality
and at the same time, contributing to that overwhelming feeling. They
don't really help him block it out. They don't really help him deal with
it. They just, sort of, become part of it. They become part of that
Originally, I shot the whole thing on film, and it was going to be a film, but what I felt is that it didn't entirely work solely as a film, because it needed those additional enhancements. It needed that additional layer, on top of it -- taking the film and then transferring it to video, and then projecting it on a video screen and then shooting that with video -- which gives it a completely different texture and feel and meaning, and, in a way, was another layer to the different types of mediums, different types of textures, that are being inflicted upon this boy.
They become further mediated, they become further contextualized within his world. And it also, using video, which I have a lot of experience with, allowed me to edit it much more fluidly and at a different pace. So it was also a practical thing, converting from film to video. Just, for me, having more experience and having more comfort and access to video allowed me to continue working on it and not just do one edit, but rather to do multiple versions of it and really have the message and the story evolve over those different edits.
The sound, actually ... I did the film for my moderation project at college, and I was told, "Well, you have this idea about all these stimulating media, why not take a class with electronic music?" So, what I was able to do was to get on a sequencer and sample all these sounds that I had recorded in the city, and play with them and put them through different effects. Part of what the sound evolved into was having access to working with this computerized digital equipment and learning these new systems, and being able to play with different effects and different sequences of noise, and looping and having at some points 20 different tracks of sound all interacting at different levels of volume and mixing them right there, as opposed to film or video, where you have two tracks of mag or two tracks of audio. It's just much more cumbersome on film or video, whereas, on this digital system, you have a lot more freedom and a lot more layers that you can create.
Not only does it underscore it, it also takes on this other meaning, being a product of all this overstimulation. When I became a film and video maker, a media maker, I end up overstimulating my audience with all these different tracks, and finding these ways to create multiple levels of meaning. Because all my life, I've been hit with these multiple levels of meaning, and I am the product of my own demons.
Well, I always work with Rise and Shine. I've been working with Rise and Shine since the first video project I ever did in 6th grade with my mother [the Director of Rise and Shine] and my sister. So Rise and Shine for me is very much a family organization. I use Rise and Shine editing facilities to do all my alternate versions of the piece, and I also worked with them as a sounding board. You know, showing them different versions, what needed to be worked on, and having different age groups watch it and understand different things. Rise and Shine is, for me, a school. It's a house. It's a family. It's the best sounding board I could ever have, consisting of this myriad of age groups, of relatives, and of friends.
Rise and Shine Productions is a youth media arts organization that does a number of things involving all ages, from elementary school up. They have an intergenerational program, which involves senior citizens, so it really works with everyone in the community. It goes into schools, does video integrations curriculum, after-school programs, drop-out prevention and also runs three public access shows on Manhattan Neighborhood Network: one being the Family Video Workshop, which is intergenerational; one being the Reading Youth Council, which is a majority of young people, elementary school and junior high school; and one being the Real Deal, which is completely student-produced high school age, public access show. So, it's this very wide, encompassing program.
Well, hearing that my piece is being screened with Deep Dish's
makes me really happy. Because if Deep Dish's piece is about being
manipulated by the media as a young person, my piece, in a lot of ways, is
about being a young person who has learned how to manipulate the media, how to respond and to interact, and that's what Deep Dish has been
advocating -- even though I came upon Deep Dish after -- I feel I have
learned how to manipulate the media. I have their bumper sticker
on the side of my television: "Don't just watch TV, make it. Support
Public Access TV."
Oh. But a funny story about shooting the films... I got a camera
from the school, went down to New York City, and shot eight rolls of film.
Had it all developed and it turns out the camera was broken. Got home.
The variable shutter on the camera was broken and there was no way to fade
back in. So, I had eight rolls of unexposed, but developed film. All
black. So, I ran around, trying to figure out where I could get another
16mm camera before I had to go back to school, to shoot the rest of the
film so I could pass the class.
Working with Rise and Shine all my life has been about manipulating media and media images through other people's voices, through other people's words or actions. I very rarely have been the person who said, "Okay, this what this piece is going to be about. This is my vision." I've, in a lot of ways, been someone who's taken someone else's initial vision and amplified it and turned it and made it develop, or come along, or I come in at the end of the piece and save the piece in editing. And this was really a piece that I did completely on my own, that was completely my own vision from start to finish. It was one of the first ones that I could really say was a hundred percent mine. I had complete ownership over it and I felt like I gave birth to completely by myself. And that was, sort of, a great experience, to finally stop using other people's words and really figure out for myself what it was that I wanted to say, to really nurture my own vision.
Thank you. Actually, you know what I just realized? When I
initially presented the film to my moderation board on film, there was this
overwhelming feeling of discouragement from me taking on some sort of
monumental task as to try and respond to the media, to try and make
something with an actual message and had an actual meaning behind it. And
there were comments made like, why don't you just take this adorable little
boy and walk around New York City and do a landscape, something like that.
And, to me, it was not only did they not get it, probably because it
needed a lot more work -- and I did put a lot more work into it -- but
also, how dominant it is for young people to be encouraged to be satisfied
with art for art's sake, with something that just looks good. I have this
overwhelming feeling that, you know, young media makers and filmmakers are
just responsible for something very minor and not something that has any
meaning or says anything, that we, as young people, don't have anything
important to say.
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