Collaboration Studio Metahaven (ENG)

cultural research archives research project management film archives clearances

Possessed film / Metahaven Studio, 2017 - 2018

I was invited by Metahaven to work with the production studio, Dutch Mountain Film, in the management and securing of archive footage clearances, which contributes to a notable percentage of the film Possessed by Metahaven and Rob Schröder. The film premiered at International Film Festival Rotterdam [IFFR] in January 2018. It was nominated for IFFR's Tiger Competition Award (2018) and CPH:DOX - New Vision Award (2018).

Alongside this role in the production of the film, I was asked to join Metahaven studio as their Studio & Communications Manager.

In my production role of Possessed, my goals were to attain and/or create the necessary archive footage for conveying the thematic explorations of the film, maintain aesthetic continuity, uphold artistic integrity, and act as a culturally-sensitive, and sensible, representative of the studio to the content-owners and related entities. Importantly, I also aimed to provide a legally-sound film that can be shown in cinemas and arts’ institutions.

I was able to serve as a strong liaison between the filmmakers and the production studio, helping with the crucial translation of the conceptual and artistic role of the film in the larger landscape of contemporary art and politics to the production company. As part of the studio team, I contributed feedback to the film's creative composition and development, such as script and scene-edits feedback.

My role started in the post-production and editing phase of the film. My responsibility included finding all original sources and/or owners of videos that might be of use (originally was given over 170 unknown video files), to determine the value of each video within the budget while understanding the role of the footage in the develop- ing edits and the impact of the edits based on the footage attained. I led the archive’s budget management, licensing, contracts, distribution/management, video file collection archive, and credits and contact management. I conducted cold-call outreach and managed long research trials and extensive back-and-forth discussions with people from all over the world with different agendas. In the cases of refused or unattainable licensing, I problem-solved by sourcing alternative footage, taking into account the thematic and affective role the footage needed to play and practical elements, in terms of length, quality, and ability to secure in terms of budget and owner permission. I was also able to make new footage through the combination of willing parties' technology applications with other attainable archive content.

Some footage required deep investigation and most footage required taking into account incongruent sensitivities. It was crucial to know the cultural background and current political situations of the informal and formal bodies of the outreach to the content of inquiry. This work was of much intrigue and was great pleasure to conduct. From this experience, I gained new learnings about the complicated history and sites of the former Yugoslavia. I continued my collaboration with MH studio as their Studio Manager until receipt of my PhD award requiring relocation.

Film Synopsis
Possessed (2018) is a full-length film directed by Metahaven and Rob Schröder. It provides a disturbing and tender socio-political critique in the genres of docu-horror and spiritual-fantasy. Its millennial protagonist, pointedly unnamed and self-described as 'nobody’ played by Olivia Lonsdale, tells a nonlinear narrative of consumerism’s capture of love. It asks if a faith can be re-birthed through the emptiness of digital life and the black hole of lost souls, generations failed by their predecessors.

The film confronts some of the most extreme and metaphysical contemporary issues of humanity and social injustice - the displacement of bodies and murdering of innocent peoples, the mass exploitation of being and identity by neoliberal capitalism, and the irreversible natural disasters caused by mankind's relentless lust for domination - all within a historical fiction ode to the irreconcilable history of the former Yugoslavia.

With the backdrop of the world as we know it, the film and design collage is equally badass and grotesque. It faces to the audience metaphoric imagery of the natural world and man-made horrors, pop-media and camera-phone videos, archival and original footage of military nodes and geospatial cuts of the former Yugoslavia. Overlays of emo-poetry of Possessed girl (Lonsdale), analytical commentary by political theorists Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek, and a radical music score by Berlin's Laurel Halo, clutch us in and carry us through.

As it weaves together the inescapable contradictions of contemporary digital life, Possessed arouses in anyone with a smartphone and IG account deep sadness and gutting malaise. Yet, we might conceive of the film’s proposal not one of terror, but of war. How do we make a war for love?🝏