Ann Huang is a filmmaker who specializes in experimental films. In her latest film, "The Pines of Spring", the dreamscapes of a director and her protagonist juxtapose as the life and fate of both women take their toll, merging on and off screen through waves of cinema. The Pines of Spring recently won an Honorable Mention: Experimental Film, and was nominated for Best Editing at LAFA.
Ann, congratulations on your award! We'll talk about The Pines of Spring, your new film, shortly, but first please tell us what else have you been up to. Are you working on additional projects at the moment?
Thank you! Yes, we are in the post-production phase of our fourth film, Sparse.
Let's talk about your latest film, The Pines of Spring. What inspired the movie and the poems?
Over the past few years, I made three experimental shorts based on surrealist poems I’ve written which were inspired by my dreams. I didn’t have the confidence to showcase the relationship between meta-cinema and my dreams until the first two films were completed.
When did you start working on it, and how long did it take from pre-production to presenting it to the audience?
We started making each film at the start of every season. Palpitations of Dust was produced in the fall of 2016, Indelible Winter in the winter of 2017, and The Pines of Spring in the spring of last year. It took us two days to wrap principal photography, and five months to complete post-production. Production and editing took longer for this film than the others, but it was worth it. The Pines of Spring was officially selected by the Marina del Rey Film Festival and screened on Oct 18th where it won the award for Best Editing.
Did you record the voice-over before or after the shoot, and why?
We always record voice-overs after the shoot during the editing phase. We needed to have a preliminary idea of the lengths of each poem section's visuals and then try to match the voice-over with the images. The voice-over usually helps us determine whether the visuals of a poem section is heading in a good direction or not.
What was the most rewarding moment for you on set, and why did you feel this way?
The most rewarding moment for me on set is finding out what can be created from the unexpected. During the making of a film, 50 percent ends up being happenstance. As a filmmaker, I need to be 100 percent open to embracing this unplanned magic.
Did anything go wrong during the shoot? What were some of the challenges you've encountered, and how did you overcome them?
During the second and last day of filming, we were gathered at a indoor location for the museum scenes. However, the location we booked was a restaurant. As a small crew, we had to do some heavy lifting––clear the silverware, tables, and chairs––and it took us over an hour and half to rearrange the scene to match my mental image of the museum. So I started the day feeling a bit tired, especially because I had a supporting role in those scenes. As the flow of the shoot picked up, everything felt right and eventually sped up.
You've been collaborating with cinematographer Dean Nathan on several projects now. His compositions are always beautiful, very clean, artistic shots. What did you do differently with him this time?
Dean and I are unanimous about getting as many shots as we can during principal photography. So when we sit down together to edit the raw footage, we have plenty of takes to work with. For The Pines of Spring, we began incorporating the meta-cinema techniques I had in mind during pre-production. The use of meta-cinema in film is similar to metafiction in literature––it’s a style of filmmaking in which the film deliberately informs viewers that they are watching a film.
In the second act of the film, we incorporated a black and white fast-forward section of compiled clips from our first two films. The point was to illustrate what our unconscious, or dream state, looks like.
What do you hope the audience will take away from this movie?
Similar to sorting out dreams, filmmakers can break the illusion of watching a movie by telling the audience that it’s a work of fiction. In many case, directors use meta-cinema to include non-diegetic aspects and teach viewers a lesson. The audience is then faced with a moment of self-reflection and a clear sense of the filmmaker’s vision.
You have a unique artistic voice that stands out in this film and in your previous work as well. Was it difficult to find "you"? Do you have any advice for young artists who struggle to find their artistic voice?
Because each film was adapted from my published poems, finding "me" is not difficult task, but understanding "me" is. It's almost like deciphering my own dreams. With that said, when I wake up from a dream state, the pieces I can recall are hindered. In these instances, I think of myself as both the lead actor in my dreams as well as the audience. It’s up to me to turn to myself and tell the stories of my dreams. The process of connecting my unconscious with my repressive conscious can be challenging.
What are some of your favorite movies, and why?
Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow Up, Woody Allen's Stardust Memories, Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, and Jean-Luc Godard's A Woman is A Woman.
Anything in common from these films? Meta-cinema.
Is there anything you wish to add or anyone you with to thank?
Film mediates the perception of the world. I believe the power of our experimental/poetry films resides in their connectivity to people who view them. They resonate with their audience's philosophies and beliefs. This allows them to be happier and better individuals in this increasingly disparate and volatile society.
The Pines of Spring - Trailer