During this period of global public health-sanctioned isolation, Millennium Film Workshop, like many other organizations has sadly had to postpone many of our planned events for the time being. We’ve decided to continue to showcase in the meantime, great work from great artists here on our own website, in a weekly series we’re calling “Isolated Experiments,” accompanied by comments from the artists themselves. Sign up for our mailing list via our contact page to get email updates about new films as we post them weekly.
This week, we are featuring "Catch", a five minute 2-channel 16mm film made by artist Guy Kozak.
MFW: Can you talk a little about the ideas behind this film, if there was a specific motivation to making it?
GK: I've been thinking a lot about sport culture and its ties to American masculinity. This project was an attempt to probe that nebulous relationship a little bit. I'm interested in the way that physicality, competition and games are often used as primary tools for emotional communication between men and, in this case, fathers and sons. My original idea was to try to record this dynamic by making a straightforward, almost anthropological documentation of a game of catch using two separate cameras recording in real time, one trained on each of the players' faces in close-up. Over the summer, I found myself with only one camera and one roll of expired film, but decided to make it anyway, shooting five minutes of each player and then pairing those takes together as if they were recorded simultaneously.
MFW: Do you have a personal history or relationship to sport culture, (for instance, did you play in school, or with your father) or have you always been, as you are in this film, a spectator?
GK: I do have some personal experience with sports. I fenced and played soccer growing up and played football for a couple of seasons in high school, but I always felt on the outside of the culture as someone primarily interested in the arts. My closest friends at school were all athletes, and I spent a lot of time nodding and listening to them go on about the latest sports news and statistics without having any idea what they were talking about. I decided that the Oakland Raiders were my favorite football team, even though I grew up in New Jersey, because I thought they had the best uniforms.
MFW: The 2 channel presentation emphasizes a mirroring or duplication between the father and son, whereas the un-synced sound creates a necessary division between them (as does the black space between the images). Since much of the past decade (particularly events of the last 4 years) has been framed in media in terms of generational conflict, would it be fair, in your opinion, to think of this film in those terms?
GK: I think of the relationship in the film more in terms of dissonance than conflict. There is definitely a communication breakdown at play due to the un-synced sound, which leads to the players never quite being able to connect aside from a few instances of chance synchronization, but I don't feel that they are in any direct conflict with each other.
MFW: It would seem to me also that much could be made of the film’s ideas by altering the exhibition mode-for instance, if this were presented in a gallery with two projectors at a specific distance, or, presented virtually here would necessarily change the feel. What did you have in mind making it, and how does those spatial ideas factor into your process?
GK: I was imagining presenting this in a gallery when I first had the idea, just as you described, with two separate, distanced projections and the sound of the ball echoing throughout a big room. However, after I shot it and started the edit, I felt that it was working well on the computer screen too and that I wasn't losing the effect I originally was after. If the work was projected at a giant scale in a gallery you'd really be able to study all of the little microexpressions and details of each individual face, but I think that a nice benefit of the single screen presentation is that the two players are closer-linked and the experience is more about their relationship. I am hoping to make more of these, with new father-and-son pairs, and I do love the idea of showing them all simultaneously in one place.
MFW: Taking it back to the core idea of this film, do you see this kind of nonverbal communication of masculine values as something timeless or unchanging, or as the world becomes more virtual and notions of gender become less fixed, is “Catch” in 2021 something more elegiac?
GK: That's a really good question. It's complicated. A game of catch can be a special experience, offering its own unique type of communication. However, that communication is limited. The transmission of masculine values through stoic, silent and purely physical behavior is inefficient and regressive, and I think that's becoming more and more obvious. With that in mind, I do enjoy thinking of the film as a kind of elegy.
Guy Kozak is a filmmaker based in New York. He was born in New Jersey in 1991 and graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2013. He has directed a number of short films which have screened around the US, often incorporating themes of sport, masculinity and performance. He has also directed music videos for artists such as Tim Presley, Lucy, and Purr, and has been described by Fader Magazine as "one of the most talented directors in the DIY music video world." His work has been featured in ArtNews, The Fader, Entertainment Weekly, and Sex Magazine.