Enslaved by an addiction to the extraordinary, film audiences can become totally dissociated from the heart of film-making. We want to see the end result before anyone else, and even more so, we want it to be more explosive, more pornographic, more visceral than anything we have ever seen before. New York film-maker and screenwriter Cody Clarke is an antidote for this mainstream obsession, capturing stories that are as ambiguous as a passing glimpse of a stranger’s life. In fact, in the case of his most recently completed film, “Rehearsals”, that is exactly the premise of his work.
Cody Clarke has completed two films to date, “Shredder” and “Rehearsals” (see previews at the end of this article), and will be filming his third, “Siobhan” this coming August. The films of Cody Clarke require no preoccupation with greater moral tales or sadistically hidden motifs. Everything is there to be seen and understood. The characters he reflects are no more heroic than the muffled neighbor in the next apartment and the plots are about as significant as what happened last Tuesday. And therein lies the most significant point of his work, reminding us of what film can do and of the immense desire to create and express our lives in the first place.
The moments that appear the most simple, even banal, just by being in the context of the screen can take on a new life, captivating with their voyeuristic and poetic honesty. Cody Clarke’s images, of which he says long, static shots are his clearest signature, are always alive with the textures, colors and effects of light that mediate our experience with the world. The details of porcelain and wood, hair and metal, cloth and skin all reveal the keen eye of a young film-maker boldly exploring the potential of a medium that might otherwise appear inaccessible. In this interview, Cody Clarke shares his experience in making his latest films, his vision, and the all-important inspiration that moves like minds to create.
WBM: Where are you from and what are some of the most important experiences for you that led you to become involved with film?
CODY: I’m from Brooklyn, New York. Born and raised in Park Slope, the neighborhood from the movie “The Squid and the Whale”. When I was a kid, my parents had “HBO” and “Showtime” and they used to tape movies off TV a lot—they had like hundreds of self-labeled VHS tapes, each with like three movies on there. My sister, who’s six years older than me, already had her favorites, and introduced me to movies like “Wayne’s World” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “What About Bob” and whatnot. I used to watch them incessantly.
This was a time period where kids watching a lot of TV was thought of by a lot of people as something detrimental, but my parents never felt that way. They understood it was art, and trusted my intelligence enough that they knew I wouldn’t become lazy or a zombie or something, and so they basically let me watch anything I wanted to watch, so long as it didn’t have a ton of sex or violence in it. In fact, TV and movies made me anything but lazy. I’d watch a movie and then spend the rest of the day acting it out with legos or action figures or whatever.
From a very early age, I wanted to make my own movies. And I knew that one day, somehow, I would, and that in the meantime I should practice with Batman and Cyclops and Kevin Costner from “Robin Hood”; I really had that figure, it was weird, it basically just looked like Kevin Costner, there was nothing Robin Hood-y about it.
WBM: What are some of the projects you are working on today beside film-making?
CODY: Smug Film is probably my biggest focus, aside for making films. That’s my movie review/essay/interview/list site where I’m the editor-in-chief and one of the weekly critics there.
I always have a lot of stuff on the back burner. I wrote a sci-fi novella years ago, before “Shredder”. It’s a good story, but I was never really happy with the prose. I’m like, a hundred times better a writer now though, so I’ll probably revisit it at some point and edit it and finish it. And I’m a pretty good musician, too. I’d like to make some music again. But I don’t need to do that anytime soon. To do it right would mean spreading myself way too thin.
WBM: Let’s quickly talk about Smug Film, because this is a major project you have going on. How did it start and what is your vision for it?
CODY: It started because me and my buddy Greg DeLiso would get tons of likes and comments whenever we posted statuses on Facebook where we were candid about our thoughts on movies. And that caused us to have the idea that we should just make a movie blog together. We took our time with the idea, really thinking hard about what the site should be like, and after a few months, it was ready. I’m really proud of the site so far. We’ve expanded to eight critics as of the time I’m writing and this, and the site is bigger and better than I ever could’ve expected!