Portland Film Works opens, Edward Pack Davee explains

A new film collaborative opens, drawing several projects and artists under one roof

Edward Pack Davee III is the living embodiment of an aesthetic you could call “historical melancholy.” Every picture shows him buttoned-up, desaturated, blurry, and upstaged by amazing terrain. He’s a filmmaker, and his films are kinda like that, too.

Right now, he’s working on Lost Division, which follows a WWII combat cameraman, chaplain, and head-wounded soldier through their “post-traumatic haze.” The project, set to screen this fall, earned him an Oregon Media Arts Fellowship, a RACC grant, the RACC innovation award, and eventually, an Oregon Arts Commission Opportunity grant.

This Friday, Davee’s company E. P. Davee Films celebrates its grand opening alongside Great Notion, Hippodrome Media, and Scott Ballard Films in filmmaker collective Portland Film Works. Davee sat down and talked with us about what’s up.

The studio, ready for business.

The studio, ready for business.

THE COLLECTIVE

“It’s mostly just about pooling our resources. None of us have any business, financially speaking, to start a studio on our own. We’ve all worked closely on a number of film sets together and we’ve dreamed of a place like this for some time. We all do commercial work to pay the bills, so by sharing resources we can offer more to our clients, so it’s mutually beneficial. More importantly, we all wanted a space that would inspire us to continuously move forward creating, and helping each other create, quality feature films, which is our main passion. Lost Division will be done in a form that is ‘festival submission ready’ by fall. It will likely undergo a few more months of tweaking and polishing before screenings begin. So, more likely in the winter.

“To begin this new phase of my life, I have co-founded the Great Notion Filmmaker Collective, a commercial production offshoot of that collective, a 1,000-square-foot production studio with an attached shared office/ workspace downtown called Portland Film Works.

“Great Notion is a collective of feature film writer/directors. It acts as a support system for filmmakers who share a common vision, work ethic, and a desire to move forward in terms of developing long-lasting creative careers, producing feature length films that push boundaries and reach as wide an audience as possible. It will also act as a distribution platform and is constantly evolving. Filmmakers with projects currently in the support system are Dicky Dahl (The Curio), Brian Padian (the black sea), Scott Ballard (A Standing Still, Death on a Rock), and myself (with Lost Division). We have all worked on each others’ projects and share many of the same cast, crew, and technical resources.

“The Portland Film Works studio will be ready for rent later this month. Scott Ballard and I spearheaded it along with Kevin Forrest of Hippodrome Media. The space also acts as a headquarters for our various film related entities and will be a resource center and host to film screenings and discussions. The next goal is to start a seasonal series of film classes and workshops in the space as a nonprofit.”

MORE ABOUT E.P. DAVEE

Past projects

“I’m inspired by unconventional narratives, silent films, early industrial music.

“In college I started shooting and editing on film and I’ve been in credit card debt ever since. In the early 2000s, frustrated with the financial obstacles of narrative filmmaking, I just started shooting stuff on whatever format I could get my hands on. I made a series of scrappy experimental shorts of urban exploration and city animals. Crowfilm played in festivals and galleries around the world and received some direct praise from musician Tom Waits.

“Eventually, I decided that I could no longer let the many obstacles and frustrations prevent me from doing what I truly wanted to do. I decided I would tackle my first feature film, no matter what the consequences.

How the Fire Fell was shot on Super-16mm film in Corvallis, Portland, Hood River, and Astoria, Oregon. Partly financed through two kickstarter campaigns and through the Hollywood Theatre’s fiscal sponsorship program. [It’s based on the real-life “Brides of Christ” cult that shook Davee’s native Corvallis in the early 1900s.] Lost Division is a continuation of the style developed with How the Fire Fell, but has a separate and unique feel. It was also shot on Super-16mm using some of the same lenses, exposure techniques, and processing procedures that gave HTFF its unique look, but taking it a bit further. The initial inspiration came from a story that a WWII veteran neighbor told me about going AWOL to be with a French woman. The rest came to me after re-watching the early Tarkovsky films as well as Kon Ichikawa’s Fires on the Plain, Kurosawa’s Dersu Uzala, and Kobayashi’s The Human Condition.

“The initial inspiration to make the film was a fascination with the physical and psychological atmosphere surrounding the cult. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to combine my experimental work with my love of atmospheric, low-dialogue narrative features. Filmmakers whose work was not necessarily an inspiration stylistically but gave me comfort during this period were Carl Dreyer, Kurosawa, Bresson, to name a few. How the Fire Fell could not have been made without the support, encouragement, and dedication of collaborators Kristin Marie (producer), Scott Ballard (director of photography), Joe Haege (actor/musician), and Tony Altamirano (producer/assistant director).

“I was still recovering from the trauma of making How the Fire Fell when I learned that my proposal for Lost Division had won me the Oregon Media Arts Fellowship. This was huge for me, because it’s very unlikely that I would have been able to raise enough funds otherwise. Amazingly, the Fellowship was followed by a RACC grant, the RACC innovation award, and eventually, an Oregon Arts Commission Opportunity grant. In addition to that, I had a very successful crowdsourcing campaign on Hatchfund (then called USA Projects). Unfortunately, it still wasn’t enough and the film has put me further in debt and funds are still needed for completion. Donations are currently being accepted through the Hollywood Theatre”.

So long, Reed College

“It was just a matter of time before I had to leave my position at Reed [after 13 years in the AV department]. It was a full-time gig and a very demanding and often overwhelming position. I somehow made two features while running the department there, but there’s no way I could go through that again.

“The Reed community has been amazingly supportive of my projects over the years. Support and encouragement has come equally from faculty, staff, and students. Last year a student started a petition to donate some student funds to my film. He got the necessary signatures to bring it to the senate and they approved it. That’s a beautiful thing. Now I can thank the entire Reed student body in the credits. The support has been amazing across the board. I feel very lucky to have worked in such an encouraging and generous environment for so many years.”

Solitary style

“A lot of my visual style comes from a certain sense of isolation, and loneliness that I’ve felt at different times in my life. That combined with a hyper awareness of my surroundings. I’ve always been a man of few words and as a child I was constantly daydreaming and observing life from afar, often through windows. This sort of perspective shows up a lot in my work. I’ve also been through some periods of my life where I sort of separated myself from social interactions for long periods of time. I wouldn’t say that it was healthy, but perhaps it gave me a unique feel for nonverbal stor telling. I don’t know. Luckily, I’m much more social now, but the distant perspective remains.”

Historical narrative

“I’m not sure why I keep going with historical narratives. I think I’m just drawn to the sense of mystery that you get when you have relatively little information or materials to go off of. I love staring at grainy old photos and letting stories emerge from them. I’m also really into atmospheres, and I suppose historic atmospheres seem more dense and interesting to me.”

Next thing

“Right now I’m developing a collaborative feature with other current Great Notion members. It’s in the early stages but the film will be based on the process of creative discovery, the gritty/punk DIY aesthetic of the ’80s, and the spirit of artistic rebellion that existed during that time. The working title is “Doom Town” and it will consist of a number of intertwined short stories based on our own experiences as youth during that time. This will likely go into production early 2015.
I also have a number of loose ideas for my next solo feature, but I’m not ready to discuss them yet!”

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