A journal of TMI

The search for Space Billy

I owe a lot to a certain Mr. Eric Franklin who was an assistant and main collaborator and content creator for quite a few projects I embarked on once upon a time (back in the 1990’s). For a while we pursued a project about a mechanic in outer space. The idea was that the guy had a lunch box and a monkey wrench but was constantly in orbit. There were also lots of other themes and fragments we were pursuing. A lot of it had to do with relics of the space-age that were rusting around us. A drill-motor from your average flea-market spoke of sputnik and possibly even an invasion from Mars if you looked at it in the right mood, and we sought to capture these intentions on film. We were also clearly influenced by the natural world around us, and relished our earthly inheritance- to be hicks, ever unlearned it seems compared to the space-waves of infinity, or dare I say it?- the trees…

The film was never made. let alone completed, but at a certain point I tired of the vastness of it all and slapped a recording of some music I and some others had made a few years before onto the unedited reels we shot during this time period, and called it done. Here tis:

Actually, there are many fragments of our quest to make this and other related films (such as Mr. Bear’s Wooden Space Capsule, the uncompleted last film of Eric and I’s collaboration). This next film uses the music of The Woodsmen, sort of the house band in Eric’s world at the time, with the guitar compositions of Nate Bell and the drumming of John Gillis, with Eric on bass and theremin. This film was known as The Wizard of U.S.K.

As I mentioned in my post on experimental film, after an ice storm blanketed our county, shutting it down for days, I thought it only natural to pull out my bolex 16mm camera and shoot a roll of Eastman Kodachrome, as abstract as possible, and years later slap a cassette of a practice tape of a song we had never played before and never played again onto it, and call it done. That was my film career.

I’m not sure I have properly organized everything that I shot back then. I wonder if every filmmaker feels how I feel, that there is a box of rotting spaghetti in the basement, and that spaghetti is your old film and out-takes. On the other hand I don’t think that there is that much stuff that hasn’t been used. Only one or two reels never made it I think. That the footage could ever be of value is questionable, and perhaps why the lab technician dozed off one day while converting them. There is a reel about a muffler that we rigged as a rocket and attempted to animate as we flew it off a custom rig I had built for the back of  the stake-body truck we used. If anything could be made of that, I’d like to see it some day… Much of the rest of what I hadn’t used yet seemed to make it into the following film, something that I put together after I had already moved to Philadelphia, where my “film career” kind of got put aside for other priorities, until the present. The occasion for this final expression of the Space Billy saga was a show Rich Wexler put together to highlight the Prelinger Library open source movie project: http://www.prelingerlibrary.org/. I used archive material to build the narrative of lava and downhill races and only slightly bent the rules by using my own footage to color and present the world of U.S.K. and Space Billy. As usual, a composition from a practice tape on which both Eric and I were musicians provides the soundtrack. This film never really had a name but the song is called Mr. Bear’s Cruise Control. Update: As a result of my posting this there has been some behind the scenes talk of messing around with some of this footage again. I like the idea and only hope that if we don’t do it it’s only because we’re doing something cooler. Woohoo!

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