Craig Baldwin, director of Tribulation 99 and Spectres of the Spectrum, is screening a new movie about Jack Parson, L. Ron Hubbard, Margaret Cameron and Aleister Crowley called Mock Up ON Mu.
SF360: Back in the ’60s, dimwit journalists would ask McCartney and Lennon what they wrote first, the music or the lyrics. In your case, do you write a script and find the footage to illustrate it or do you have chunks of footage you love and invent a narrative to fit them?
Baldwin: The question is always asked after every one of my films. It’s a process. If I just dive into my archive, I wouldn’t get out of my archive. There has to be kind of a map, a direction. The script was not written when I shot the [original] material. I found the story of Jack Parsons, as a myth, as a schematic, as a way forward. These subject areas/ or themes would be included: the occult, the aerospace-rocket stuff, mind control, all this brain stuff that’s obviously a parody of Scientology, desert landscapes, military-industrial, the moon/outer space. Without a script, even though I knew the story, you can go out into the desert and shoot people looking into the meteor crater. It’s mythic, adds scale, is cinematic. So the two come toward each other”‘the accumulated ideas you have and the accumulated materials you have. I probably should have been a little more in control of my material. The best model for me was the underground film”‘this is a term you hardly hear anymore”‘you go out with people who may or may not be paid actors and you just generate ideas in a great location. I did that with Spectres too. Went down to the Salton Sea and got some good shots. It’s not a realistic movie, it’s a series of ghostly gestures. It’s all shot without sound, and you add the voices later. It is this idea of a personal commitment and a personal engagement with the project. Would I be a painter if I didn’t like to paint? That’s preposterous. There’s a certain amount of that in filmmaking, Filmmaking is absolute masochism, just so you know. Sometimes you have to burn some film that you’ll never use. You just have to be generous with yourself, and with visual possibilities.