Times Ledger by Olivia Saperstein
While technology has made independent filmmaking more manageable over the years, it can still be rare to see true risks being taken in the medium, and on a minuscule budget. If this is the case, then Queens filmmaker William Cusick can be considered an indie heavyweight, as his new project “Pop Meets the Void,” plans to tackle motion graphics animation, green screen compositing and live action all in one $36,000 film.
It seems that only someone like Cusick, writer/director and star of the piece, who has had a truly diverse background in film, theater and music, could raise said amount of money, by use of crowd-funding — which seeks online donations. Cusick graduated with a film degree from St. John’s University, taking two awards for his experimental works. Since then he has made many short films and music videos, and his last feature, “Welcome to Nowhere (Bullet Hole Road),” appeared at the Queens World Film Festival in March, winning the Founder’s Choice Award.
“Pop Meets the Void,” the story of a musician who has spent the past 15 years writing an album, captures Cusick’s fusion of passions, and is a reflection of his experience designing video projections for experimental theater. The film will encompass daydream-like sequences of the different roads the protagonist could have taken, resulting in an nontraditional narrative with stunning visual effects.
“In some ways it is a musical,” Cusick, who composed all of the music himself, said.
Yet don’t expect show tunes; this is only the case in so much as the electro-pop soundtrack is essential to the story structure.
These types of works are rare, even among today’s more successful filmmakers, especially on a shoestring budget. Despite the profusion of film festivals out there, experimental film is still a smaller niche currently, which makes it all the more encouraging that Cusick has met and surpassed his Kickstarter goal, raising $36,000 to make the film.
“We can work with a really small budget mostly because of our theater experience. We’ve been spending years and years working with really small budgets to create really large and elaborate video concepts for live shows,” Cusick said of his team, producer TaraFawn Marek, and animator/visual effects artist Jonathan Weiss.
And while “Pop Meets the Void” rides on the ultimate frustration the Internet has created in musicians, giving them easier access to listeners, without any guarantee of being heard (let alone paid), Cusick has the Internet to thank. Crowdfunding has helped him raise the money needed to start shooting. But don’t think it was the web alone.
“I personally reached out to about 100 people,” Cusick said, of the campaign’s 301 backers. Works that deal with life’s larger questions in nontraditional ways, such as Richard Linklater’s “Waking Life” or “A Scanner Darkly,” cost millions to make. Yet Cusick’s story incites us to consider if this is necessary.
Cusick is thoroughly inspired by Linklater’s imagination and ability to break the mold, yet an even stronger model would be Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel, who spearheaded avant-garde surrealism in the 1930s. In one of Cusick’s favorites, “That Obscure Object of Desire,” Buñuel uses surreal, mind-bending qualities. The lead, Mathieu (Fernando Rey), gives us a flash of history, when he was in love with a young flamenco dancer. The dancer is effectually played by two different actresses (Carole Bouquet, and Angela Molina), who look nothing alike. By doing this Buñuel underscores the elusive nature of our mind, and it can’t help but seem that Cusick will attempt an equally illuminating operation with his concept of life’s potential pathways. Major ideas don’t always need major budgets.
It will be a true experience to see the finished product of Cusick’s anticipated work, and we’ll hope that Queens will be the first to partake.