"It's not a bad job," he says. "But at the end of the day, when you're handed all these tapes, well, it's really fucking with my head. ... You're constantly trying to make sense of it, thinking, 'How am I going to put it all together?'"
The tone of the documentary is shifting. It began with focused questions about Artown's growth and impacts on Reno. But now, Albright is trying to figure out how to turn that into an intriguing film.
"These are interesting events, but they're not that interesting," he says. "And these are interesting people in Artown, but they're not that interesting. How do you make a beginning, middle and end out of that?"
At this point, he thinks the film will be more about the Moonshiners and their progression--the making of the making of an Artown documentary.
"To create a narrative, you have to have something that stays with you the entire time and see change and go through ups and downs," says Albright. The only characters that describes in the film so far are the kids.
Director Michael Albright edits Sonic Youth footage .
Photo By David Robert
Brittany Curtis also asked the Moonshiners to film a 10-minute promotional film for the youth arts and community center she's trying to open, called Holland. She needs $200,000 to do it, and she thinks the film will help her raise that money. Filming is scheduled for mid-August, adding yet another unexpected project for the Moonshiners.
Then there's the Sonic Youth project. The music in the footage is indecipherable and distorted. Albright needs the soundboard from the band in order to continue. He's preparing a 25-minute sample video to give to Sonic Youth when they come to San Francisco for their July 18 concert with Pearl Jam. He hopes they'll like what they see enough to give him the soundboard. After that concert, the band goes on tour in Australia and is unable or too busy to respond.
Scene 4, July 15: Loving and dogging Artown
Noah and project coordinator Ryan Bartlett are standing in the hot sun at Wingfield Park getting chorizo sausages at the Basque Festival at the end of week two. Ali is filming Basque dancers on the stage.
Now at the mid-way point of Artown, Noah thinks the project is going better than before. "When we first started out, we weren't sure what to do," he says. "We hadn't had much experience walking up to people, saying, 'Hi. I'm from Project Moonshine. Can I ask you some questions?' But I think it's going well. I think we're actually going to make a movie."
They've been asking everyone they meet their views on Artown--from Artown and unaffiliated artists to audience members, homeless people and beer vendors.
Noah says people either dog on Artown, or they love it. "Most of the people who don't like Artown are artists," says Noah.
Bartlett says he thinks Artown has become too commercialized, but he doesn't blame organizers. "The underground scene would have to be more prominent for that to happen," he says. "As much as people our age would like to see better bands and more risky art, Reno's not ready for it. They need to feel comfortable."
Case in point were two letters to the editor in the Reno Gazette-Journal following Artown's opening night with the Sean Curran dance company, during which two women dancers briefly kissed, and two men embraced. The letters said the performance was "homosexual," "sensual" and "obscene." It was not art, not Reno and not beauty, the letters said.
But Albright thinks Reno is ready for more edge. "I don't think they [Artown administrators] have a clue what people in their teens and 20s want and like," he said earlier. "We're in that age group where we create things and make things happen ourselves."
Scene 5, July 23: Alleyway reflections
Tapes shot: 65 Artown, 15 Sonic Youth
The underground scene appears to be alive and well at the (con)Temporary Gallery--an alleyway south of Vassar off Virginia St., the walls of which graffiti artists have been given free reign.
It's a Sunday night, and a crowd of people mingle through the narrow alleyway. A dummy is propped on the roof, looking eerily down on the crowd. Bubbles, projected onto a wall as they float in front of a light, drift over the crowd, playfully popping among them. The sound system projects strange voices and conversations. There's a carnival aspect, with performance art mingling with visual art.
This Artown event feels spontaneous and truly different. It's one of the few events to draw a predominantly young (18- to 35-year-old) crowd.
The Moonshiners are here, but they also shot earlier in the day, when the artists were painting the alley's walls. Shooting behind-the-scenes has become more of a focus than shooting actual events.
The teens have now learned to transmit their footage onto the computer and into digital files. They've also had the chance to sit with Albright and critique their work. It's apparent that their individual styles match their personalities, and, by now, Albright can tell who filmed which scene:
Charlie has a steady hand and patient eye that begins with one subject and branches out to capture a scene. His footage will be a large part of the final product, providing depth and patience.
Noah finds interesting camera angles and injects them with his humor.
Allana and Danielle have shaky footage--the camera follows the sense of how they look at the world--scanning rapidly, fixating on something for a moment, then moving on. They're interested in the artistry of common objects, and they find things no one else sees. Their footage will add details and connecting threads.
Ali, the youngest Moonshiner, who just turned 15 in mid-July, is a well-composed interviewer. She, too, can be shaky with the camera, but she also catches some surprisingly good moments.
Nathan is learning to jump into a scene more. Previously, he relied heavily on the zoom button.
Ben Kolton, left, Michael Albright, center, and Charlie Hayes get ready for the closing night of Artown.
Photo By David Robert
Ben, 18, asks some of the best questions in interviews and offers a mix of the quickly observed and the pointed.
The (con)Temporary Gallery was a creative event that begged for creative shooting, so they shot odd angles--up on the roof and below.
Danielle is sitting against a brick wall with a friend. It's her last night filming with the Moonshiners before she flies to Germany to visit her grandmother.
She doesn't think her interviewing skills have improved since that first day at Artown headquarters. "It's hard to ask questions because you can't offend anybody because you're supposed to be unbiased," she says.
But she's become more attracted to direct cinema--the technique of capturing something as it happens without interviews or voiceovers--something she never experimented with until becoming part of Project Moonshine.
The end of the project is drawing near, and while the Moonshiners say they'll continue to work together on other projects, they know it will never be the same as this first experience.
"I'm just sad that it's over," says Allana. "I wouldn't even care if the entire movie sucked. It was like a really great summer camp but not so lame."