Apply Yourself | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper


Short-film-and-video contest with live judging, cash prizes and audience award

Appliance Film invitational featuring work by five local artists

8 p.m. Tue., May 11 (7 p.m. reception). Melwood Screening Room, Oakland. $4. 412-316-3342, x178

Here's how you make a movie: You write a script and then you go out and shoot it. Right?

Well, if you're making a feature-length narrative film, that's almost how you have to work. And even many of those making shorter, cheaper, more experimental pieces go out shooting with some finished product in mind.


But like birds collecting scraps for nests they might never weave, many filmmakers collect images just 'cause. To capture a scene or a moment or a perspective is an end in itself, one that needn't become part of "a film" to justify it.


If it does, however, so much the better. A couple summers ago Andres Tapia-Urzua was teaching at the University of New Mexico when, video camera in hand, he came across a couple enticing sights on an Albuquerque street. One was an arrangement of  mannequins in a store-window wedding display, complete with bride; the other was a neon sign depicting a man ironing.


The images lay dormant on videotape until Tapia-Urzua was asked to contribute to the invitational component of the annual Film Kitchen short-film contest, this year themed "appliance films." Out came the matrimonial mannequins; out came the man with the iron. And on Tue., May 11, Tapia-Urzua will premiere Iron Joe, a two-minute video he composed using the two sets of images plus voiceovers to create what he calls "a little soap-opera drama" about the man with the iron (who's about to get married) and the mannequins (some of whom try to prevent the wedding).


Like last year's Film Kitchen/Kitchen Films, the May 11 event also includes an open-submission contest for films and videos of four minutes or less, this time with an appliance theme. Three judges who'll be seeing these works for the first time -- filmmaker Chris Ivey, Carnegie Mellon associate professor of art Suzi Silver and Appliance Warehouse owner Fred Landay -- will pick winners, with cash prizes of up to $150. The audience will also get to vote on its favorite appliance-themed short.


Meanwhile, films and videos screening out of competition in the invitational will give Tapia-Urzua and four other local artists a chance to show what they can do with the theme. The artist known as Beckles, for instance, serves up an oven as a wry metaphor for self-actualization in Cooking With Andrew. Musician and filmmaker Mike Bonello will deploy two 16 mm film projectors to screen a piece exploring the artwork and mechanics associated with his favorite appliance -- the stereo turntable. Tara Merenda and Liz Richards will contribute [sic], in which they take the concept of "appliance film" literally by exploring the ways strips of Super 8 film can be stuck upon different appliances. And Buzz Miller's short Toast will round things out with an homage to vintage toaster technology, complete with white bread.


For Tapia-Urzua, Iron Joe marks a departure from his other personal video work. While earlier, longer signature videos such as Spanglish and Loverdosis tend to ricochet with overlapping images, textural manipulation and lots of action, the miniature Iron Joe is closer to animation in imparting human qualities to objects. But such departures can result when you put archived material to an unanticipated purpose. "I had [the footage] for a couple years and this is a chance to do something with it," says Tapia-Urzua. "I always have a next video in mind."

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