Looks Familiar

Year of release: 1989
Original format: 16mm
Running time: 3 minutes 15 seconds
Screening format: 16mm comopt print; digital screening versions available
Credits: A film by Kayla Parker
Director/producer/animator/editor: Kayla Parker
Live action camera: Joy Elliott, George Falloon, Kayla Parker
Live sound recording: George Falloon
Music: British Summer Weather Time
Made with the assistance of Exeter Film and Video Workshop
Distribution and sales: Sundog Media sundogmedia@gmail.com and LUX Distribution

Playful choreography between the 16mm Bolex clockwork camera, the subjects it sees, and the looks it receives in response to its gaze: frames of kittens and cats, the flickering face of a Hallowe’en pumpkin, spooky ghosts, a dead badger, a faux fur stole, and flowers in people’s gardens, are edited, engraved and hand-tinted to a rhythmic psychedelic intensity, accompanied by improvised music recorded live to the projected film at Spacex art gallery in Exeter.

Shown as work-in-progress at Spacex Exeter as a 16mm projection at Snap Decisions live film and music event in (5 December 1988): the soundtrack is a 3 minute section of British Summer Weather Time’s improvised performance to the projected images of Looks Familiar that evening. Premiere at Watershed Media Centre, Bristol (May 1989) as the short film before Ken Russell’s feature The Lair of the White Worm (1988); selected by Michael Rose, who was then cinema programmer at Watershed.
Production notes
This film began in early autumn 1988 with my first 100 feet of 16mm colour reversal film (free, donated by the local ITV company TSW in Plymouth, which also processed the film for nothing) loaded into a clockwork 16mm Bolex camera borrowed from Exeter Film and Video Workshop. Walking around Exeter with the camera over several weeks, I filmed the cats and kittens I met. I captured one in a doorway near my flat, and another on top of a wall on my way to catch the bus to work (I was working in the design studio of Devon Library Services at the time). I also filmed a hand-held ghostly pixillation sequence at dusk in front of Exeter cathedral and the flowers in people's front gardens. A friend (George Falloon - who lived opposite me on Dane’s Road) filmed his landlady's inscrutable pet cat for me, and another friend (Joy Elliott) couldn’t get me any cats or kittens, so she gave me 6 frames of a dead badger she'd found on a roadside verge - Joy said that she stopped her car and filmed the badger with the Bolex camera she just happened to have with her (like you did in those days), then got back in and drove off. As Hallowe’en came nearer the witchy vibe increased, and I filmed my pumpkin face lit from within; and some stop-motion animation of my faux leopard fur stole and hand-painted titles and credits on a home-made rostrum

I was invited to screen the first version of Looks Familiar at Snap Decisions, a film and music event at Spacex art gallery, by a bloke I met in a pub (possibly Dave Sawyer or Chris Garratt in Bart’s Tavern, Exeter). The experimental music collective British Summer Weather Time provided the improvised sound track by playing live to the film as I wound it backwards and forwards through the projector: I’d arranged with Chris Garratt for his band The Venoms to create the soundtrack, but the music they played that evening was a bit un-together, so I asked British Summer Weather Time if I could record their improvised response to my film for the soundtrack. I paid George Falloon £20 to record the sound in the gallery while I was projecting: afterwards I selected a 3 minute sequence from the mag track, which had a dog barking and snarling in it: that evening someone brought a dog along, and it ran around snapping at everyone dancing during my set. I’d already hand-tinted parts of the film and had engraved some sequences; afterwards I dismantled the film and set to work filming new shots, and doing more intricate manipulation and rhythmic editing of the images.

Michael Rose, then cinema programmer at Watershed in Bristol, booked the film before it was finished to support Ken Russell’s The Lair of the White Worm. I joined the London Film Makers’ Co-op and got the train to London for two Friday afternoon sessions on a Steenbeck to edit the film to the mag track. I did a deal with Filmatic and got a discount on the internegative and three comopt prints, and that was it. Film done.

Publication and comments
Women and animation: a compendium Jayne Pilling (ed.) (1992) London: British Film Institute. International biographical dictionary A-Z: Parker, Kayla pp. 133 - 134

Exhibition selected
Festival screenings include: Edinburgh Fringe, Leicester (Film and Video Now), EMAF Osnabrück, Hull, Glastonbury (Vision Vortex), Espinho.
Experimental Gothic: Romantic Agonies presented by Magic Lantern, Brown University; Cable Car Cinema and Café, Providence, Rhode Island, USA; curated by Seth Watter: “Frights, blights, and things that go bump in the night. Films with the visual logic of a nightmare, fever dreams of desire and despair” (programme notes) (30 October 2013)

Hand Eye Visions: the Films of Kayla Parker and Stuart Moore Cine-City, the Brighton film festival; Lighthouse, Brighton, UK. We presented a programme of 17 direct animation films, made over the last 20 years, for the third and final Hand Eye Visions event, curated by Ian Helliwell (27 November 2010)

We Object! Humour, Absurdity and Resistance from the LFMC Archives, Lux Centre. “Though the LFMC has been generally been associated with abstract cinema, there is a strong vein of humour and irony within its substantial archive. These highlights are detached, dry and complex, often polemical, and always witty and irreverent.” (Programme notes) Other films include The Acumen, Andrew Kötting and The Weatherhouse, Joanna Woodward (5 October 1997)

Ashton Court Festival Creative Video and Electronic Arts Marquee, Bristol Community Festival, Ashton Court, Bristol, UK. The Electronic Arts programme featured six short films by Kayla Parker: Cage of Flame, Fanny and Johnny on Acid, Looks Familiar, Night Sounding, Nuclear Family, and Unknown Woman.“...showcasing the most exciting, creative and innovative new film and video in the South West. Over the weekend the programme will provide wider exposure for a range of rarely-seen experimental works which challenge and shift our perceptions of video art.” (Programme notes) (7 and 8 August 1993)

Jazz Film Salon ’91: The International Review of Jazz Films, Warsaw, Poland (8 to 15 December 1991)
On the Make programme of shorts, animation and experimental pieces from Devon and Cornwall, Watershed Media Centre, Bristol, UK ( 2 July 1991)
Independent Image day event focused on “the nature of independent film/video and the direction/s it might be taking in the 90s” (programme notes). Speakers included Rod Stoneman, commissioning editor at Channel 4; David Curtis, Arts Council of Great Britain; Frank Wintle, TSW Television South West; Judith Higginbottom, Film and TV Officer South West Arts; and Moira Sweeney, Film and Video Umbrella. Plymouth Arts Centre, Plymouth, UK (1 June 1991)

WRO 90 Sound Basis Visual Art Festival, Wroclaw, Poland (3 to 9 December 1990)
Metaphors, Monologues and Landscapes Programme Two: Current Diversities, Glasgow Film Theatre, Glasgow, Scotland, UK (31 October 1990)
VIPER ’90 International Film und Videotage Luzern, Switzerland (23 to 27 October 1990)
Hertake International Women's Film Festival and Conference Glasgow, Scotland, UK. Nuclear Family was also screened (September 1990)
FEMINALE 5 FrauenFilmFest Köln, Germany (4 to 8 July 1990)
London Film-Makers’ Co-op Summer Film Festival Dance and Animation programme (July 1990)
Metaphors, Monologues and Landscapes: A Programme of new Experimental Film from The Film and Video Umbrella, selected from the experimental programmes of the 1989 London Film Festival at the London Film Makers’ Co-op. Looks Familiar was included in Programme Two: Current Diversities, along with films by Alnoor Dewshi, Vivienne Dick, Sandra Lahire, and David Leister. Touring programme supported by The Arts Council of Great Britain and The British Film Institute, UK (1990)

33rd London Film Festival at London Film Makers’ Co-op (1989)
Independent Animation Review Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff (June 1989)
A Celebration of Women in Art symposium at Exeter College of Art, organised by Katy McLeod (June 1989)
Screened as the short before the feature film The Lair of the White Worm directed by Ken Russell (1988); programmed by Michael Rose, Watershed Media Centre, Bristol, UK (premiere: May 1989)

Snap Decisions live music and film event, in collaboration with Exeter Film and Video Workshop, Spacex Art Gallery, Exeter. Kayla Parker projected approximately 100 foot of 16mm film as Chris Garatt’s band The Venoms, and British Summer Weather Time (with Dave Sawyer), performed; running the film repeatedly through the projector in response to the music, and with the bands improvising to the projected images (5 December 1988)