Discover more about Saffron Splash Media and learn about the process of making experimental shorts and poetry films.

Embracing Meta-Cinema through Experimental Short Films

By Saffron Splash Media’s Writer/Director Ann Huang

My dreams and me

As a young adult, the idea of connecting meta-cinema with my dreams seemed impossible. In recent years, I made four experimental short films. My experimental shorts are based on surrealist poetry I’ve written. My poems are are inspired by my dreams. When these short films were completed, I was finally confident enough to talk about the correlation between my dreams and meta-cinema. A short time ago, I started embracing meta-cinema through my experimental short films.

what is metacinema?

What is meta-cinema?

What is meta-cinema and what is its relation to my experimental shorts? Simply put, the utilization of meta-cinema in film is similar to metafiction in literature. It is a filmmaking style in which the movie directly informs the audience that they are watching a film.

In the1960s, the French New Wave movement began using meta-cinema to showcase behind-the-scenes footage that was captured during the filmmaking process. The idea was to display the true color and magical qualities of a film in its original state of production. Meta-cinema attains this through commentary about the film’s plot by the characters or narrator, usually turning to talk directly to the camera. In modern films and television, this style is often called “breaking the fourth wall.”

meta-cinema experimental shorts

How my dreams guided me to utilize meta-cinema for short filmmaking

My dreams played a crucial role in the meta-cinema style of my experimental short films. Upon waking from a dream, the pieces of the narrative I can remember become fractured. During these instances, I consider myself both the lead actor and audience in my unconscious. I then turn to myself (the audience) and create a narrative from my dreams. Imagine dreaming of your twin starring in a movie. What might it feel like to observe him or her in the movie from the audience’s perspective?

Another way think about it is to consider a person with psychic capabilities who has visions of the future. Visualize what it might feel like for them to experience their predicted visions. These revelatory moments are so powerful that they require artistic underpinning and thorough examination in order to decipher.

what is meta-cinema

How meta-cinema breaks the illusion of film

Similar to making sense of dreams or psychic visions, a director can break the mirage of a movie by informing the audience that it is fiction. Some filmmakers use meta-cinema to create dream elements and other non-diegetic aspects for the purpose of teaching viewers a lesson. The audience then must self-reflect on the auteur filmmaker’s vision. Perhaps most importantly, meta-cinema invites its viewership to participate as a companion spectator of their own spectatorship.

Many consider Woody Allen to be a pioneer in meta-cinema. For several decades, his films have spoken directly to audiences by breaking the fourth wall. However, meta-cinema is still a conceptual mystery to most. Audiences tend to disregard the significance of meta-cinema the same way they might dismiss an interpretation of their dreams. Human nature allows many people to avoid dissecting concepts that bewilder them. We don’t like to overthink ideas and notions that we cannot easily grasp.

Meta-cinema and experimental shorts

As a poetry writer, the creation of narrative experimental short films comes naturally to me. Each experimental short is based on my surrealist lyrical poems, so my relaxed reflexivity and unconsciousness are at play from conception. My memories and dream recollections are a mysterious tool I must rely on as a narrative filmmaker. I attempt to connect with my conscious self as well as my deepest, collective unconscious self when creating art. It is my goal to bring magic into the meta-cinematic lens so that our realities may be interpreted both inside and outside of diegetic storytelling.

For questions or comments about my award-winning experimental short films, contact us Saffron Splash Media today!

How Inspired Poetry Writing Becomes Experimental Film

By Saffron Splash Media’s Writer/Director Ann Huang

A Personal Perspective on Writing Poetry

I have always held a firm belief that dreams should not be thrown away as they become known to us. Although they may seem surreal and irrational to our consciousness, channeling them will guide us to find our destiny. Many of the books I’ve read about the surrealist movement have substantiated this notion. Mythology implies that the dawn of surrealism took place on March 19, 1919—coincidentally 56 years before the day I was born.

I spent my 35th birthday at Wifredo Lam’s house in Mexico City. The ultra-modern three-story glass structure made from surrealist art pieces then functioned as a library during the day and opens as a restaurant in the evening for special occasions. Lam was a trailblazer for the surrealist movement. Another significant residence I spent some time in was La Casa Azul, the house of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, located in Mexico City’s San Angel Inn area. Local artisans and craftsmen now populate the community. In a way, these inquisitive memories all point to my deep interest in the surrealist movement.

When Paint Inspires Poem

When I first saw Rene Magritte’s painting titled “Homesickness,” I was in complete awe. In the image, the artist depicts himself as a relaxed, winged figure. The lamp post, the lion, and the positioning of each on the sunset balcony reaffirmed the homesickness I experienced when I left China for Mexico three decades ago. I frequently dreamed about the balcony of my childhood apartment during the first year I moved to Mexico City. In my dreams, there was a lamp post and a tiger on the balcony, and I wanted to climb down. I could not have imagined that the dreams I was having were an indication of homesickness for my homeland. Seeing Magritte’s painting made me understand the existence of Carl G. Jung’s concept of Collective Unconscious which inspired my poetry writing. His ideas worked as an archetypal agent connecting people who shared similar feelings about particular ancestral objects but did not actually know each other.

best experimental shorts and short films

Dream Logic

Dreams have a logic of their own, or rather, a life of their own. They are infused with a darkly rational truth. Poetry and paintings portray this truth through a series of words and images governed by an inherent necessity that forces them into the light. For example, Gisele Prassinos’ memoir focuses on the surreal nature of an environment set in juxtaposed incidents that do not associate in a conventional way. Prassinos dreamed about seeing a family at her doorstep after her mother passed away. She was awakened by a surprise visit from a family that included an elderly woman who resembled her deceased mother and a younger couple with a toddler that resembled her earlier marriage. The moments seemed so surreal when the young woman was breastfeeding her child, showcasing the couple’s troubled relationship and the old woman’s disapproval. These instances took place throughout time in her memoir, confusing the reader as to whether she was awakening from a dream or experiencing one.

When Dreams Become Destiny

Joseph Cornell's work on Charles Simic's poetry resembles the Jungian influence on both my personal and artistic lives. In the preface, Simic had a dream in which he and Cornell passed each other on a New York City street. Though I have yet to meet with Carl G. Jung in my dreams, the first night I started reading The Red Book: Liber Novus, I had a dream too. In the dream, I was on an excursion with a large group of women writers and a puppy on a windowless boat. In attempt to interpret the dream, I concluded that my upcoming book needed a clear direction and also that I needed a pet in my life.

It was very surreal at first, but three days later, the dream came true. The dog that sits in my lap today as I write this is the puppy I dreamed of that night. Just three days after having the dream, I brought my puppy home from a local pet store. If I ask myself whether it was my dream that prompted me to buy that dog or the dream that foretold what was going to happen, my answer could be both. What mattered was that my destiny was coming to its realization through the guidance of my unconscious.

best independent short films and poetry film

How Visual Clarity Becomes Art

The clarity of one's vision is a work of art. Cornell gained significance as an American artist through his efforts to eliminate the separation between art and life. Although he had to work hard to support his family, Cornell never abandoned his zest for seeking art materials wherever he could. His artistic inspiration came from his collection of found objects, chance creations, readymades, and items from dime stores. Cornell notes he was “plunged into a world of complete happiness in which every triviality [became] imbued with a significance." He is an excellent example of a life immersed in art, as art was found in every path he came across including warehouses, vintage shops, and flea markets.

Just as Simic compared jackpot slot machines to one’s imagination from poetry, Cornell sought after the souls of his art pieces from the dime stores which were shops that most people, especially artists, shied away from. These items created a force of the artistic inspiration implied in his poems including coins of reverie, dreams, secret passion, and religious madness. Through this process, luminaries become surrealist art.

When Inspired Poetry Writing Transforms into Experimental Film

To me, the process of writing and filmmaking is similar to alchemy. The transformation from poetry to film is the melting pot of words, chosen visually and acoustically from human psyche, psychology, myths, and dreams. Each of the sources I draw from hint at loss, pain, and desire. Throughout the learning process of completing the poetry writing program at VCFA, I had a rekindled nostalgia for my childhood days of learning Chinese calligraphy, memorizing hundreds of poems from Tang’ Dynasty, taking Tai Chi classes with my grandfather, and the Chinese Civil War songs my grandmother used to sing me. 

The emotional core I feel under the surface of the page and on-screen sparks surprising sentiments of mingling dreams and reality. My poems and poetry films are intended to be consumed with introspection. When my audience navigates their memories with detailed attention to their feelings, they can explore the complex emotions of my films with fluidity.

I ponder the happenstances that could have taken place around us, but which have been ignored. When I consider things that could have turned out the way they were contemplated, I am inspired to create art. I believe that the value of creative activity lies in the act of making rather than the aesthetic significance of things made. 

For questions or comments about my award-winning experimental poetry films, contact Saffron Splash Media today!

Pitching & Promoting Art Films to Today’s Hollywood

Wondering How to Pitch & Promote Art Films?

Pitching a film to today’s Hollywood circuit may seem like a daunting task for new filmmakers. But pitching is only the beginning. Promoting art films is an ongoing process that takes lots of perseverance, consistency, and resilience. Fortunately, with the right information and game plan, you’ll be able to pitch and promote your experimental film without too many setbacks. Through first-hand experience, writer and director Ann Huang from Saffron Splash Media explains how to navigate each step of nailing public relations for your independent art film.

Join a network for filmmakers.

As a preliminary step, Ann joined Cinando, an online network and resource for film professionals that provides tools to navigate Hollywood including access to industry contacts, projects currently in development, and market screening schedules. Cinando’s community helped Saffron Splash Media develop some interest in the film circuit. After that, Ann decided it was time to begin pitching her first experimental art film, Palpitations of Dust.

how to pitch art films

Register for film pitching sessions.

Her first experience pitching Palpitations of Dust involved signing up for FADE IN, a Hollywood film pitch festival that takes place in Los Angeles. The festival offers one-on-one pitch meetings for filmmakers with more than 200 film buyers and representatives from Hollywood as well as virtual film pitch sessions via Skype.

Ann booked five online film pitching sessions with FADE IN in which she was able to connect with various Hollywood producers, managers, and agents. “It was like speed-dating,” she remarks. “We were allotted a certain amount of time to pitch our shorts with each industry professional. I was awestruck by the refreshing informality of the people I spoke with.” Ann explains that although the representatives typically look for feature films in the comedy and dramedy genres, most of them still showed a keen interest in her short film pitches.

Ann also registered for the American Film Market (AFM), a major motion picture event housing over 7,000 industry professionals for eight days in Santa Monica, California. The event provides both rookie and veteran filmmakers with opportunities for networking, pitching, deal-making, and film screenings through workshops, conferences, and meetings. Ann attended the AFM for two days.

Learn from each pitch.

Looking back on a memorable pitching session at FADE IN with an executive from a European television production powerhouse, Ann recounts what she learned. She says, “The film studio was Europe’s equivalent to Lionsgate, and they spoke candidly with me about the potential of utilizing Saffron Splash Media’s experimental poetry films to replace TV commercials.” She explains that unfortunately, the economic aspect of the idea heavily outweighed the artistic and cultural community benefits. The man Ann spoke to said he very much enjoyed watching experimental short films, but that there were currently not enough monetary incentives to back that type of project. “He was of the belief that it would be a long shot for some of the top TV executive producers to give up their commercial income for the benefit of the filmmaking community.”

how to pitch short films

During her time at the AFM, Ann was able to pitch her short art film in person to several Hollywood agents, executives, producers, directors, and financers. “I encountered a significant amount of interested production houses that wanted to distribute experimental films, but not shorts,” she notes. Similar to FADE IN, this roadblock was driven by economic reasons, as experimental short films do not have the capacity to bring in revenues as substantial as feature-length pieces.

Keep it up.

The film pitching process will yield both setbacks and victories as well as several lessons to take with you on your next filmmaking venture. Having experienced pitching art films to the intimidating and humbling realm of Hollywood, Ann remains determined and is still promoting her poetry shorts. She hopes that one day, “We can strive for cultural heritage in the art world rather than strictly cash inflow.” She believes that the film industry will have to transform, starting with the philosophies of movie making, and that people will begin to recognize the urgent need for experimental art films, especially in the form of shorts.

how to promote short films

In the meantime, Ann is joining the film community sector of people who hold her values, including, a network of shorts for filmmakers and enthusiasts. In just two months, created an online platform of over 350 award-winning short films. Promoting her poetry films has not been only an uphill battle for Ann; her experimental shorts have had their fair share of success with a number of official screenings, nominations, and awards.

Check out the trailers for the experimental art films by Ann Huang and Saffron Splash Media, Palpitations of Dust and the newest short Indelible Winter. For questions, comments, or collaboration inquiries for our production studio, contact us today!