This short, about a gardener wooed by pool mermaid by the longtime Santa Barbara journalist and filmmaker Ted Mills, was screened at the County Courthouse this past summer after winning a silent film contest.
What prompted you to tell this story?
The location and the pool in its backyard came first and the story followed. I knew I wanted to do something with the heat (it was written in July!) and the drought. Because it was initially for the UCSB Silent Film Summer Series competition, I was also thinking of Chaplin, and how his character is a homeless guy, yet was universally loved. Can you imagine that now?! So I thought about the other people who we “don’t see” in our daily lives and made one of them the hero. While writing, my producer mentioned something in passing about a “party underwater” and suddenly everything popped into focus.
How as the score developed?
I knew I wanted a real silent film score, and I had met and interviewed Adam Aceto, who plays along to the silents during SBIFF’s Silent Sundays. So he didn’t need to do any research. He does this (among other things) as a job. We talked, I sent him the finished cut, and he sent back five variations of him playing live to the film. It was the easiest experience with scoring I’ve ever had! And it sounds lovely.
Will silent films ever experience a revival?
Well, in 2012, The Artist won Best Picture, remember? Of course, that was a tribute to a long-dead genre, as is ours. There hasn’t been anything like The Artist since from Hollywood. So a revival? Maybe not. As I started to answer this question, I wasn’t too sure how to define “silent film.” There’s music and dialog (albeit on title cards) in ours. Music videos that tell a narrative are “silent” in their way. Time-lapse videos of “the day in the life of a city” are all over Vimeo, and those are just a version of Dziga Vertov’s “Man with a Movie Camera” from 1929. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, as they say in French. I think we’re still watching silent films, in a way. They’re just way noisier now!