Fortune (2013) - 30 minute silent film by Naomi Yang
original soundtrack by Damon & Naomi.
THE STORY: Norman’s father was a society portrait painter. After his father’s death, Norman faces the burden of inheriting his father’s life’s work. He struggles with conflicting feelings about a man who was a gifted artist, but a difficult and unsupportive father. In this emotional journey Norman reconnects with his own artistic nature, something that had not been possible while his father was alive -- finally emerging from his father’s shadow, and the shadow of his grief.
The edit is a collaboration between Naomi Yang and acclaimed experimental filmmaker and editor Nathaniel Dorsky.
The idea of a silent movie for which we would then write a soundtrack came to me in Turin, Italy, December 2011. Damon and I were on tour behind our most recent album, and arrived in town to perform at a venue called “Blah Blah” -- which from its name sounded like it had a 100% rock pedigree, but which turned out in fact to be the oldest movie theater in Turin. The room was a haunted gem, with a tiny projection booth accessible only from a narrow anonymous door under the arcades on the main street in town. The venue asked if we wanted to show a film or a DVD behind our musical performance; we were sorry not to be able to take advantage of this opportunity. But there happened to be a used book and DVD stall just outside the venue, so we went looking for a film that we could perhaps use during the show and found a copy of Paul Leni’s 1924 “Waxworks.” We decided to take a chance and had the venue screen it behind our show, sight unseen.
The combination turned out to work so well that we continued to play in front of this film throughout the rest of our Italian tour. It also inspired me to film my own “silent movie,” for which we could deliberately write the music.
I enlisted the help of my old friend Norman von Holtzendorff, who has a similar love of silent movies as well as a melodramatic flair. In addition to a common aesthetic, we shared the fact that each of us had lost our fathers in the past year, and both of our fathers had been artists who left us with the enormous responsibility for taking care of their life’s work. Norman and I each now had a storage space filled with our respective father’s work, and we were both trying to cope with the responsibility. And similarly, while each of us deeply admired our fathers’ artistic work, we had also both struggled throughout out adult lives with the aftermath of their flawed parenting.
We set out to in some way record this duality. I used my father’s old tripod and the lenses he had left me, filming Norman surrounding himself with his father’s image and paintings and exploring his own gender identity, which had been a source of friction between himself and his father. We worked together over the course of a year -- screening the footage in between shoots, planning the next shoot determined by the footage that we had created.
What started as a lark -- “Hey Norman, I am making a silent film, do you want to be my Theda Bara?” -- became a transformative experience for both of us. I think it allowed us each to gain distance on our fathers and their work -- to make use of what we had learned from them, but focus on what we hoped to achieve for ourselves and our own work