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PACIFIC ARTS MOVEMENT: Tell us about your background and how you ended up in filmmaking.

GENE CELSO: I wish I can say something really cool like I started out making 8mm home movies at an early age, but in actuality I got into filmmaking in an unusual way and it involved drafting software. When I was around 12 or 13 my dad would bring home these 3D CAD programs from work and I would tinker with them. Although these programs were meant for architects and engineers, I realized it was also possible for me to construct and animate simple environments, objects, props and setup shots. With the drafting software I was able to make these crude but neat little movies.

In college I majored in engineering and design and I didn’t think too much about filmmaking at all. But it happened to be in college that I accidentally walked into film appreciation class, thinking it was free movie night, and I remember being inspired by the lecture and how film was viewed and treated as an actual “art form.” I soon enrolled in that class and minored in cinema.

Although I was happy with cinema, engineering and design was something I didn’t see materializing for me. During my senior year, I decided to drop out of college and work for the video game industry. I started out working as a 3D modeler and visual effects artist and eventually found myself as an art director. While all this was happening, Anthony Doctolero, my creative partner, and I started making short films for fun.

PAC ARTS: Tell us about your production company, Firis, and some of the other productions you have been working on.

CELSO: Firis is a production company Anthony Doctolero and I started, and initially it was something we did on the weekends making short films. It was only in the last couple of years that we decided to leave work and open up a business offering creative and post-production services.

Starting Firis has given us the opportunity to work on commercial spots and ad campaigns for Konami, Hard Rock Cafe, Leapfrog, 365 Mobile, Red Bull, XBOX, etc. At the same time, it allows us enough flexibility to also work on creative things like our first short “Anything Anymore” which premiered at the Los Angeles Shorts Film Festival and our first music video THE VAULT which premiered at the Cinema Paradise Film Festival in Honolulu.

Aside from our commercial work we’re also doing a fair amount of independent and community-inspired work as well. We recently finished the post-production and visual effects work for Patricio Ginelsa’s latest music videos, “WhyWhyWhy” and “UwantMe.” And we’re also producing and editing, “5678,” a documentary by Peter Songsiri, which follows the lives of a Filipino dance team for one year.

In addition to the creative things we offer we also focus a lot on new technology, like for example, we were on one of first companies recognized in using the “mini35” by P+S Tekniks (a 35mm lens adapter) as well as Synthetic Aperture’s 32-bit color correcting program “Color Finesse.” *cough* Sales pitch.

PAC ARTS: Your music video, THE VAULT, is very slick, and stylish, using mixed media elements. Tell us about the production. What inspired those elements? How did you come up with the story, casting and the techniques?

CELSO: What inspired the elements for the video came from the very song itself—the pacing, the editing and above all the energy that seemed to flow out of the song.

Visually, the music video was inspired by Japanese anime (i.e Dragonball, manga) and most notably Kozaki Yusuke’s amazing gif animations. I wanted the music video to have this pop-culture look and feel to it, very reminiscent of Roy Licthenstein’s “Wham!” painting. The antiwar “NOT IN MY NAME” U.S flag, used in Saul William’s CD cover of the same name, also inspired me to use it as the main backdrop.

Although there are vague story elements dealing with energy and balance, I sorta left the music video open for personal interpretation.

PAC ARTS: Who are Psychokinetics? How did you meet them and how did you begin your collaboration? Did they play a role in the development of your film?

CELSO: Psychokinetics is an underground hip-hop group consisting of DJ Denizen and fronted by two emcees, Spidey and Celsius 7. They’ve been performing in the independent music scene since 1995.

How I met Psychokinetics was really by chance. We had our first office in an actual art gallery, which just so happened exhibited a lot of hip-hop inspired artwork. And it was through a chance meeting with the hip-hop dancer, TeN of Quad, did I come across this piece of music, which really inspired me to make a music video out of it. TeN ended up being the dancer for the music video.

There wasn’t as much collaboration with Psychokinetics as I might have some people thinking—they just simply trusted with what I was doing. And it’s their trust that allowed me to flex my creative muscles and do something fun and challenging.

PAC ARTS: Any interesting stories behind-the-scenes of shooting THE VAULT?

CELSO: Yeah. We actually shot the whole music video upside down.

I thought it would be a great idea to try shooting the music video using the first portable HD camera, but like most video cameras, it lacked the shallow depth-of-field and the ability to rack focus. So I decided we build our own 35mm adapter for this new camera. Our result was this jimmy-rigged 35mm lens contraption that actually worked with my old school Canon, Nikon and even medium format lenses. The only thing was it everything recorded upside down. So we ended up flipping all the monitors on set, and when I didn’t have that luxury, I had to tilt my head at an awkward position. Not very fun.

PAC ARTS: What’s your philosophy about music videos?

CELSO: Music videos are a great creative outlet for filmmakers. They’re sorta like the poems in the film world—you have less rules to follow. So you’re left with this tremendous amount of creative freedom without risking a ton of money and time.

PAC ARTS: What are you working on next?

CELSO: Aside from commercial work, I’m developing a short entitled “Father” and a feature entitled “Satellite—California Stories.” And maybe another music video.

PAC ARTS: Who do you look up to—both professionally and personally?

CELSO: In regards to filmmaking there’s really not one person in particular, but Hayao Miyazaki always come to mind. His free-spirited films are so much fun to watch—I just can’t help but smile. There’s also a bunch of new filmmakers from Japan and Korea like Fumihiko Sori, director of “Ping Pong,” and Jae-eun Jeong, director of “Take Care of my Cat” that I’m really beginning to like. There’s also Hideaki Anno, the director for “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” and many more.

Gene Celso’s music video for THE VAULT by Psychokinetics is scheduled to screen on Friday, 10/1 at 5:00 pm and Sunday, 10/2 at 6:45 pm.