An Interview with Independent Filmmaker Pixie Cram on The Wheel (2010)

I originally wrote this blog post in 2010 for my previous blog and wanted to share it with you now.


Back in May, I went to Windsor for Media City Film Festival, and Pixie Cram was on the same train to Windsor. I didn’t talk to her on the train because I didn’t know her until we and two jury members got into the same car to the Festival office. Throughout the Festival, she was really nice to me, and thanks to her, I enjoyed my stay in Windsor very much.

The Wheel (2010) by Pixie CramThe Wheel (2010)

Pixie showed her film, The Wheel (2010), at the Festival. It was very short (about 3 minutes) and minimalist. Basically, it has only two main scenes: a mother breast-feeding her baby in the first half, and then the mother peels an orange in the second half. The length of the film is effective to induce the audience to contemplate what they have just seen on the screen. Why? Having just two scenes easily leads the audience to focus on the details of each scene, but each scene is relatively static and does not involve specially dramatic events. In this situation, the audience tends to engage itself in symptomatic contemplation of the scenes. One can, for example, think about what aspect of our society or culture the image of a mother breast-feeding is representing and how it does so.

I was going to write about how I interpret this film here, but I haven’t been able to figure it out at all even about three months after the Festival.

I guess it’s time to ask Pixie questions about this film and other stuff!

Q1. Could you introduce yourself briefly?

I’m an independent filmmaker who works in super-8, 16mm and video.  I do stop-motion animation, fiction narrative, films with live soundtracks, and music videos.  Recently I’ve begun creating short experimental films that verge on documentary, such as the one you described above.

Q2. How long have you been making films and videos and how did you start getting involved in film and video media?

I’ve been making films for 10 years.  After I finished a degree in Theatre at Concordia University I was looking for another creative outlet, and I got involved filmmaking through taking a workshop at the Independent Filmmakers Cooperative of Ottawa.

Q3. What kinds of themes have you been focusing on and why on those themes? Do you have any recurring theme in your work?

A recurring theme in my work is the relationship between nature and technology.  I read a lot of sci-fi as an adolescent and so a lot of my creative writing was modeled after futuristic themes and fantasy.  I like to imagine what the future might look and feel like – how we are evolving as a species in tandem with the technology we create.

Lately, though, I’ve become aware of how my non-narrative work is modeled from classic themes found in paintings.

Q4. What motivated you to make The Wheel? How did the motivation shape the overall structure?

The Wheel had two motivations:  One was to create images of women and childbirth.  I read somewhere that these images were all but missing from our contemporary culture, whereas a thousand or two thousand years ago, they were more commonly found in artwork.  The other motivation was to make a film that was a still life, that was domestic as opposed to expressionistic.  The subject of the nursing mother and of the orange comes directly from this.

The structure came about out through the process of shooting.  The film was taken from a single reel and the two scenes were shot within a couple of days of one another.  When I tried adding a third scene, it didn’t work somehow.  The lighting was different and so was the mood, so I stuck with the two scenes as they were.  The film has very few edits in it from the original – I think I made only three cuts.

Q5. What is the relationship between a nursing mother and an orange?

There are a lot of interpretations that I’ve heard from people after they view the film… (I didn’t set out with any particular message in mind when I made it).  The breast nurtures just as the orange nurtures.  Both are round.  Someone said the film made him think about where we go to find sources of food and nurturing.  (I would love to hear your interpretation, Masaki!)

Q6. How has the environment of Ottawa influenced your approach in film and video?

Ottawa is a very gentle city with a small but interconnected arts community.  The city is surrounded by nature – and this is a big source of inspiration.  I love the wintertime very much and Ottawa has a very long winter – conducive to contemplation and keeping busy with projects as a distraction from the darkness and isolation.

Q7.  How has digital equipment changed your approach to film and video?

I started editing with the Steenbeck table for the first two films I made, and then around 2003 made the transition to editing and finishing my films on a digital format.  This was because of wanting to work with some super-8 footage I had taken, and not being able to add sound permanently unless I went to digital.  I also began to shoot video for the convenience and ease of the medium – creating projections for live music, and making documentaries in this format.

Q8. What kind of project are you working on right now?

I’m working on a fiction film script with a utopian theme that I hope to be filming next summer.

Thank you very much, Pixie! I really hope to see your latest work soon!



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