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Everything you need to know about Background Noise

A college sitcom falls apart as its cast struggles to tell the difference between who they are and who the show wants them to be.

Background Noise depicts issues that are present in every day life in a surreal setting that shows how every issue and every person that enters into a persons life is just 'background noise' to other, deeper issues within themselves.

Background Noise is directed by Robert Brooks. Robert Brooks, an emerging young filmmaker, grew up in the aorta Portland, OR. His filmmaking abilities grew from his love of drawing and art as a child, where he began making animations from his own sketches. Since then he has written, directed, produced, edited, and composed his own short films and albums and created many unique sketches. Robert is a pleasure to have on projects with his true artistry.

What draws you to filmmaking and the cinematic language?

If I had to consciously choose an artform to express myself within, I don't think I could ever manage to naturally or satisfactorily express an idea.

Some things are better said in just a song, or just a picture. But editing marries those two in time, and that's what feels to me to be the most holistic way to approach describing a perspective on humanity.

Do you believe in film schools or does making a film teach you more than film school?

The only way to learn how to make a movie is to make lots of movies and re-watch your favorites over and over. It's an art, a practice, and a discipline that must exist regardless of your educational situation. But filmmaking is collaboration, and film school can be a great place to find those collaborators. If it wasn't for our student organization, we wouldn't have had the opportunity to combine our resources and passion to make such a large project. No one from the school of film that helped us make this movie a reality, and having to figure it out on our own ended up being the best learning experience I could have asked for.

What makes cinema stand out more than the arts for you?

Movies provide people with the most immersive guided tour experience possible. It's the only medium for someone who can't decide which art they love more. Audience members notice, experience, and feel the characters, the sounds, the sets, the light, the energy of a world. As a storyteller, everything is at your disposal. And I love the collaborative experience of shooting a film - fewer things are more visceral and exciting. It's a constant party in a world of your own design, I can't imagine anything better.

Did you choose a certain directing style for making this film based on the script?

I judge a filmmaker by their ability to express a captivating, entertaining, and unique perspective. I attempted to create the film with a world view fine-tuned to bring out the most of the script's intentions and goals. The attempt to implement that perspective is the only reason a director should be hired.

How did you choose the cast and the crew of your film?

We were lucky to host open casting calls from across the city of Portland, and we primarily casted individuals and students attending Portland State University. When casting the project, the script was still going through rewrites, which allowed us the opportunity to build the characters with our leads, which helped both the writers and actors find common ground. We also planned to shoot improv scenes in the film, especially for large group or party scenes, so while casting we came up with fun ways to get a feel for our actors' ability to be comfortable and confident making up dialogue around others. The film's crew was entirely made up of student and alumni volunteers from Portland State University, mostly individuals who had worked on PSU.TV projects in the past.

How did you fund your film and what were some of the challenges of making this film?

I learned more making this film than I'd learned over the rest of my college experience. Everything was a challenge because everything was newer and bigger than it has ever been for me before. We had access to equipment through the student organization and gathered a crew of volunteers from the organization. Every other element of this film was carefully sourced, mostly with the help of crowdfunding to pay for location fees, food, and festivals. Many of us didn't have any experience crowdfunding before, and now having completed the process successfully, we can all thank this film for teaching us yet another skill, fund-raising. It was a massive undertaking and full of imperfections, but once it was done we all became fans of it's idiosyncrasies and compelling performers.

This was the third feature that PSU.TV has attempted and the second to be completed. We hope to be establishing figures of a legacy, passing the torch to future filmmakers whose passion and drive can't be contained by a lesson plan or a classroom.

Do you consider yourself an indie filmmaker and what would most be the most difficult thing about being an independent artist?

I'll be able to consider myself an "indie filmmaker" when people know me for my films, when my name doesn't remind people of a person but of a filmic universe that's uniquely recognizable and addictingly re-watchable. Despite what I've tried to believe, I've learned school teaches us to fall in line, even if that line is somewhere vague in an 'artistic industry' like filmmaking. But school didn't help me cultivate an identity in my work, and I think there is no greater crime against an artist than to distract them from developing their voice. Because of the opportunity PSU.TV presented, our team was able to fight that construct and work on the important work.

I am now working in New York for a documentary production company as a result of attempting to show my independent artistry in the biggest way possible. I still feel far from finding "success," but being an independent artist is eternally lonely and difficult, so I feel lucky when I can remember to keep my head down and keep pushing forward toward my dreams.

What is the distribution plan for your film?

Originally we didn't have any idea whether this film would ever be screened at a festival, getting it completed with a crew of volunteers and no financial incentives was a hurdle enough, making the film was firstly for the experience and education of our peers. The script slowly changed from an episodic web series to being the feature film you see now, because we wanted to shoot for the stars and get our vision on the big screen. We hoped that if that happened, we'd have the best shot of getting any kind of distribution and more eyes on the film. Now we're extremely proud to be able to say we've gotten offers from a small distribution company that works with films like ours, which is more than we ever asked for.

What is your cinematic goal in life and what would you like to achieve as a filmmaker?

I'd like to write and direct feature films. Many people say that, but to me that means what I said above: I want my name to be synonymous with a filmic universe that's uniquely recognizable and addictingly re-watchable.

What kind of impact would your film have in the world and who is your audience?

This film is not for everybody and we like it that way! It's got a weird sense of humor, a surreal sense of reality, and an allegorical bent. But a niche film is an honest film to me, and just like life, the only way to be different is to be yourself, and I'm proud that our film attempts that level of individuality. In terms of intent, I believe a work of art should speak for itself, because if I could have explained its intentions better through an essay, it should never have been made into a film. That said I don't believe this is a flawless work to the point that it clearly describes its intentions. Our social and societal constructs are showing their cracks, truth and honest expression are challenging to find, much like in a TV show. When we meet our characters, they struggle to be themselves in a world that would prefer them to "act." By the end of the film, the four lead characters have started along clearly separate paths toward a full identity. But those paths are not clear or easy, because reality isn't clear or easy. For me and my interpretation of the work, Michael, the film's white male lead, epitomizes those cracks in our society - White America has been on an oxygen tank for years, and the TV show we're still being fed, that we created, just doesn't make sense anymore.


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