New York filmmaker Scott Nyerges, known for his hand-crafted experimental films, seems to not be satisfied with the lack of credit he is given for allowing Terrence Mallick to use twelve seconds of footage from his short film Autumnal in The Tree Of Life. When Nyerges was first contacted by Malick’s production company, they requested his involvement in the film, but later decided instead to license the 12 seconds from his short. The image below is one of the frames from the footage used, and also used in the poster for Malick’s opus. Yet, Autumnal and Nyerges are not credited on IMDb.
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Recently speaking to Fandor, Nerges was quoted as saying: “Experimental filmmakers have a tacit understanding, that if you’re going to do this you’re not going to see your name in lights.” Nyerges went on to say, “In the media coverage on this film no one’s really mentioned that they used the work of experimental filmmakers in these sequences. This kind of filmmaking has influenced everything from commercials to music videos to movies. And now you can buy iMovie, punch a button and get an effect that took avant garde filmmakers years to develop.”
Regardless of the lack of credit, the filmmaker went on to confess his love for The Tree Of Life calling it ”an ambitious, lyrical, visually beautiful work. I give Malick credit for doing something very brave – essentially dropping a 20-minute experimental film in the middle of the narrative. The techniques and tropes he incorporates call to mind the work of Jordan Belson, the cinematography of Koyaanisqatsi and the telescopic images of the Hubble Telescope. And I confess to the thrill of watching and waiting to see if… yes! no! wait… yes!… I could spot my small contribution to this film.”
Recently speaking to my SOS colleagues, we all agreed that Malick was most influenced by the American non-narrative filmmaker Stan Brakhage, considered to be one of the most important figures in 20th century experimental film, and also the man who Nyerges studied under. Much like The Tree Of Life, Brakhage’s films are usually centered in mythology and inspired by music, poetry, and visual phenomena, seeking to reveal the universal in the particular, exploring themes of birth, mortality, and innocence.
There is no doubt that experimental film has influenced mainstream media for years and continues to influence cinematography, visual effects and editing, most notably in music videos, advertising and even title cards. Below is some of the work from Nyerges and I highly recommend checking out his website too.
Scott Nyerges is a Brooklyn-based photographer and filmmaker. His video work has been shown at the Tribeca Film Festival, the Rotterdam International Film Festival and the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, while his photography has been featured in Momentum magazine and Architectural Digest’s shopAD blog.
Additional work can be seen at scottnyerges.com.