Looking Through ‘Cat Window’
Written by Alli Rock | Posted by: NewEnglandFilm.com
Craig Saddlemire lives in Lewiston, Maine, where he produces documentary and experimental video for artists, non-profits, and political organizing groups. He filmed Cat Window, which is featured as a part of the 2010 Online New England Film Festival, in Lewiston, combining footage of the neighborhood and the sounds of Maine musicians with found footage from the Internet to create his experimental short. This week, he talks about what drew him to this mix and why filming in Maine was so important to him.
Alli Rock: What inspired you to make this film? And why cats?
Craig Saddlemire: The film is a tribute to my neighborhood in Maine. There’s a lot of activity to be seen from my window, and I wanted to make a film about the life outside of my apartment building — the sounds, the people, the plants, animals, etc. I showed the film from the perspective of my cats because I think that for the human viewer, the cats are neutral observers to watch the neighborhood. It’s easy for the audience to project their own thoughts and emotions onto these characters. If I had chosen a person to observe the neighborhood, whatever characteristics the person exhibited (senior, person of color, affluent) would have affected how the viewer saw the neighborhood. Indoor cats also naturally spend a lot of time looking out the window, so they’re already perfect for the part.
AR: What influence do you think living and filming in New England had on Cat Window?
Saddlemire: When people think of New England, and especially Maine, I think they have a very specific vision of coastal summer homes, quaint historic towns, and rustic farms. I wanted to make a film that is very much rooted in a New England community; it’s just a community that isn’t advertised as much. But it represents my typical New England experience.
AR: You’ve incorporated a lot of footage from www.youtube.com into your film. What was it like working with YouTube as a medium?
Saddlemire: For anyone 30 and under, YouTube is a common form of communication and media consumption. It allows media production to truly be a participatory process (for those with Internet access). Sampling YouTube clips and making new meanings by re-arranging them is becoming a new art form in and of itself. The original film footage that I shot of the cats is intercut with many videos from YouTube, shown as they exist on the Internet. This was done to compare two different types of windows that frame these ‘other worlds’ being explored in the film. For both YouTube and the apartment window, the worlds on the other side of the window remain virtual so long as the window watcher cannot physically interact with them. So there is still a lot of interpretation to be done on the part of the window watcher (and the audience).
AR: Can you talk about what you think working on the film has taught you about looking at the world?
Saddlemire: I learned that I can make a really interesting quasi-fictional film by piecing together moments of reality (as opposed to staging fake scenarios to make a fully fictional film) and developing a story based upon the world around me rather than my own cliched scripts. As far as the world goes… I guess I’ve just been surprised that people have responded to the film so positively. It was a project I made basically for myself. I had a need to explore this topic, and I really didn’t have any audience in mind other than myself as I was editing it. Learning that the film resonates with other people gives me a greater confidence to make unique films that I believe in, and then trust that the sincerity and care put into the project will be appreciated by others.
You can find Craig Saddlemire’s film Cat Window at http://newenglandfilm.com/festival/2010/catwindow for the duration of the 2010 Online New England Film Festival.