Showcase Filmmaker Spotlight: Alec Goss
By Travis Trew, Programming Associate
Hamilton, NJ native Alec Goss is currently a sophomore at The College of New Jersey, where he’s majoring in Interactive Multimedia with a minor in Lens-Based Art. A brief but memorable mood piece, further depicts two kids as they attempt to dispose of a mysterious object.
PFS: How’d you start making films?
AG: It’s weird, because I never wanted to pursue a career in film until pretty recently. My whole life, my dad and I would always watch movies. From the time I was like three years old, he would take me to see Lord of the Rings and stuff. My freshman year in college I was forced to do a minute-long short film, and our teacher taught us how to film and edit. I kind of fell in love with it then, because I loved the process. It was a new form of art that I had never gotten into, and I was just like, “Wait, I’ve liked movies my whole life. Why don’t I just pursue it a little bit more?” And I kind of just fell in love with it.
PFS: Had you been working in other forms of art before getting into filmmaking?
AG: Yeah. My whole life, I’ve always done something artistic. I’ve never been an athlete or anything, it’s always been all art. I started off 5th grade playing guitar. I played mostly jazz guitar all the way through high school. And I’ve been drawing since I was in like 3rd grade, and picked it up again and did a lot of painting and drawing through high school. I still do now.
PFS: I think that definitely comes across in the films you’ve made. How do you think your experience in music and other forms of visual art have affected your filmmaking process?
AG: Being aware of all different art forms definitely plays a role. When it comes to making a film, I do like to think of it from every angle instead of just the visual side or the sound side. I think that making music and doing other forms of art inspired that. When it comes to sound design, I’ve been trying to get more into creating soundscapes that convey messages or emotions that I want to push forward in my film.
PFS: Tell me a little bit more about further, and how that came about.
AG: That was kind of a funny story. I did it as part of a Digital Compositing class, which was about doing visual effects and after-effects in film. My professor said that we were going to be making a minute-long short film in four weeks. For me, four weeks is not a lot of time to create an entire idea, plan it out, shoot it, edit it, and all that. That was a crazy time crunch, because with previous films I’ve worked on, I’ve had months to think about it and figure it out. It was kind of cool to be thrown into it like that, and have a super tight timeline. My main idea was to have two kids stumble upon an object. But on the day of shooting I woke up and thought, “What if they don’t find the object, what if they have the object on them and they’re trying to get rid of it?” So the day of the shoot, all the ideas that I previously had just kind of got washed away and I was like, “This should be something a little more substantial than some kids stumbling across something like in any other movie.” It was definitely a weird process, because everything was so quick and nothing was really definite, which made it a lot more fun too.
PFS: The music in further plays a big part in building the foreboding atmosphere. How did that come about?
AG: I did all of the music myself. I had this idea of constant speeding up drum thing, this primitive kind of sound. So I went down in my basement and I recorded one take of me just slamming on a drum until I reached the end, and just sped it up. I took that one take and then did something that I do with a lot of my music or soundscapes. I’ll take a microphone, and I’ll make noise somewhere. I’ll scratch a table or break a bottle or something weird and then add a bunch of weird effects to create the kind of mood that I want. That’s kind of what I did for further. I wanted that driving, speeding-up feel. The atmosphere on top of it was just sounds I made around my house.
PFS: Based on further and some of the other work you’ve made, it seems you definitely have a tendency towards darker themes and stories. What do you think draws you to those types of stories?
AG: I think all of my stuff—even traditional drawings and paintings I do—are somewhat on the darker side. I’m not like a super depressed or angry person, that’s not what it is. But I would never be able to do a comedic piece or anything. I think it’s interesting to push the viewer toward something darker or potentially less satisfying. I love the idea of putting something out there and someone going, “What the heck did I just watch?” I love getting a reaction out of people.
PFS: So no romantic comedies in the pipeline?
AG: Probably not any time soon. A challenge is a challenge though, so I’d take it.
PFS: Do you have a lot of cinematic inspirations or influences?
AG: When it comes to film, I’m a huge fan of David Lynch. I love every one of his films. I love his philosophy on art. I think the people I look up to as directors, artists, or cinematographers have a love for art, not just film. And another person I really look up to is Darren Aronofsky. The film that he just put out, Mother!, got a big reaction because people loved it or hated it. It was wild. The movie was crazy. And the themes that he was putting out there weren’t normal. But he said that even if people hated it, even if people booed it, they felt something when they watched it. And when you watch something and a week later you’re still talking about it and thinking about it—I think that’s something to strive for and that’s what I would want to have happen.
PFS: How did you get into experimenting with animation?
AG: took a class last semester that was a 2D animation course. The Harold series was an idea I had back in high school. I’d made a short story about this character, who was an unfortunate little kid who died at the end of the story. I really liked the character and I said, “Hey, why don’t I try to animate this guy?” And I kept with the theme of the kid dying at the end. He’s an unfortunate little boy, and he dies in all these weird little ways, so I did that. I already knew the character, because I him a thousand times before trying to make him for my short story in high school. It was just really fun to bring him to life, and this whole world that he lives in and it was just really fun to bring something that was stationary and stagnant on a piece of paper to life. It was a lot of work, but I had a lot of fun bringing him to life. I would totally do again just because the process and the pay-off were most definitely worth it.
PFS: So you think you’ll sort of fold that into the work you’ll do going forward?
AG: Yeah, it’s just a matter of time for me, because animation takes a while. The second episode of Harold I did—I think I put in 40 hours in a couple days. It was kind of ridiculous, but if the time were there I would love to do more animation stuff.
PFS: You’re only a sophomore in college so this is a tough question, but do know if you want to continue pursuing film? What are your plans?
AG: The big goal for anybody in film, or at least I would assume, is to be a director, directing my own things. I think being in charge and having an idea, and pushing that idea. But right now I would do anything in film. I would love to be a cinematographer. I would love to be an editor. Even color-grading I would love to do. Anything in film would be really lovely.
further will screen on Friday, March 9 at the Prince Theater’s Black Box as part of Philly Film Showcase, an exhibition supporting new work by talented, up-and-coming local filmmakers.