Electric Eel

Storytelling, Alone Together (Part 2)

Issue 053
December 11, 2020

Screen shot 2020 12 10 at 10.50.28
*|Eel 53|*
The wonderful writer Elizabeth Hand had recorded something for the movie, as I recall, but it had to be left out, leaving only an image of Hand in the scene where Janice Shriek looks in a mirror. But, mostly, it was clouds in the rough cut. Lots and lots of images of clouds.
    Which, when my wife Ann and I saw it…was alarming.
    “Did you expect there would be so many clouds? In this film set in a huge metropolis?” I asked her.
    “No, but they’re nice clouds,” Ann said, because Ann always tries to see the positive side of things.
    Her punishment for which was helping out by shooting additional footage in and around Tallahassee so that the filmmaker could swap out some of the clouds. At this point, with movie viewings booked, we were committed no matter what. So the film, no matter what, needed to be pushed a little closer to an approximation of something watchable. Ann and our daughter Erin, along with Erin’s boyfriend, took the camcorder and drove to a cul de sac with an abandoned warehouse at the end. Erin was pregnant with our grandson Riley, so technically Riley should’ve gotten his first film credit, too. They planned to film a scene from the book where the edible fungal bullets supplied by the notorious underground mushroom people are being picked out of a corpse and eaten by folks who are trying to exist in the rubble of a bloody civil war.
    “We had just set up the shot, with Erin pretending to pull bullets out of her dead boyfriend, when a cop car pulled up,” Ann recalls. “At first, I didn’t understand why the cop was so concerned, but then I realized it looked like one of us was looting a dead body and the other person, me, was filming it.”
    Worse, Ann had forgotten her ID.
    “Officer, we’re just filming a scene for a short film by a local author in which one character eats bullets out of another character’s body. Sorry—I don’t have my driver’s license.
    Somehow, she got away with just a warning that she needed permission from the city to shoot footage.
    Later, she was shouted at by a Publix employee for shooting footage of a Publix grocery store rooftop for the rooftop scene in the movie (and novel) where mushroom people break into Janice Shriek’s apartment during the Festival of the Freshwater Squid.
Shriek Trailer
In this busiest of seasons, the Electric Eel is coming to you in media res, with a tale of collective storytelling accomplished under the most hectic of circumstances. In “Shriek the Movie: the Untold Story,” readable in full on our website, Jeff VanderMeer recounts the madcap adventure which was the production of a short film adaptation of his cult classic novel Shriek –– an effort in which he enlisted the help of fans, family, and friends, and which resulted in an appropriately weird multimedia masterpiece: mostly, “narration over a lot of video of strange green-tinted clouds.” It’s a case study in the wonders and stresses of telling stories, together (which is, once again, our theme this holiday season). Among his collaborators were Australian indie rock band, The Church, who recorded an album based on the book that served as the movie’s soundtrack: you can check some of their tracks out here, here, and here.

The other two Ambergris novels also have accompanying soundtracks! Finch, by Murder by Death, is on Bandcamp here. Appropriately, the artists profess to using "a lot of crazy techniques that we have never tried before" for the album. Fungicide, by Robert Devereux, was recorded to accompany City of Saints and Madmen.

For those of you new to the world of Ambergris, two quite disorienting introductions from Jeff himself:
Rough Guide to Ambergris (1)
Rough Guide to Ambergris (2)
Shriek, the book, is included in Ambergris, out this December from MCD, a beautiful hardcover re-issue of Jeff’s cult classic Ambergris trilogy. You can see the full Shriek movie, via the Internet Wayback machine, here!
If that wasn't enough, here's a couple appropriately weird, fringe, psychedelic, demented, lo-fi –– in other words, VanderMeerian –– theaters helping us stay alone together:

    Spectacle Theater is a collectively-run screening space in Brooklyn, established and staffed by hard-working, cinema-loving volunteers. They are now streaming their often pulpy programming –– which includes overlooked works, offbeat gems, contemporary art, radical polemics, and live performance–– at https://stream.spectacletheater.com/. 

    The Brick is a refreshing and genuinely experimental theater/performance space that you should look into if you’ve been confused to find that “off-Broadway” is still basically pretty boring stuff. You can access their free archival streaming series at https://www.bricktheater.com/brick-archival-screening-series/.

    36 Cinema - Not its own physical theater, but one of our favorite  movie-watching experiences of Covid times—it started with RZA screening his favorite classic kung fu movies and providing live commentary on what makes them so good. A few of those are archived on their site, and they’ve since branched to offers a wider range—this Saturday they’re promising a special screening of Ghost Dog with RZA! If you think it might be for you, if definitely is. If you think it’s definitely not...you might be wrong!

In other links:
Stay tuned; more on being Alone Together, and a look back at MCD in 2020, will be coming your way soon…