Gesamtkunstwerk

Paul Batt as the civic contributor, Chancy Nowak, in Tobie Openshaw’s short “Chancy’s Big Night” (2018) photo credit Wesley Oosthuizen.

There may come a time in your life when knowing this word, “Gesamtkunstwerk” will come in handy. It’s going in my next crossword puzzle, so there’s one.

I first became aware of this behemoth of a noun when “Chancy’s Big Night” director Tobie Openshaw sent me a screenplay by Taipei writer Chris Channing. It had come to pass that the original choice for the male lead made the acquaintance of a nasty flu bug.
 The term, which means “An Artist’s Life’s Work” so beautifully added to the development of the protagonist that Alton Thompson received an additional content credit.

It turned up in conversation all afternoon and evening like a golden retriever coming back for more pets and was woven into the zeitgeist. 
The film itself presents an interview with an extremely earnest creative I-would-not-say-genius that takes place on his comfortable sofa in his apartment in Taipei.
 Several of the lines were recorded for voice over and I learned that doing VO for a film in which I’m also acting is not exactly the same
 task.

It was a learning experience at different degrees. The first a-ha moment was from makeup artist Nina Hsu who let me know–in the most constructive way possible–that I’ve been shaving wrong my entire life and if I am not careful I will become a dry, withered, old shell of a man. She didn’t use those exact words, but I’m turning over a new blade just the same. So, yeah, “Shaving cream is for sissies” has, in retrospect, not been the best mantra.

In the studio, my eyes can dart down to the script whenever I feel it necessary. On the film set, however, someone pointed out that it sounded like I was reading from a script and it wouldn’t do for Chancy to sound off the cuff onscreen and like a lay reader on a Sunday morning reading from some holy writ or other when doing the VO. Point taken. Fortunately, the crew was a patient lot who stood by while I brought myself up to speed on a couple paragraphs.

Another restriction that took my breath away–so to speak– was that I sometimes move around quite a bit when pumping out emotion for a role. Michael Geier, the excellent cinematographer nipped that in the bud, cajoling me to keep my parts in the frame.

“Chancy’s Big Night” is one of four short films by that will be included in this year’s Urban Nomad Film Festival opening in May in Taipei and then touring around the island.

 

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