JULY, 2006

A Conversation With...

Bruce Wood
The story started with the idea that some people learn to blur the borderline between waking and dreaming.


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Bruce Wood is a contemporary painter and film/video maker. His avant-garde short films have been featured in solo presentations at many fine art venues, including the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London and The Museum of Modern Art (Beaubourg) in Paris. His films are in the collections of The Carnegie Institute Museum of Art, The Royal Film Archive of Belgium, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

     Bruce Wood is the writer, director, and producer of the movie The Door, which is his first dramatic feature film.

Guy Spiro: Bruce, I really liked the movie, but it did leave me with some questions. I think, to some extent that might be your intent.

Bruce Wood: Well, yes. I definitely like to make people think by presenting an aspect of reality that most people don’t talk about. When they see the movie, a lot of people end up talking about their dreams who otherwise would never mention them. It’s giving them permission to think and talk about what is going on and to question the story. For example, do the characters represented actually exist? Have they ever experienced that sort of thing?

GS: I was expecting something about lucid dreaming, but I don’t think that’s exactly what I saw. It seemed to me at first that the three characters who shared each other’s dreams knew that they were sharing each other’s dreams, that they were lucid dreamers. But later on, when they didn’t seem to get the difference between their dream states and their waking states.

BW: The whole story started with the idea that some people learn to blur the borderline between waking and dreaming. I think that this happens to an awful lot of people and this is what the audience sometimes talks about. They’ve had a very vivid memory of a dream, and when they wake up, believe it to be real.

GS: That usually goes away after a few seconds.

BW: That’s the point; it usually does go away in a few seconds, but for some people, including myself, that isn’t always the case. Memory sometimes stays until contrary evidence is presented in waking life that the memory could not have been possible. For example, a woman that I worked with told me that she had a dream where, in it, her husband did something bad. She woke up being very mad at him and stayed mad at him for about two weeks. She believed it was the real thing and he was wondering what in the world did he do? When she actually confronted him with what he did in the dream, he presented evidence that it didn’t happen. I’ve had the experience, especially as a child, of remembering things in dreams for weeks and months and then asking my Mother, “Oh, remember when we were at Aunt Suzie’s house and we did this and this,” and she would say, “No, we didn’t do that.”

GS: People commonly have dreams where your house is suddenly twice its size or your apartment suddenly has two large rooms that it didn’t used to have, and you wake up excited thinking about what you can do with all that extra space, but then the physical reality reasserts itself. I’ve tried hanging on to dream reality and making it real on the physical, but it’s never worked. It was interesting to me that the one dreamer really believed that he had invested Kent’s five million dollars.

BW: This story took place because of the whole idea that these characters refused to believe that the dream was a dream. They believed that it was reality so much that when evidence was presented to the contrary, they just refused to believe it because it just had to be real, and that created the conflict. The whole story is told from the point of view of the main dream guide, Ori. It isn’t the story of the people who remember their dreams, it’s the story of a dream guide who doesn’t know that he exists in dream.

GS: Right, and that would be Kent

BW: Ori tries to teach Kent a lesson about his own nature.

GS: Kent is confused and thinks that he is a human.

BW: Yes, he does.

GS: And he doesn’t believe that the people he meets in their dreams have a separate physical existence?

BW: Exactly. He only sees them when they’re dreaming and he can’t enter their waking world. There is a point where Ori says “they exist in two worlds and we only know one.” That’s the truth that Kent has to realize: that some of his interactions with people could cause havoc in their waking life, and that is exactly what happens to these folks.

GS: Now, these dream beings which we all run into in our dreams, you’re saying that they exist and they’ve never been physical entities themselves.

BW: These particular ones, yes. But I found in writing and making the movie that I had a very limited vocabulary about dreams myself. For example, I didn’t even know what lucid dreaming was even though I do it all the time. People read my script and suggested that what I was describing was in fact called a lucid dream. Now I know lots of people who are into it, but I didn’t at that point. Someone said to me finally, “You know, your characters aren’t lucid dreamers, they’re just visiting each other in their dreams and having these adventures together.”

GS: Right, because a real lucid dreamer would know the difference. Now, would these non-human dream beings be what we used to refer to and some still do as incubi and succubae?

BW: I don’t think so. I found that I was being helped out in writing the script every night by this character Ori. He’s a recurring being in my own dreams and I had never asked him what he was. When I did ask, I just said basically, “What are you? Can you tell me that?” He described himself pretty much in terms of what he wasn’t. He seems to be a totally separate category. The closest I could find in doing any kind of research on it was in the French who have found four dream beings who can affect different states of human awareness in dreaming; daydreams, night dreams, nightmares and I can’t remember the fourth. That’s about as close as I could come. But he said that he couldn’t enter or see people’s waking lives, and he only got glimpses from what they told him or showed him while they were dreaming. That seems to be a differentiation that I can’t find. One of your readers may know, but I cannot find that definition anywhere.

GS: How much does the actor who portrayed Ori look like the Ori of your dreams?

BW: Oh, not at all. He kind of acts like him, which is very good, but I was looking for a body type and couldn’t find the actor and the body type in the same person.

GS: You financed the movie out of your pocket?

BW: Yes. It was a very low budget film. I’m very lucky that my training in film was at the Art Institute. They taught us how to do all aspects of film production and how to be self sufficient as a painter. I was taught all of the tools of painting. I found that was very handy in doing this because I was able to be the photographer, editor, the lighting guy, the gopher, as well as everything else. There was a very small crew and about $10,000. That is incredibly small. Through that, though, I managed to get nice actors; all Chicago theatre people and they all got paid. It was very low, but at least they got paid. I believe that artists should be paid.

GS: And nobody phoned it in. They were all invested in it.

BW: Yes. It was a very good experience doing that.

GS: $10,000 for the whole thing?

BW: Yes, $10,000 for the production. I think that I put $30,000 into publicizing it.

GS: Wild.

BW: Yes, incredibly low budget but it has good values and good production value.

GS: It does. It doesn’t look anything like one might expect out of a $10,000 movie.

BW: I approached it with an aesthetic that I wanted. I wanted a particular look to the shots and to create a mood in trying to find a signature look for my work. I think it was pretty successful in that.

GS: Oh, it is dreamlike.

BW: It’s dreamlike and the visuals are very rich, I think, and the editing is a little bit unusual or unorthodox in order to create tension. Several of the reviewers have mentioned that it created tension and they wondered if I did it as a stylistic thing. That was exactly the right thing for a critic to find.

GS: I was watching it when my eighteen year old son and one of his friends came in, about a third of the way into the movie. They sat down and asked what the heck was I watching here. They both got sucked in and watched it until the end.

BW: Oh good. I’m finding that young viewers just go nuts over it. It’s very interesting. It kind of appeals to people who like those sci-fi shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

GS: Is there anything that you’d like to communicate to our readers that we haven’t touched on?

BW: The movie can be a vehicle for self-awareness. I like that this movie creates a lot of talk after it. We showed it at the Siskel Film Center in Chicago and the question and answer session went on as long as the movie. It was incredible. The audience started talking to each other and to me, too. It’s not preachy at all. Everything is presented very matter-of-factly. I’m mixing up life-styles, there are characters who are gay or seem to be gay, there are heterosexual scenes in there that are all mixed together, and this is somewhat confusing for people who are looking for just one or the other. I think it’s time for movies like this to be made. This is one person’s reality, but it has a commonality that other people can relate to.

GS: Why would an entity in the dream world have a sexual orientation or even a gender when it comes to it?

BW: Actually, all of the dream characters are bi-sexual. They are, to the person they’re dealing with, whatever that person is. They have fun with each other on their off time and they have fun with people and try to keep them out of trouble in their dreams.

GS: The good ones anyway, huh?


BW: Well, yeah. The next movie that I’m working on presents evil characters. There are a lot of characters in dreams besides dream guides. That’s for sure.

GS: Is your next movie also focused on dreams?

BW: Yes. Well, it’s actually another aspect of the supernatural world. I have two things going and the one that is coming out next is a gay ghost story in which the dream guides set up a live person with a ghost for a lover. It’s a convoluted story. But what it comes down to is that the entire relationship only happens for the person in their dream, and the dream is accepted as reality. The person fashions their life after the dream.

GS: I’ve often wondered if the brain chemistry that separates dream state from what we think of as the physical plane or reality is a blessing or a curse.

BW: I suppose the streets are full of people who think one way and people who think the other. Those who can’t tell the reality from the dreams and have nightmares probably end up institutionalized, and those who remember much nicer things are just walking around enjoying life.

GS: The whole point to lucid dreaming is to realize that once one is lucid in the dream, one can actually take control of the dream.

BW: It’s quite a trick and it’s a very handy one.

GS: Well, it seems that you’ve already gotten some recognition. When is the movie actually going to be available?

BW: It comes out in stores on July 4, 2006. It’s available through Tower.com, Amazon.com, as well as my website, www.thedoormovie.com. It’s also supposed to be at the Tower record stores. I’m not sure when, but it is going to have a national release.




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