Dinner with California on Fire

Meeting with...

Interview with Jeff Frost, director of California on Fire

Do you live in California? Did you travel to specific locations for the film? How often do fires occur?
I live near Palm Springs, CA. I traveled to over 70 wildfires over five years in every corner of the state. California is over 1,200 km from south to north in length

How much are you interested in the theme of grief and do you have further projects on this issue?
Experiencing those stages became my own journey as I traveled from fire to fire. Grief permeated community after community all around me but much more amplified.

How did you work on colors?
Adobe Lightroom with finishing touches in Premiere.

Are the sounds created with an organ? Why did you choose this kind of sustained sound in particular?
Almost all of the sound was recorded in the field with a combination of conventional mics and electromagnetic spectrum sensors. EMS sensors allow you to listen to electricity in electronics. Among other things I recorded EMS sound of the blinking lights of emergency response vehicles. This resulted in the very rhythmic sounds heard in the Bargaining chapter. Other more musical passages were created through the manipulation of field recordings. For example, a short sound of a fire engine idling was run through various sound reduction processes. It came out sounding surprisingly musical, and was then converted into a full instrument, which was used for the bulk of the sound composition in the Acceptance chapter.

Did you ask the inhabitants, or yourself, why they keep living in an area where they seem to suffer from fire quite often?
Many people move permanently. Some have never known any other place, so they stay and rebuild if they can. Some have no money and no insurance. The fires render them homeless.

Would you say that the short film format has given you any particular freedom?
Reading about and looking at art has given me more freedom than anything else. This time it’s a short film. Next time it might be an eight-hour film of the Empire State Building. Anything goes.

What are your reference works?
I have no specific works for this film, except when it comes to sound. I wanted the grinding angry buzzing of the Anger chapter to sound like Nine Inch Nails’ Broken EP. It’s still the angriest music I have ever heard. I didn’t stop working on the sound for that chapter until it literally made me angry just hearing it.

California on Fire is part of Lab Competition L4.

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