When the traveling indie documentary filmmaker Vincent Moon comes to Miami for a retrospective of his work and a two-day workshop, he hopes to find something to add to his nearly 700-strong catalog of films. "I don't really know the city at all," he admits, speaking via phone from Rio de Janiero, "and I think the project I'm going to do there is really interesting because for me it's really a way to dig in the local culture, especially trying to find the alternative of art and music and all those communities that form the richness of Miami as a city."
In 2006, Moon made his name as one of the filmmakers behind the "Take Away Shows" for the French on-line video channel La Blogothèque. He directed on-the-fly, cinéma vérité style music videos for popular bands including Phoenix, Arcade Fire, and REM. In 2008, he left behind his apartment in Paris to travel and continue his work, not only shooting famous musicians but more obscure, experimental artists and catching transcendent moments of culture like an Ayahuasca ceremony in Peru and Sufis chanting in the Northern Caucasus, Russia.
He hopes to find something original in Miami to add to his collection of musical moments, but he has no idea yet what that will be. "I really like to decide on the spot what I would like to do," he explains. "That's what I do when I travel and I make films. I know where I am going, sort of, but I really don't like to do deep research about the culture before I reach it, and it's only when I am there in the place that I can really do that."
A look at a few films in his catalog reveals a bit of the flavor for what he prefers, and it defies genre, popularity, or geography. The general entrancing qualities of music excite him most. "That's definitely what I am researching nowadays: the relationship with music and trance," he says, "and I think that was something I was researching before without knowing. In my 20s I was going every night to rock concerts or experimental music shows. That was something related to trance, although I didn't know it then, but I was very interested in those moments. Amongst the crowd and amongst all that heat and all that really loud music there is a moment of trance, in a sense. You sort of get out of your body almost, and that was something that I was really, really curious about when I was younger."
During his short stay in Miami, Moon will also lead a two-day workshop for filmmakers hosted by the Indie Film Club which also puts on Film Gate, an annual film festival for filmmakers in Miami that draws aspiring directors from across the country. The workshops will take place at The Little Haiti Culture Center and Sweat Records and include excursions. Moon says he enjoys sharing his knowledge, but as with his on-the-fly filmmaking style, he doesn't have a syllabus to follow. "I try to give workshops in the same spirit as I film. Anytime I do a screening it's also like that. I just improvise everything and just react to the energy of the place, and I just try to be relevant in a way. I make the films the way I show them."
This way of thinking means he never anguishes over creative "blocks." It also means he works very fast. "I was obsessed with this idea of improvisation, and I really wanted to question this in terms of cinema," he explains. "How would it be to improvise as much as possible with a camera? What kind of cinema can you make with this? That's just what I've been trying, I guess: to improvise as much as possible, without preparation, without any plans, just bam, going with the flow, in the moment."
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Just what he will improvise in Miami remains a mystery to him until he arrives, despite any expectations thanks to stereotypes about Miami. Moon even admits some bias popped into his head when he received the invitation to visit Miami. However, he says, he can recognize the prejudice and pack it away in a corner. "I don't care," he declares. "I don't really think about it. I just want to be surprised. I think that's the best way. I would have never expected to come to Miami. Honestly, that would have not been my first destination in terms of making a workshop or recording music, but it's very, very exciting, actually."
The Vincent Moon retrospective and conversation takes place Thursday, July 24, 7 to 10 p.m. at The Screening Room at The Screening Room, 2626 NW Second Ave., Miami. Free. Indie Film Club Miami has set up an intimate 2-day workshop with Moon on July 26 and 27. Visit film-gate.org.
Follow Hans Morgenstern on Twitter @HansMorgenstern.