Archiving the Subconscious — An Interview with Jay Rosenblatt

The name Jay Rosenblatt hardly needs any introduction for those who take a keen interest in the world of short and experimental filmmaking. This San Francisco-based found footage filmmaker has been capturing the imagination of his viewers through his hypnotic and thought-provoking collection of films that have won numerous awards at prestigious film festivals across the world. He works with archival footage, original images, voiceovers, and ominous classical music to create original stories that explore dark and ironic themes. When MUBI collaborated with DOK Leipzig to showcase the cinema of Mr Rosenblatt, we were left awestruck by the experience, unnerving and deeply-intriguing at the same time. Ever since we wished to talk to him about his films and the creative process that goes into every frame. With that intention in mind, we approached Mr Rosenblatt for a short interview, which he was kind enough to grant us.

 

 

Jay Rosenblatt
A still from The D Train (2011)

 

1) What inspired you to take up filmmaking as a profession?

— I took a super 8 class while I was in the Counseling program at the University of Oregon and I fell in love with it. I was spending more time on my film assignments than all my counseling courses combined. I realized I needed to somehow continue to make films. Jay Rosenblatt

2) What got you into making archival-footage short films as opposed to conventional narrative filmmaking? Jay Rosenblatt

— I began with narrative filmmaking though not so conventional. I found the production part of it too stressful when you are not paying people and I enjoyed editing the most. In one of my films, I was using a clip from an old television show but I replaced the music with a different piece of music and I liked the effect. I didn’t realize it at the time but this stayed with me. And lastly, I found some 16mm films in a dumpster where I worked (in the psychiatric hospital). It turns out these were training films for doctors in bedside manners. I started playing around with this footage and thought it would provide a structure for a short film which became my film Short of Breath. I really enjoyed the process of making this collage found footage film. It was editing-intensive and I felt I had control of the entire process and didn’t require a lot of money. The rest is history… Jay Rosenblatt

3) During the creative process of conceiving a new film, what comes first? Is the concept derived from a set of images or is it the other way round?

— Some films begin with the concept and some ideas get triggered by an image. Sometimes both happen within the same film.

4) In the short I Used to Be a Filmmaker (2003), the correspondence between the filmmaking terms in the intertitles and your daughter’s antics add a subtle layer of humour to an already adorable film.

How did you get the idea of relating seemingly-random acts of a baby to the fundamentals of your profession?

— The idea for the film actually came from the title. I was pushing my daughter in a stroller and get into a conversation with someone. They asked me what I did for a living and I jokingly said that I used to be a filmmaker. Right then I thought about the connection between parenting and filmmaking. The humor and play on words was a crucial aspect of the film.

5) You have studied Counseling Psychology at the University of Oregon and also worked as a Counselor at a psychiatric hospital in the past.

How did that experience of studying and analyzing the human subconscious influence the deeply-psychological films of yours such as The Darkness of Day (2009) or The Claustrum (2014)?

— Most of my films are very psychological. I majored in psychology as an undergraduate and then went on to get a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology. One of my goals as a filmmaker is to explore subjects that will provide a catalyst for healing for the viewer. It is a big motivator for me in making many of my films.

 

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When not watching films or TV series, Shaswata can usually be found either reviewing them or battling writer’s block. A student of Physics, he is also deeply passionate about literature and music. His obsession lies with framing and composition in cinema, something he explores by capturing the most memorable moments through screenshots and sharing them on social media.

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