Viral Life: Charles Chessler
New York-based documentary filmmaker April Anderson has followed her awardwinning 2019 Tails of Iceland feature on the pony-size Icelandic horse breed with Viral Life--a series of video interviews via Zoom in which artists discuss their coronavirus-stalled projects and current undertakings, and ponder “the brave new world of life, death and art” that they suddenly find themselves in.
There have been eight installments so far, all focusing on artists whom Anderson had been interested in(“either their art or their cause”) or contacted through social media. “Everyone was very willing to participate, which was great,” she says.
First up was photographer Charles Chessler, whose new Faces of Zoom project came about when he discovered the "Print Screen" button on his computer keyboard during a Zoom conversation with a friend. He then documented dozens of faces reflecting the state of humanity during the coronovirus pandemic.
Dancer Suzi Winson, director of New York City’s Circus Warehouse training center for aspiring circus professionals, related via Viral Life her having to postpone surgery, and teaching ballet via Zoom. Filmmaker Jeremiah Kipp, whose large-scale movie projects have been sidelined by the coranavirus, considered the reinvention of his art, and finding inspiration in the virtual realm.
Commercial and fine art photographer and chairman of American Photographic Artists Travis Keyes revealed his hopes, fears and passion for his art-driven life, while discussing the fulfillment found in creating virtual spaces for other artists to talk about their work and vent about their unforeseen new circumstances.
“In these times of quarantine and self-isolation, a positive encounter in the streets of NYC takes on biblical proportions,” notes Anderson, “especially when it turns out to be a completely unexpected gift.” Her chance meeting with pregnant neuroscientist Bianca Jones Marlin, who happened to be walking by and agreed to a short interview-on-the-fly, concerned her feelings about bringing a baby into today’s turbulent world.
Artist/model Angela Rene Roberts and her husband, inventor/photographer/model Cully Firmin, spoke about redefining their bodypainting on live model “canvases,” and merchandising new masks combining Roberts’ art and Firmin’s scientific work in assisting front line workers. Tattoo artist and illustrator Cecilia Granata explained her “sexy vegetables” creations, as well as her experience in revisiting projects she has not had time for until now.
“In our process of documenting lives affected by the global pandemic and racial tension, we set out to speak with some of the healthcare workers who have literally been putting themselves at risk every day on the front lines,” says Anderson of her final Viral Life episode. “At a White Coats for Black Lives peaceful protest in Central Park on June 6, we got the chance to talk with doctors, nurses and essential workers about injustice and inequality--the overwhelming civil rights issues of our generation.”
Of Viral Life as a whole, Anderson adds, “Artists of all genres have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19, many losing both their income and resources overnight. Some have used this time of sequestering to reinvent and be inspired, finding fulfillment within virtual spaces and new projects that enable their work to be seen and appreciated. As long as we are in this COVID era, there will be stories--and I will be privileged to tell them!”
Viral Life features original soundtrack music by Anderson’s musician husband Martin Chytil.
“He created it after I cut the videos together so he could get a sense of what to do based on each person and personality,” she says. “The music is meant to not be intrusive but to move the segment along in a non-invasive way. I particularly love the music over the opening titles, and I use that same piece for each episode.”
Viral Life just received two Awards of Merit from the 2020 Accolade Global Film Competition--for Web Series and Concept. The international awards competition recognizes filmmakers who produce high quality shorts and new media.
Previously, Anderson and Chytil directed Tails of Iceland for their Art As Air production company. That film won a Winnie Award from the Equus Film & Arts Fest for Best International Documentary Film, an Impact Docs Award of Merit for Documentary Feature, and two IndieFest Film Festival Awards of Merit, for Documentary Feature and Women Filmmakers.
Tails of Iceland will also be a part of the 2020 virtual BreyerFest in partnership with Equus Film & Arts Fest In July.