Flood Tide (Trailer) from Todd Chandler on Vimeo.
Flood Tide is a collaboration with the Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea, a project dreamed up by the artist Swoon and built by a group of artists and performers who floated seven large sculptures down the Hudson River. Flood Tide interweaves documentation of this journey with layers of fiction, mythology, and oral history to create a film that both documents and reimagines the real-life project. A group of artists and musicians living in a small, post-industrial town chase jobs, struggle with bills, and use art and music to build their own small world. When their friend Maya dies, they set out on an extraordinary voyage, unknowingly accompanied by her ghostly presence. Northside will host the film’s NY Premiere on Wednesday, June 18th at 7pm at Videology. Buy tickets here. We recently spoke to director Todd Chandler about the film.
– What makes your film DIY?
In the most literal sense, we did do everything ourselves. We had no budget, a tiny crew, and a camera held together by twine and gaffer’s tape. We basically figured it out as we went.
– What type of support did you have in making the film?
Flood Tide is really the work of a super supportive extended community of people. The film is a reimagining of the Swimming Cities project on the Hudson River—a project dreamed up by the artist Swoon that involved over 40 artists, performers, and musicians. We built rafts together, ate and slept together, and created this kind of temporary community on the water—a community that continues to exist years later through other collaborations. So, we shot Flood Tide in the middle of this real-life project, and the entire crew of the Swimming Cities really supported the film.
– What would you ideally like to see happen with the film?
The film has already had more of a life than I ever imagined it would. I’ve been lucky enough to screen pieces and versions of the project in some very special places. Early selections of the film screened on the rafts when we took them to Venice to crash the Venice Biennale in 2009. We would pull up to shore, drop a screen and we (Dark Dark Dark) would play music to a ten-minute assembly of footage that was followed by a theater performance on the rafts. Now that the feature film is finished, I’m happy to have it be out on its own. And, of course the upcoming screening at Northside Festival is really exciting. Given the strong musical elements in the film, Northside seems like a perfect fit. I’m looking forward to sharing the project with Brooklyn.
– What was the inspiration for the film?
In 2006, when we created the Miss Rockaway Armada and floated down the Mississippi, I kept thinking that I should make a documentary about this amazing project. But I was deeply involved and I didn’t want to step behind a camera. I did spend a lot of time thinking about how to approach such a film. On the rafts, there was no singular narrative thread—everyone involved had a different motivation, a different story. And everyone we met along the way had a different take on it as well: “What are you?” “Do you have orgies on there?” “I’ve always wanted to do that.” Working on the raft projects was a kind of social experiment for me, personally. I generally shy away from big groups or scenes. Living on a junk raft with forty other strong-willed people was challenging and fascinating. The projects raised so many questions for me about social dynamics, community, isolation, privilege, loss, and possibility. Flood Tide was a way for me to continue exploring some of those questions.
– Tell us one story from when you were making the film that reminded you why you wanted to work on it in the first place.
There’s a scene in the film that is a funeral for a character who has died. Her friends send her out into the river in a canoe. It’s this pivotal fictional moment in the film, and it required a lot of people. We had just pulled ashore on a beautiful island with about two hours of light left. We hadn’t planned to shoot the scene that day, but the location was perfect. We corralled almost the entire crew of the Swimming Cities and improvised this scene. I was frantically getting everyone in place and stressing out about the logistics of getting this done before the light was gone. And there was a moment when I looked into the monitor and for the first time I saw the film becoming real. And I felt a deep sense of gratitude to all of my friends who were standing knee deep (and neck deep) in water for two hours to make that moment happen.