Odds and Ends
Odds and Ends

The Coming of Purgatopia: from Short to Full Feature. Presented by Tom Murphy.

A film six years in the making known as Purgatopia: where the antiquated clashes with the atypical. Purgatopia presents the world and its over abundance of information and ideologies as chaos. A radio show host and a twisted media mogul, are held to a mysterious force personified by an obscure being that is as omniscient as radiowaves. Purgatopia is a topsy-turvy world of flickering lights, crossed signals, and idealogical division mirroring the current struggles of the Information Age. The ‘telephone game’ of public opinion takes the form of a self-repeating formula that feeds back on itself to expose the illusive yet omniscient presence of the collective unconscious.

The First Impulse

This film started out as a loose idea in the winter of 2013. It was originally thought to be just another short film called Spangled Crease. Thought went into creating a piece that highlighted the political divide that is present everywhere but with a surreality that would make the story unique. After some preliminary brain-slop and walking through neighborhoods at sundown, the idea of utilizing communication towers in distant horizons was one of the first visual ideas.

Then a local community facilitator at a public access station by the name of Arlan Robinson presented an 18 page unfinished story that included a punchy political rant from a fictional radio show host. He had this vision of a guy with the same vibe as Vincent Gallo from Buffalo 66; a fascinating parallel to me because Vincent Gallo was a huge asshole to the entire production of Buffalo 66’. Unrelated to that, he is a hardline right-winger and Arlan’s redefinition of his character for his 18 pages was the polar opposite. With Arlan’s grace, I told him this would fit really well with these loose ideas I had for a short film. I christened some paper up with a couple scripts I wrote by the summer of 2013 for a short called “Spangled Crease.” My friend Andy Black had expressed interest in playing the character which was much to my delight. There was a failed crowdfunding attempt to fund the short film, mainly because I did not know the mechanics of crowdfunding. This did not stop the first shoot which took three days at a local community radio station in which the footage filmed then is present throughout the film now. The decision was made to keep the radio station scene as the thread that would become the binding agent of the entire narrative going into the uncertain future at the time. This also allowed creativity as different resources became available.

Getting Schooled, Becoming a Dad, & Making a Movie

I had left to Portland by the Fall of 2013 to complete school in which became a time of immense influence and shapeshifting. In 2014 strides were made slowly but surely, trying to work 30 hours a week and go to school full time while tapping into other people's schedules was and is a slow process with a skeleton crew. In 2015, soon after my son was born, I graduated two months later in June. I finally got enough resources on board to shoot the Martian scene which at this time was still going to be the short film Spangled Crease. While shooting this scene with 12 people on a lava dome outside of Bend, Oregon, I was fired from my shitty job via a telephone for being a student; which was bullshit because I was about to relocate to a new place that was bigger for my son. I was still technically on vacation, and I had to really bottle up my anger the rest of the trip and film this angry scene on Mars. Screw the job anyways, it was the Chipotle on campus, where the mission statement was an Ayn Rand Nightmare and the district mnager referred to himself as a “spiritual leader.”

Meanwhile, arial footage was found by one of the actors, my friend from Minnesota Curtis Tuma. While he was about to relieve himself in the vast lava wilderness he spotted a busted GoPro camera. Some of the files were corrupted and there was no sign of the owner. The camera’s last date on the files shot were from 8 months prior and just like that there was arial footage the lava dome provided of itself. Take the good with the bad, right? Later in November another scene came about in the basement of a Sellwood house on 17th street that ended up being an excerpt that was used as my first video assignment of the film program at Portland State University.

Going Rogue, Living an Anomie, and Making a Feature Length

The next year in 2016 I had been on course to complete Spangled Crease as a short film. Arlan had allowed me to get my foot in the door to take over his job at the same public access station. At the job interview a question was posed, “How would you change the image of public access television?” This question became the central motivation after not being offered the job of which was my original life goal and first paying career stepping-stone in anything "media arts". The reasons why I didn't land the job seem to me as a mystery not worth solving. I had to make it into a blessing in disguise in my head. After this blunder, the odds and ends that made up Spangled Crease seemed like too many ideas, but none of them were worth throwing away. Therefore, in the face of life’s failed Plan B, I made the crazy decision of stretching out a short film to a feature length and going into the film program for a second bachelors degree. The entire summer and political fall of 2016 provided a new drawing board to utilize all the scenes with a new narrative structure introducing new characters and myself as this Trump-like antihero bastard in my own film. Going for broke, I sat out to collect all the new scenes with the idea of utilizing the solar eclipse of 2017 and finishing the filming in 2018 with a clearer than ever idea of Purgatopia and trying to bend all my film classes to Purgatopia’s will which resulted in three scenes and new characters. The Name of the film itself came about after Trump was elected and the intense protests in Portland. Purgatopia started as a seed that grew as the decade waned on. Now it reflects the decade in 2019 into 2020, just in time for a new political season of change, or lack thereof.

The Collective Unconscious and the Surrealists

In terms of the surreality of the film, inspiration came from artists, photographers, musicians, and filmmakers. Frederico Fellini, David Lynch, Salvador Dali, Phillipe Halsmann, Richard Linklater, Jean-Luc Godard, Ingmar Bergman, and a Norwegian painter named Kristen Blix come to mind as surrealists. This list is limited, my apologies. The collective unconscious is the primary influence behind the meaning of surreal; the collective unconscious is an intangible alternate reality or dimension of our existence. Borrowing a perspective from Jack Kerouac the collective unconscious is “inconceivable through thought and language but knowable through experience” and archetypes. It is often a preference to see something out of the ordinary; it is an important time to bring relevancy to the surreal, however paradoxical that is. The purpose for dabbling in the surreal and trying to apply it to information is to offer alternatives to the school of thought that our unconscious minds are ungodly and should be suppressed, using surrealism is a counter move to cultural hegemony.

The Collective Unconscious & Communication Science

The collective unconscious always seemed to be the most omniscient force that only exists if you perceive it or attempt to perceive it. The archetypes left behind from past productions of the collective unconscious provides the records and archives in which we base information on. However, the information that is conveyed is a different matter. Sophistry and rhetoric are different things. The only time they should all coincide together is within a piece of art or film; otherwise sophistry is a peripheral route process in which people persuade others based on how well they can persuade, whereas rhetoric is a measure of ethics, emotions, and logic going toward a more objective passage of information or central route process. This of course does not include the complexity of semiotics, the study of signs or more specifically the study of symbols, icons, and indexes. Regardless of the aforementioned, the collective unconscious becomes the metamorphic vault of human thought and the archetypes or tropes we use are a direct result of our experience with the collective unconscious.

Purgatopia’s Operationalization of The Collective Unconscious

This film utilizes the collective unconscious as a creative force as well as a narrative force. It is central to the story and is central to our qualitative lives as humans via psychology and our collective or cultural memory. Our semiosphere containing all of our tropes and or archetypes are direct residents of the collective unconscious. It speaks on its own behalf and it is just as weird as it is prevalent. In terms of signs, the collective unconscious is a big cryptic awe-inspiring index for which much information via icons and symbols can be construed and put into language.

Carl Jung coined the term collective unconscious to explain dreams and other psychic connections to the unconscious mind. The idea of the collective unconscious is worth hanging on to because each individual is the owner of qualitative unpredictability and human intuition. No objective science can fully disprove the collective unconscious because “it” itself is a representation of our each individual experience with chaos in our lives. “It” riddles our social sciences with its endless body of archetypes because it does not follow Newtonian ways of thinking. It is more akin to the aesthetic of the Mandelbrot Set, the mathematical representation of infinity through self similarity and fractals and the chaos and order therein.

Two Questions

Purgatopia: A social science fiction or social science reality? Is Purgatopia deterministic? It depends on the qualitative perception of the viewer and what they believe because the dialectical perspective is active during the film. The film showcases great feats, but the dialectical perspective is like geologic time; all that you see before you shall boil back down into magma, nothing is permanent. Although, this is an optimistic opportunity as well. Nothing is permanent, so the world will always be evolving, as will institutions. The filmmakers behind Purgatopia find it disturbing yet hilarious that people will use Adam Smith for economic philosophy but deny evolution. The world and its institutions do not adhere to such contradictions, which leads to where we are now; the border of contradiction and conflict and then, someday, Praxis. In terms of the dialectical perspective, one could say that it is deterministic, but no more than geology which can withstand deep time more than humans have been known to.

Excerpt from “Circle of Humanity & Modern Mass Media” 2012

To better understand the collective unconscious, here is another perspective. This is an excerpt from a paper I wrote when I was trying to figure out my thoughts on mass media. The paper was not for school, it was a 37 page essay I wrote for fun in trying to figure out the mechanism in my head that has led me down the path of higher education and into Purgatopia itself.

Imagine a circle of humanity. Unlike leading in a straight line whereas people have no circle or cycle of perspective, the circle of humanity stays constant with new and old perspectives. This circle of humanity is a perpetual cycle that has been going round and round ever since its ancient premiere. One person’s affection for what is tried and true will clash with another person’s affection for something new or ‘original.’

Jack Kerouac, a famous author of the beat literature persuasion that is indigenous to the 1950s and 1960s came to describe a philosophical entity known as “IT". In the context of the circle of humanity, IT exists within the center as the core that is responsible for the magnetic field of human nature. Mr. Kerouac stated that IT, “exists paradoxically as a state of being inconceivable through thought and language but is known through experience.”

So considering “IT” as the collective unconscious, Purgatopia showcases these different experiences with subversive behaviors and cultural behaviors with archetypes of religion, family, academia, media, secularism, community, intuition, and groupthink. The clashes in the audience and how they react is their own individualistic response to the dialectical perspective. One could be acting as a moderator for someone’s cognitive dissonance. One could be led to an original thought based on judicious imitation. Or, the film utters a reverberation within an echo chamber. The Dialectical Design for Purgatopia utilizes the collective unconscious to create cognition within its audience through the classical perception of montage.