A dozen local filmmakers weave a musical, a serial-killer parody, and 10 other short movies into a cinematic patchwork quilt
VIDEO: The trailer for Twelve
It’s before noon on a Saturday and I’m at the Glass Slipper, the 22-year-old strip-club fixture in Chinatown, sitting on a step in an upstairs Champagne room, where patrons can purchase a half-hour-long private dance (usually accompanied by an overpriced bottle of bubbly). Behind a gleaming brass pole atop a wooden stage, a man lazily squirts window cleaner onto a large mirrored wall, wiping over it with a paper towel. Three women lounge at the otherwise empty bar, smoking and idling over newspaper crossword puzzles. The room is silent until Megan Summers, 32, a petite woman with brown curls, yells “Cut!” and a crew springs to life from booths lining the room — adjusting equipment, applying extra make-up, and shifting camera angles. “You guys should be, like, bitchy,” she instructs the actresses at the bar.
Summers is directing a 10-minute film short (she wrote the script, too), and is attempting to finish shooting over the course of a whirlwind weekend. Her movie is one of 12 that’ll be woven together — in the big-screen equivalent of a patchwork quilt — into a multifarious, feature-length motion picture called Twelve. Scott Masterson, a Salem-based independent filmmaker, dreamed up the project this past winter, drawing inspiration from an indie artist of a different discipline. “Sufjan Stevens is trying to record 50 albums, one for each state,” notes Masterson. “And that sort of gave me my idea: do one film for each month.”
To help execute his calendar-guided endeavor, Masterson recruited 11 other individuals from Boston’s film community, assigned each person a month of 2007, and gave them only one rule: each 10-minute chunk of this eventual 120-minute film must feature a shot of a chosen tree — on which Summers has carved the name “Kilroy,” a “we were here” symbol from the crew — in the Fens, right behind the Museum of Fine Arts. The final cut of Twelve will move chronologically through the year, with the tree serving as a barometer of the seasons passing. (Masterson hopes to screen the film locally sometime next spring and, after that, enter it in as many film festivals as the group can afford.)
Gone, baby, gone
Every month, the Twelve crew meets once to brainstorm and plan for upcoming shoots, then again to actually film that month’s segment. The weekend of Summers’s shoot is in October, though her assigned month was July. Summers originally filmed her portion on schedule, but then disaster struck and, in a nightmarish set of circumstances not unlike a computer suddenly and inexplicably erasing a paper the morning it’s due, the master copy of the film went missing during a moving mix-up. Now, Summers is redoing everything, with a sense of déjà vu and a vague goal to make it look like July — a task made harder by the fact that, on the gray Saturday they shot their tree scene in the Fens, the cast and crew were surrounded by an array of crunchy orange and yellow leaves.
Summers’s film is about a voyeuristic photographer named Lena (played by Terah Maher, a teaching fellow at Harvard and friend of Summers’s), who by night dances at the Glass Slipper, and by day follows a man she’s been stalking for three months. The film brims with juxtapositions of perspective. “It’s a matter of who’s being watched and who’s watching, and what’s intimate and what’s not,” says Summers. There is minimal dialogue, relying on imagery and the communicative force of movement and facial expressions rather than conversation. This was a conscious decision for Summers, who’s been a photographer for the past seven years, since she learned she was going deaf and would need major surgery to restore her hearing. “A friend gave me a camera for my birthday,” she says. “And it was amazing, because photography became a way for me to feel connected to the world again.”
Summers’s hearing has been restored, with surgery and the help of hearing aids, and her deep connection with photography has flourished into a career in film, which has included stints working for the Allston-based company Element Productions and the fledgling Boston.tv, as well as freelancing as a producer and director. On the aforementioned faux-July Saturday, she shoots one of the requisite tree scenes, in which Lena waits for the man she is following to pass by. Summers is intent on perfecting a shot where Lena spins a colorful umbrella, in a distracted, childlike way. The umbrella, spinning, mesmerizing, and kaleidoscopic, fills the frame, then snaps suddenly to a stop when Lena sees the man she’s been waiting for. It’s a simple, unassumingly beautiful moment in the life of the film’s depressed main character. “To me, the images are primary,” says Summers. “The moments where nothing is happening can be amazing.”