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Flux: The Art of Short Films

The Acid "Basic Instinct," directed by Dugan O'Neal and Ry X.

Now in its seventh year, the Flux Screening Series at the Hammer Museum has seen a lot of action. They launched the series back in 2008 with, among other short flicks, the premiere of Björk's video for "Wanderlust," a whimsical visual journey directed by Encyclopedia Pictura. Since then, they've brought works from the likes of Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze and Kanye West to the Hammer's big screen. The screenings have helped jumpstart the careers of Amautalab, who brought their short "The Blindness of the Woods" to a previous Flux event, and numerous others.

At the Hammer tonight, Flux puts the emphasis on music videos and short films, but it's about more than that.

"Flux is a global, creative community that celebrates art, film, music, design, in general, kind of the creative fields," says Meg Grey Wells, who co-founded the organization with Jonathan Wells. "More than anything, I think that Flux is really a community. It's a community that brings together different people from around the world, whether we're doing events here in Los Angeles or in different parts of the world."

"Bunion," directed by Jessica Sanders
"Bunion," directed by Jessica Sanders

With their screening series, Flux gives filmmakers an opportunity to showcase works whose usual home would be YouTube or Vimeo in a theater. "I think that virtually all filmmakers compose their works for a cinema screen," says Jonathan Wells.

The settings gives an opportunity for the audience to digest the works in a way that might not happen at one's desk. "Maybe you aren't watching it in full screen or you're distracted by something else. The phone rings," says Jonathan of the YouTube viewing experience. "When you're in a theater with a full house and you're uninterrupted."

That gives the filmmakers a different sort of opportunity too. "When someone watches their work online, maybe they get a comment," he continues. Actually hearing the reaction of the crowd, Jonathan adds, is something the creators won't get online.

On Thursday, filmmaker Jessica Sanders will be on hand for the premiere of her new short, "Bunion." Sanders is a returning filmmaker for the series. Previously, she had shown a music video for singer-songwriter Mia Doi Todd. This time around, Sanders' contribution is a comedy short written by and starring her pal Avi Rothman. Sanders has spent some time directing commercials, but is also well-known for her work in documentary films. In fact, she was nominated for an Academy Award in 2002 for the documentary short "Sing!"

"Eager," directed by Allison Schulnik
"Eager," directed by Allison Schulnik

"It's definitely departure from different types of heavier subject matter that I've done," says Sanders. "I wanted to use this short film to play with some more comedic aspects of storytelling."

Once again, music videos will figure into the programming on Thursday night. Director Dugan O'Neal and musician/artist Ry X of The Acid collaborated on the band's clip for "Basic Instinct," in which dance troupe WIFE moves in dreamy slow motion.

"It's an honor to get to show it at one of the best art spaces in L.A.," says Ry X. "It's a deep honor and, personally, I'm humbled."

"It's always nice to, in this day and age, watch things on a big screen in a good theater because most of the time we watch everything on the Internet," adds O'Neal. "To see it on the big screen is always such a special experience for the people who are making this stuff."

Music videos dominate this Flux event. The Isaiah Seret-directed clip for Devendra Banhart's "Für Hildegard von Bingen," will screen at the Hammer. It's an intriguing, narrative-based video with references to early-'80s New York. David Bowie's track "Love Is Lost (Hello Steve Reich Mix by James Murphy)" will appear. The video, directed by Barnaby Roper highlights the rhythm of Murphy's remix, with animated handclaps and on-beat abstractions. Olivier Babinet's video for "Life on Earth," from the group Tomorrow's World, takes the simple concept of a school day and turns it into an endearing piece of art.

One of the highlights of the event, though, will be a stop-motion animated short from L.A.-based artist Allison Schulnik. The work, called "Eager," is Meg Grey Wells' one-to-watch. "I would kind of liken it to a cinematic opera," she says. "It builds. It has elements of song and dance and cinema and animation."

Tomorrow's World "Life on Earth," directed by Olivier Babinet
Tomorrow's World "Life on Earth," directed by Olivier Babinet

Central to the event is the non-traditional approach to the film festival Q/A session. Instead of answering questions, creators are encouraged to do a live presentation, possibly based on the work that screened. The presentations can be wildly creative. Sanders previously held a levitation while Mia Doi Todd played. Other filmmakers have put together dance bits and celebrity impersonations.

Spectacles aside, the organizers and participants seem to agree that the community that builds at Flux screenings that make the events special.

"This is very much an event that brings together Los Angeles' creative community," says Jonathan. "LA is so spread out, this is one event that brings people together."

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