SXSW 2014 Review/Interview: IMPOSSIBLE LIGHT

By Mark Saldana

Film Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

This documentary selection epitomizes independent film. Starting with no budget, but with a fascination with his subject and the inspiration to tell this story, director Jeremy Ambers, and his story in making this film a reality, serves as an inspiration to first time filmmakers afraid to get their feet wet and get their hands dirty. For Jeremy it took a leap of faith and the courage to do what was necessary to capture this lovely footage.

Ambers’ film highlights the work of  Leo Villarreal.  Leo is an artist who expresses himself through intricate light arrangements, and his work can be seen throughout the world. His love for the Bay Bridge in San Francisco inspired him to create one of his most difficult pieces. To highlight this magnificent piece of engineering, often overshadowed by the more famous Golden Gate Bridge, Leo decided to give this often forgotten structure its moment to shine by stinging 25,000 LED lights along 1.8 miles of the bridge.

Ambers accomplishing this project was no easy feat and working mostly alone on shooting and editing, and relying on some archival footage had some major disadvantages. Still, his hard work  manages to produce a beautiful homage to the hard work of Villarreal and his team who accomplished an ambitious undertaking as well.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Jeremy during the festival.

Mark Saldana: Besides your “regular job” as a film editor what other kinds of film work have you done?

Jeremy Ambers: This is my first film (as a director) ever. My background is in edititing, so I just decided to do this on a whim, really. I approached it naively  and am really amazed at what happened with it.

MS: Your background is in editing. I have a good friend who attempted to break into filmmaking a while back, and much like you did in this film, he did everything himself. For him the editing process was tiresome and tedious. He absolutely hated it! How do you feel about the editing process?

JA: I actually love the editing process most of all. I shot and edited everything (on Impossible Light). While shooting it, I approached shooting it as an editor. I said, “how would I want this?” So I had the benefit of planning shots and making it look like there were multiple cameras involved. A lot of times, if I work with other filmmakers, I’m sometimes annoyed with the lack of options that I have as an editor. I managed to not have that issue as much shooting it myself.

MS: Were you at all familiar with the work of Leo (Villarreal) prior to the making of this film?

JA: No. It’s funny that his career exploded at the same time that he took this project on. All of a sudden, he started doing these installations all over the country. There’s an installation at O’Hare Airport over one of the moving sidewalks. You don’t realize who it is at that point. I had seen some of his work, but didn’t realize it at the time.

MS: In filming this movie you had to brave heights to capture footage on the bridge. was that pretty frightening for you or do you consider yourself pretty fearless?

JA: I moved to San Francisco about five years ago and one day I went down to the waterfront to watch the Blue Angels. I saw guys climbing  the bridge watching them. I thought that would be really cool. So in the back of my mind, I always had that. So when I decided to do this project, I thought this would be my opportunity to do that. So I didn’t really think about what it was until I got up there, two weeks into shooting. Climbing up there, I didn’t realize the fear until I was about halfway up there. The cables starts to sway from the traffic and shake from the wind. It’s very nerve wracking at that point. You don’t realize how high that is until you’re up there. I did that three times and decided that was enough.

MS: Do you have any other film projects coming up where you’re directing?

JA: I have a couple that I have been approached with that sound interesting, but I haven’t really fleshed them out beyond that because I really want to see where this one (Impossible Light) goes. As a first time filmmaker, I don’t understand the processes of where it goes from here. I just want to spend some time of doing this for a little bit, and then I’ll probably sit back and then say, “Okay it’s time to do the next one.”

If this film is indicative of what Jeremy can do in his first film with limitations, then I definitely look forward to seeing what he can do with a bigger budget and a crew.

Impossible Light has one more SXSW screening tomorrow, Thursday March 13, 11:00 a.m. at the Topfer Theater.



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