Last night the Austin Film Society hosted a screening of the documentary, Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters at Alamo Drafthouse. I had my first brief encounter with photographer Gregory Crewdson several years ago when he came to speak at my office. I’ve been hard pressed to forget about him or his work since, and was excited for the opportunity to attend this full-length documentary filmed by UT alumni, cinematographer and director, Ben Shapiro. (Since I had yet to figure out how to quit my job and get in to Yale where Crewdson studied and is now the head of the photography department.)

Since I had yet to figure out how to quit my job and get in to Yale where Crewdson studied and is now the head of the photography department

Filmed over a decade, Brief Encounters follows Crewdson’s journeys to create complex, haunting, Hopper-esque images of suburban American life. Crewdson’s epic movie-scale productions, crews and access are unfathomable to the average photographer. The budget for some of his images could produce an entire independent film.

 

In Brief Encounters we witness the photographer’s “preoccupation with making something perfect,” the perfect photographs to tell his story. Crewdson insists that every photographer is working to create images that are the “defining story of who you are.” In the film he reveals the intimate details of his admittedly micro-managed process from location scouting, lighting, adjusting his subject’s clothing, post-production and everything in between save for releasing the shutter of his large format camera (he leaves that task to his crew.)

After the screening, there was a Skype Q&A with director Ben Shapiro who shared his experience of being on set with Crewdson. He discussed the photographer’s creative and evolving process of producing the images as well as how he himself came to create the documentary. Shapiro shot over 100 hours of film, mostly by himself, witnessing Crewdson’s productions grow in size, scope and budget over several years. When asked if there was ever any drama on the set, Shapiro noted that shooting was usually very quiet but that sometimes the subjects would become visibly emotional due to the intensity of what they were chosen to help Crewdson express in his photographs.

Crewdson insists that every photographer is working to create images that are the “defining story of who you are.”

The documentary originally premiered at SXSW last year and has since been screening and receiving accolades all over the world including official selection at the Independent Film Festival Boston and Savannah Film Festival. The film is now making itself known through Europe.

Gregory Crewdson has published several books of his photography and his work can be found in collections at the Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum and LA County Museum.

To learn more about Brief Encounters, visit http://www.gregorycrewdsonmovie.com/

To learn more about the Austin Film Society, visit http://www.austinfilm.org

To apply for admission to Yale, visit http://art.yale.edu/

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