Inside “The Film Lounge” with Josh Thorud

    Josh Thorud.
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    Welcome to the film lounge, where we’ve been talking about Iowa filmmakers. Sit back and enjoy our next feature.

    "The Film Lounge" is a new TV series that features a sampling of short films by Iowa filmmakers. It's produced by Iowa Public Television in partnership with the Iowa Arts Council and Produce Iowa, the state's media-production office, and its first episode airs at 10 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12.

    Three preview parties are set for Des Moines, Iowa City and Sioux City in the week leading up to the premiere.

    If you’re a first-time visitor to the film lounge, make sure you see our previous interviews with the following filmmakers:

    P. Sam Kessie, the globetrotting artist in Iowa City who mixes dance and film into a single artform.

    Paul Berge, whose career spans independent cable, radio, feature films and hosting for “Side Roads” on Iowa Public Television.

    Ian Carstens, the Dubuque native whose work explores collaboration, intersection and observation of process and time.

    Today, we turn to Josh Thorud of Iowa City, a filmmaker, screenwriter, video artist and storyteller who manipulates the structure of his film “Eyes/Desires” to mirror its intellectual and emotional content in new and thought-provoking ways.

    Green screen making of Eyes/Desires.
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    In the film, Josh explores the control a filmmaker has over the expectation and experience a viewer has while watching it. Using appropriated footage, stylized animation and live action, he depicts himself as a filmmaker literally entering the viewer’s vision. In the opening sequence, he physically steps into a giant eyeball.

    “It is (me) crossing through the threshold of the screen like an astronaut between two celestial spheres,” he says. “Once inside, I ask directly what the viewer's expectations and desires are, and replace his or her consciousness with an invented one.”

    Josh received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Iowa and a Master of Fine Arts in Photography and Film from Virginia Commonwealth University.

    Still from Eyes/Desires, Josh Thorud.
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    He’s shown his work in the United States, Mexico, Germany, Russia and Serbia, and at the Chicago Underground Film Festival, Oaxaca Film Festival, Athens International Film and Video Festival, Minneapolis Underground, FLEXfest, Videomedeja Int’l Video Festival and many others.

    He has also exhibited at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 1708 Gallery, Sediment Arts Gallery and the Anderson Gallery in Richmond, Virginia. In 2014, he received the Kathryn Stephens Virginia Filmmaker Award from the James River Film Society.

    What type of films do you make?
    My work tends to fall into two categories: art/experimental and narrative fiction. My short films and gallery pieces are more surreal, disruptive and/or abstract, while my fictional screenplays have a more mainstream appeal, focusing on complex characters and clever dialogue.

    Still from Eyes/Desires, Josh Thorud.
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    What themes does your work deal with?
    Each project approaches a different topic. However, my work often focuses on manipulating or revealing the hidden conventions, structures and desires within cinema and mass media – whether that means examining the viewer’s hidden desires, the false and superficial nature of experts on television, or the experiences of traditionally neglected characters in Hollywood films.

    What are you working on right now?
    I have several projects in the works at the moment. One is a collaboration with filmmakers in Brazil, Mexico and Germany to tell a story that transcends cultural differences. It’s a narrative project in four languages. My screenwriting collaborator and I are currently working on three different screenplays in various stages of completion. I’m also developing a set of gallery-focused work around the idea of false authority in popular culture.

    Archive film still from Prelinger Archives used in Eyes/Desires.
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    What do you enjoy about being a filmmaker in Iowa?
    In Iowa I have found a community that appreciates and supports non-mainstream filmmaking. My short films do not resemble Hollywood films, and they’re intended for a different audience. There are no rules, and films should not be judged by a set of standards established by millionaires creating highly profitable products for our consumption (and their financial gain). While niche markets exist in other products, the
    film world is overwhelmingly dominated by large corporations. If restaurants were similarly limited, we would choose only from national chains. Local communities must support the arts, just as they must support unique and alternative local food choices. The good news is Iowans frequent art house theaters, art galleries, etc.

    What is one thing you’d like to change about the art and film scenes in Iowa?
    Over the years, I have met many talented artists and filmmakers in Iowa. Unfortunately, many left Iowa for other parts of the country. I’d like to see more incentives for them to stay, such as more galleries, art theaters, residencies, grants, etc. The community is there, and I believe there is demand for even more cultural growth, which needs support and careful cultivation.


    Coming up next: Film Scene Animation Camp in Iowa City, which teaches kids how to make their own animated films.