Mark Zuniga - Sample16

7:19, 2006, Experimental
A room fit to be called a closet. Walls painted black and adorned with exposure charts. Notebooks of previous tenants can be found on the table at the end of the room. Wonderful diaries of their experiments. I kept one myself, however, I kept my diary and left a film in the archives instead. This is the film.
DirectorMark A. ZunigaCameraMark A. ZunigaEditorMark A. Zuniga


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Who is Mark Anthony Zuniga?
A fellow traveler trying to find the wonders of this world and sharing them with everyone.

Your film is about?
The physicality of film. It starts with a single frame, static. Then another and another. One frame extends to 24 frames a second, then we take a closer look. The light changes, for I have control of the light as well. What you see, what moves, what is illuminated - all under my control. The film was created using an optical printer in a non-traditional method. I approached the film like an animation, taking it one frame at a time.

How did you start with film? And do you have an educational background in art or film?
I started out with photography as a young kid when my grandfather gave me my first rangefinder. I took as many pictures as I could afford. In high school, I found myself making short films with fellow friends. But it wasn’t until I was in college that I took a serious interest in filmmaking, for until that point I thought I was destined to become an engineer, graduate and join the work force. I didn’t like that idea, so I switched majors and took a giant leap into filmmaking. As it turns out, my interest in photography extended into film and my experience gave me a different style than most of my peers. I immediately knew I wasn’t going to be a traditional filmmaker and started experimenting with my ideas and concepts. I graduated with a focus on directing and sound design.

Could you explain how you work, what themes or concepts and what is important to you?
I like to study individuals and learn why it is they do the things they do and what caused them to turn out as they did. As such, my films revolve around people and their actions, or reactions, to events that occur around them. No heroes or villains in my world, just circumstances. Now and again I create a script based out of action and fantasy, but what will always be important to me is that the individual is whole; his actions have weight, when he speaks, when he moves, when he acts - it is for a reason and by the end of the film I hope the audience understands who he is. It’s all about revealing a different world to the audience, and I feel that can only be achieved by making them understand the people that exist in that world.

Where do you get your ideas or influences from?
Life! One must have experiences to tell stories and one must live to have experiences. Many of my ideas occur as a flash, a single image, a phrase or an action will cause the wheels to roll in my head. Once I see the image, it becomes a scene and it grows, extending itself in time. It gains a beginning and an ending, I start to work out the circumstances and the individuals involved. I then start to think of the individuals, try to understand who they are and how they got into their current predicament. Eventually I have a rough story thought out and it is up to me to fill in all the gaps to ensure a strong narrative.

Of course, when it comes to my experimental work - I again start with a single image or phrase, but after that I go ahead and try as many new techniques to achieve my goal. When it comes to experimental work, there is no sense of failure to me - you will learn something no matter what, either about yourself or a new technique.

How does the title relate to the work, and how do you find a fitting title?
Finding a title is the last thing I do. I can’t name a work until I have spent a lot of time and have developed a relationship with it. Sounds weird, but it’s true. A title would influence the work and I might miss an opportunity to attempt something had I not been misdirected. Finding an appropriate title once the film is done is also becoming a bit of a tradition for me. It’s like naming a boat you have just completed building, ready to set sail for the very first time.

As for ’sample16’, I know the film started out as a series of experiments as I taught myself how to use an optical printer. The first prints were my samples that I previewed to others. I think ’Sample16’ stuck since I was working with 16mm film. It also sounds nice to me.

How does content relate to the form of your work?
An artist needs to consider every path (every form of expression) and choose the one that will work best for him for each project. It could be a music video or a documentary, and maybe it ends up that the artist just needs to make a painting - in the end, he will have chosen the appropriate form to fulfill his needs. And if not, well that’s what learning is all about!

How important is sound in film, and if you use sounds, do you create your own or use existing?
Very important! I take sound design as important as the visual design of a film. I try to create as much of the soundtrack for my films from scratch.

How do you finance your projects (by yourself, sponsors or subsidy)?
So far I have had to finance my projects by myself, hopefully that will change one day!

Nowadays everyone with the right equipment can create videoart, good, bad or ugly?
The great thing about everyone having access to all the right equipment is that plenty of the ’right’ people will have access to the equipment. We are swimming in a sea of mediocrity with all of the content created in this modern world, but it is necessary if we are to find the true gems amongst it all. After all, I don’t think I would have had the chance to do what I’m doing now had I not been given the same opportunity.

What possibilities of the web are yet to be explored? Which dangers do you see ahead?
I feel the internet should be a source of information, all for free. It needs to become a source of educational material for everyone. The unfortunate scenario is that even now the internet is blocked off in certain parts of the world. When the web has made it’s way around the world with no intervention from any high power, then we will have reached a new era of public information.
What I fear is that, for how involved one can be online, it is still a form of disconnect for me. I’m staring at nothing but 1s and 0s as the real world ages past me. Human interaction needs to remain physical, at least for me. Maybe our society will grow to accept digital communication as the primary form of interaction, that sends chills down my spine, but maybe that’s because I’m becoming part of the old generation that I fear it.

Video broadcasting platforms on the internet, why or why not?
Of course! It’s a new medium of expression and I have come across some amazing works that could not have been done in any other fashion. I’ve also seen work that would normally not make it to any screening near me, so it definitely has made it possible for work to reach others around the world. The ability to have key locations on the internet for individuals to find new works is also important. It would establish some order and enforce standards when it comes to streaming quality.

In what category would you place your work; cinema or art. And is there a difference between those?
There’s a fine line that differentiates the two. There are films that people will say are solely for entertainment and then there are films to enlighten. I hope I can create work that does both, but no matter what I consider my work to be, it is up to the audience to judge. After all, I do what I do for an audience and I must learn from each performance what works and what doesn’t.

How important is the reaction to your film by the audience?
I have found many people, after watching one of my films, become speechless. At first I thought it was a bad thing, until I realized it was just that they really needed to think about what they saw. Immediate reactions are great, but to see people taking the time to analyze what they saw, and in turn themselves, I feel is more important to my work.

What is your next project about?
It’s an animation about a martian boy who finds himself on Earth, about exploration and discovery. I want people to remember how great it is to be a kid full of awe and wonder when it comes to exploring our planet.

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