By Jolene Darensbourg
DAVIS – The UC Davis Cinema and Digital Media Series finished this quarter’s presentations with guest lecturer David Shapiro, a New York filmmaker, who openly discussed the process he went through while creating his project “Untitled Pizza Movie.”
Originally the film was centered around two friends that were on a mission to find the best pizza in New York, but the project was slowly forgotten over the years. Last year, Shapiro rediscovered his archived footage and finished the project, quickly making it much more than just about pizza, hence the title.
Shapiro said the project is not only a film but also a series, existing as a unique form between biography and autobiography, also considering it a personal essay.
He said it is an interesting form to work with because he is inventing it and adding life to it. He said this means it can sometimes be undefinable or classifiable, which gives him a new perspective towards telling a story.
Shapiro made the seven-part series, explaining that he tricked himself and producers with originally thinking it was going to be a single feature film. However, with the work being centered on memory, as they progressed with the shooting, he unknowingly realized he had so much more content to give than just something that would last an hour and 30 minutes.
His whole purpose of making the series long was due to its surrealness, which he found better than a single piece. He compared his work to the chapters of a novel where each chapter can represent and progress while still giving the ability to go deep into characters. He thought his film played better to this type of narrative form.
Shapiro also voiced his concerns about having his film series be streamable during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the series is currently available in select theaters in New York, he said having the seven-part series available to stream creates all these outside factors, such as pausing or falling asleep, which can adhere to the overall experience of his project, causing it to seem imperfect.
However, he quickly knocked those doubts down, saying there are benefits to it. He said because of the multiple parts, viewers can watch them at their own pace and process them – they can even go back if need be.
While discussing “Untitled Pizza Movie,” Shapiro opened up about the trajectory of the past year and a half after he debuted the series at the Sundance Film Festival right before the pandemic hit.
He expressed that attending Sundance added to the validation of the work, and it gives him a sense of accomplishment as a filmmaker.
He said he quickly felt devastated once the pandemic hit because all plans got halted. However, he was quick to mention that it did give him time to edit the project and sharpen it, essentially making it even better over a longer period of time.
Shapiro said the ultimate question of the film is – how do we remember someone in a disposable world?
In response to that question, Shapiro said in his eyes, people need to slow down life in order to truly meet others and find success in reflexivity where people take the moment to sit back and think about their actions and decisions after viewing the work.
Along with the film series, he planned to partner it with a collection of objects to parallel the movie in order to express the two-year journey he spent creating the project.
He said he wants it to be classified as art, in a way relating to “Untitled Pizza Movie” because he made pieces that give off a personal quality that absorbs the treasured good moments of life.
Shapiro’s openness towards what it takes for creating projects is unique because he said he does not try to create anything he thinks that someone else would want to see, but rather what he wants to make for himself. He explained that it is important to not fall into the technicalities and instead, just be free to make what you want as an artist.
Jolene Darensbourg is currently a third-year student from Hemet, California. She is majoring in English and History while minoring in Professional Writing.
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