Remembering Robert Todd

Posted December 18th, 2018 in New Acquisitions, New Films, News / Events

We are deeply saddened by the loss of prolific filmmaker, generous teacher and dear friend Robert Todd, whose lyrical work offers a singular vision of the world, and are working hard to ensure his films continue to circulate. Distribution prints of 17 of Todd’s films have been deposited in the catalog, and digital transfers of much of his work will be available soon.


LightFall  (2017 | 16 minutes | COLOR | SILENT)

Glorious idealizations of reality: the fall of light onto our world as it crashes into the spectacular forms and formulas of ending. A series of in-camera harmonies.


Awaiting Summer (2016 | 12.5 minutes | COLOR | SOUND)

A concerto of small movements, found happening in late spring.

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Falling (2014 | 7 minutes | COLOR | SOUND)

FALLING is made from a series of gestural performances conjuring the darkness of the fall: the action, the season, the spiritual/psychic state.

There are three different (gestural) approaches to the “walks” taken here.

The first is a simple slow drifting from my apartment into the realm just outside my door, moving lazily with and through the forms at play there, as the breath of the wind shifts throughout the environs.

The second is a collection of still images snapped at intervals along the way to the place in which I work, an evolving dynamic of glimpses that trace a disjunctive, impressionistic pathway describing the route of my life.

The third is the Falling that is the dark undercurrent that thrums within these spaces, following a retraced path back toward home, but focusing on the ground, pushing through the darkness in to the dead elements that make up the world beneath our feet, amidst starbursts of enigmatic origins.


Short (2013 | 5 minutes | B&W | SILENT)

An in-camera construction within two sets of active hunting sessions in two locations: the first “hunt” as a walk, as a search within a single location. Within these movements, I was experimenting with a different way of experiencing the shooting process. I began each shot at the extreme end of the aperture ring, either all the way open or completely closed, and throughout each shot I would roll the aperture ring to the opposite extreme. As the aperture would shift, the image would become visible amidst a shifting depth of field (a changing range of focus, due to the aperture shifts), rendering the effect you can see in this film.

So I was remaining physically active throughout each shot, performing an odd sort of dance, knowing that, when the film would be projected, we would be catching glimpses of the forms posed before the camera, the imagery populated by extreme fields of darks and lights. I was determined to travel (a walk around my block, a crawl around a pool deck) while shooting, not realizing that the effect in projection afterward would have something in common with the active sifting through small moments that can characterize memory. This kinship with the fleeting quality of memory inspired the piece’s title.


Threshold (2013 | 15.5 minutes | COLOR | SOUND)

A film-song of an interior-scape in winter, a cocooned adagio that moans against the barrier between self and storm. The body of the film is presented mainly in the order in which it was shot, or sung, reflecting the natural shifting of my state of dreaming/being at that time: merging into darkness, yet pulled ever toward the blinding intensity of ragings without.

The primary soundtrack is composed of variations on two piano Etudes I was memorizing during the period in which I shot the film, a music that repeated continuously in my head as I was living through the winter, echoing my retreat into darkness during that period.


Habitat (2012 | 10 minutes | B&W | SOUND)

A graphically oriented, in-camera layered tapestry woven of spaces that define my daily life: locations that shift, split and spill over one another like sand in an hourglass; inversions and conversions marking time with the chaos of my waking work-life, diffusing as it moves inward.


Within (2012 | 8.5 minutes | COLOR | SOUND)

An in-camera construction that sustains a complex condition: keeping the inner world alive as the camera looks “out” upon the world. The film emerges from an interior that drifts increasingly deeper into the penumbra, entering a space that lacks firm definition, where forms dissolve into the darkness, confusing both scale and distance. As the film finds its way to the light reflecting off of exterior elements, it employs real-time complications (shooting through both transparent and reflective materials) to bring the internally-directed way of feeling space along with it, filtering perception to conjure sensations of an imagined, rather than literal, outer world. In fact my aim was to entwine the two.

Rather than looking either at a figure or at what some imaginary figure might be looking AT, “Within” lives in a state that seems to resist perspectival definition, hovering somewhere between what is “out there” and an internally defined image space that is at once shallow and deep, layered and reflective, barely there and yet very much alive. It is twilight.

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Undergrowth (2011 | 12 minutes | COLOR | SOUND)

A blind predator dreams through its prey’s eyes: an experiment in oneiric points of view.


Golden Hour (2009 | 16 minutes | COLOR)

What if the Looking Glass were, at the same time, a window and a mirror, if the window was the mirror, the mirror the window? And your projection through this transparent/reflective plane did bring you to a world that is as externally rich as the self, in its internal churnings shifting through dark and light, directs it to be – the self and the world open to each other, if but for a moment? And that window offers itself to you as a space in your life, held shimmering in your being and your vision throughout that sustaining moment, that golden hour.


Antechamber (2008 | 11 minutes | COLOR)

I had it in mind to make a film in spaces that were meant to inspire spiritual reflection, not really aware that I needed to “explore” them for my own very personal reasons. The gentleness of the dark, like a place of glowing embers…that’s what I found there.


Interplay (2007 | 7 minutes | COLOR)

A film of summer in three rolls: Play in three acts, a dance in three forms, three versions of paradise.


Office Suite (2007 | 14 minutes | B&W | SOUND)

This officescape reflects the rhythms of my mind from daybreak-to-break: light journeys within and without my office, in 3 movements: InnerClose with Shadow and Steam (Andante Up, Down, and Sidelong), Exterior Fantasy from Dawn to Break (Allegro in moving colors), and Hallway (the End of that World: the pyre lit, it roars to life, rages, and fades…)


evergreen (2006 | 15.5 minutes | COLOR | SOUND)

A short film reflecting on the act of landscape as portraiture.

Light and color gradually build around the rich floral life of an urban park. A woman paints in its midst using flower petals as both pigment and brush. Flies gather to drink from the paper.

The sky shimmers in reflection on a river as shadows and silhouettes of people follow the movement of containers in the harbor amid the growing din of machinery.

Containers are moved into position to stake their claim in a welcoming architectural environment. Nature takes its meager place along side them.

Birds swirl overhead.

This is one in a series of representations of urban nature under siege.

In Loving Memory (2005 | 47 minutes | COLOR | SOUND)

People facing death share their life experiences…

Mixing memories and deeds, the subjects of this film recount what they have gone through and what they have made of their lives under the most difficult of circumstances.

Contributors to this film include members of my family, friends, people I work with and people fom around the country I’d never met before but were willing to share their joys and struggles in life, and the contributions they’ve made to the world around them.

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Stable (2003 | 7.5 minutes | COLOR | SILENT)

The family-run farm is a staple of romantic Americana. Industrialization’s reformation of our material and ideological makeup brought with it an idealized notion of the Farm as a point of origin and innocence, and in so doing created a cultural rift between agriculturists and bourgeois. Film’s entry onto the cultural stage coincided with the high watermark of industrial hegemony in the Western world, and as a product of Industry, provided a new representational language for bourgeois culture. As such, the character of the lens through which the filmmaker posits the Farm has been either romantic or ethnographic.

This film brings the aesthetics of that romanticism to a rather complicated crossroad, creating, through the maker’s necessarily bourgeois eye and means, an ersatz cycle of life that resists simplicity.


Fable: I Want the World Clean (1999 | 14 minutes | COLOR | SOUND)

A non-fiction fantasy musing on the violence we do to the world and our histories by trying to rid them of impurities, this fantastic “tale” centers on a family’s house passed down through five generations.