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Shibbiness comes to Gisborne

A GUERILLA style of film-making brings Jak Kerley of Shibby Pictures production company to Gisborne for a screening of a handful of short films next week.

The North Carolina man describes his vocation as an “angry, confused style of film-making that no film festival is interested in hosting” — so he created his own YouTube channel and tours the world to screen his documentaries, music videos and short films in odd locations.

Accompanied by folk-punk musician Whitney Flynn, Kerley promises a show of two halves rather than a passive screening.

“We’re two separate acts. I’ll introduce each video and tell the story. People can shout out questions and comments. It’s pretty relaxed. It’s personal. We don’t just show a movie where people sit there quietly.”

As seen in Kerley’s video performance of the melancholic-with-attitude song Damaged Goods, performed by Flynn’s band Days N Daze, the folk-punk musician brings to the stage a sound so original it’s a wonder no New Zealand act thought of it first.

A punk edge — not in the way of spikes and Docs, but a mordant sense of existential irony — permeates films such as Sad Will.

Will (even the name is ironic, since he lacks it) wanders twilit streets in bare feet and dressing gown with a glass of red in hand. He reflects on life like a young American Samuel Beckett.

“Even if you don’t know the words to any of the songs you’re making up, even if you’re just screaming noise into the eternal void,” he says.

“It’s like karaoke all the time.”

Then there is Leftover Crack’s Bedbugs & Beyond. It’s hard and fast and it’s fun. It’s post-slacker angst with a smattering of The Pogues.

DIY cultureThe amenable young film-maker brings a DIY ethic to his productions such as the documentary on DIY culture, Trying It At Home. He made the film by accident but it has proved to be so popular he screens it a lot, he says.

“That was the first doco I made but when I went on tour in Europe I could tell a lot of people didn’t get it.”

Kerley’s film-making style could be reflected in the name of his production company. Shibby is a word used by the dumb and dumber characters in the trash-comedy Dude, Where’s My Car? The neologism means cool, great, hot etc. Also wasted, as in “I think we need to cut back on the shibbying”.

“I thought ‘what sort of brand is my style?’ Shibby sounded cute, not too pretentious.

He films with no scripts and no budget, he says.

“I use a small crew. I don’t feel like I need a big crew. A lot of dialogue is improvised. When we shoot a scene we have point A and have to get to point B. I let the actors find their way to point B.

“In music videos, we have a rough concept. On location we might add new material or wing it. I always shoot far more than what was originally planned. With improvisation you start seeing things not just in the dialogue but the story.”

Although actors sometimes nail a scene on the first take, Kerley occasionally wants people to say what he is thinking and he struggles with that, he says.

“But I’ll be very slow to tell people what to say. When I cast someone it’s because of who they are. I want their performance and the film to be very honest, very real.”

Hopefully among the short films he shows at the Dome next week is the recently produced Baseball Punx, a documentary that explores the connection between punk rock and baseball.

Quirky projectQuite a few punks play baseball it turns out so when Kerley embarked on the film he thought it would be a quirky project to follow, he says.

“I just started doing it to do it but it got a whole lot realer than I expected. I turned on the camera and let people talk.

“It’s quite a serious political documentary. It addresses LGTB rights, gender equality, racial inequality.”

Baseball players (and punk musicians, presumably) have to perform, says one young thinker.

“You have to meet expectations — even when no one really knows what those expectations look like. Baseball is a game where we’re doing something right 30 percent of the time.

“And only 30 percent of the time is pretty damned good.”

Every film Kerley makes he uploads to his YouTube channel for free viewing.

“Sometimes I’ll tour a film first then put it online,” he says.

“I don’t make a lot of money from it.”

He makes his income from his work for minor baseball team, Greensboro Grasshoppers. The work keeps him busy from mid-February to early September but he shoots for Shibby Pictures in his downtime then tours in the off-season.

Since 2013 he has toured the world to host screenings in guerilla-appropriate locations such as a racquetball court, a cave, beaches, batting cages and, in a few days time the Dome at the easternmost edge of the world.

So what brings him from North Carolina to Gisborne?

This year he planned to take his films to locations in either South-East Asia or New Zealand, he says.

“New Zealand came together easier. I don’t know how I picked Gisborne for a screening. I just looked at Google maps. The Dome looks super-cool.”

Or shibby.

FROM BASEBALL TO THE DOME: Film-maker Jak Kerley has a laugh with the set photographer during an improvised take for Fixation. “I’m pretty sure that take made the film and you can faintly hear me laughing in the background,” says Kerley who brings a selection of his short films to Gisborne next week.Picture supplied