Filmmaker Auden Lincoln-Vogel was in Cannes this year in support of “Bill and Joe go Duck Hunting,” which he’s written and directed.
In “Bill and Joe Go Duck Hunting,” a slow and contemplative film that was a part of the Cinefondation program, two friends go on a duck hunting expedition and much vexation ensues, the great outdoors the setting for an oppressive “huit-clos” film that’s punctuated by awkward silences and dark humor.
Cinefondation, the Cannes Festival’s incubator, gives filmmakers a platform, allowing their works to be seen by a savvy audience, with material and financial benefits to boot.
Lincoln-Vogel, whom I found to be approachable and scholarly, studied in Eastern Europe and speaks Polish and Russian. He’s an animation artist, too. His film “Zorg II,” a twenty-one minute short in which an alien lands on earth in the hope of starring in a sci-fi blockbuster, is a mixed-media fireball of bizarro inventiveness and humanity that garnered Lincoln-Vogel plenty nods along the festival circuit. We were able to find a few moments for a sit-down during the Cannes Festival to discuss this landmark moment that is bringing a film to the Cannes Festival.
What was the original idea for “Bill and Joe Go Duck Hunting” ?
It came very suddenly. I recently found the notebook where I wrote the idea for it, it was one of those rare times where I thought of the idea in its final form.
Two people go hunting, there’s an issue with the guns, a nuclear explosion and a long monologue in the car. The title was stolen, I will admit, from cinematographer Philip Rabalais [Rabalais is a film director and a musician living in Iowa]. He’s O.K. with me stealing it.
What is your process?
I shot “Bill and Joe go Duck Hunting” in 2019 and then edited for almost two years. I let it sit and watched it again many times.
I spend a lot of time in pre-production and thinking about a script, taking it apart structurally and agonizing over it. It’s the result of doing animation, [where] you have to plan every shot.
Stylistically, I was quite influenced by “Old Joy,” by Kelly Reichardt. That kind of dynamic, that sensibility, was very much at play here.
Is this is your first film?
It’s my first live-action film, except for the animation version of a live-action film [that I directed].
Your biography belies an intense interest in Eastern European culture. You’ve studied in that part of the world. How has this informed your work?
I studied animation at the Estonian Academy of Arts where I did animation. Like a lot of people who studied there with me, my mentor was Priit Pärn [an Estonian cartoonist -ed], so in terms of certain narrative sensibilities he had a great influence [on me]. There’s something more literary than cinematic [in the film] and it must have something to do with my interests in authors like Gogol, Mikhail Zoshchenko and Andrei Platonov, among others. I’ve been told that my work felt like reading a Russian short story.
Where are you based at the moment?
I’m in Iowa but I’m about to move. I had decided to get an MFA in Film and Video, so I went back to University of Iowa. I’m teaching and I’m making movies there so it’s a good combination.
To go back to your film in Cinefondation, the mushroom cloud, at the end, seems pregnant with meaning.
There is a symbolic element to it but I also like that it can be taken literally.
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So it’s the end of the world?
Narratively, I wanted it [the mushroom cloud] to be a surprise. I felt more like the abrupt apocalyptic move would have a resonance with the other undercurrents between the characters in the film.
What’s different between working animation and live-action?
The financials. Animation, it’s you and your time. For live action you need gear, locations, people, etc.
Did you get to see any other movies while in Cannes?
I saw “Hit The Road” by Panah Panahi (read our thoughts on “Hit the Road”). He’s a friend of Anahita Ghazvinizadeh’s. I also saw “Drive my Car.” Three hours, that’s exactly how long it needed to be. I love that kind of restrained cinema.
Let’s talk about the future. What’s in the works for you?
I just finished my three years at University of Iowa, I’m moving to Portland, Ore. I’ll be doing some teaching, my partner lives there.
I was shooting a lot of different things [at University of Iowa], taking advantage of the resources. I have a lot of editing ahead of me and I’m hoping to start writing a feature-length film, very loosely based on a novel by Stanislaw Lem, the science-fiction writer who authored “Solaris.” The basic idea is that there’s a signal and it’s not clear if it’s coming from intelligent life or something else. It’s actually more subdued than “Solaris,” it’s more existential, people grappling with they being the only intelligent life [around].
I’ve worked with Philip Rabalais and we work together well. We’ve co-written a few things together, but hopefully he and I will start working on a larger collaboration as well.