November 13, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 42  

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Phantasmagoria investigates grey area

By Brent Carpenter
Gazette Staff

Robert McCallum is a fourth-year honors film student at Western and recently sat down to discuss his latest project, Phantasmagoria. The short film blends styles of documentary and fiction, and explores both individual and cultural relationships with the news media.

First - the obvious question - what's up with the title?

Phantasmagoria is concerned with what I call "the grey area." It comes from the Latin word, phantasm(e), meaning ghost.

So when you speak of this term in relation to your film, to what exactly do you refer?

It refers to the media in many contexts. More specifically, it addresses the difference between an individual's relationship to [various forms of] news media, as well as the effects that same media has on the population as whole.

Can Phantasmagoria be described as a criticism of the media or is it more of a statement? In other words, do you try to force home a point?

[The film makes] a statement, but not an argumentative one. I believe the media, in our culture at least, exists in the so-called "grey area." We never quite [develop] a personal relationship to [the news] in the way we do to characters on television, in film or video games for that matter. As a result, the media reports interesting news that is not necessarily always relevant. By situating the media in "the grey area," both a fictitious and realistic element can be exposed.

So should your film be viewed with skepticism or merely an open mind?

I think every film or media form should be looked at in an intelligent manner. To take things at face value anymore is a self-induced illusion. Still, as long as you can get something out of the film, I would consider myself successful.

Phantasmagoria seems to repeatedly knock down that so-called "fourth wall" only to rebuild it. How does this juxtaposition of fantasy with reality serve to further the movie's point?

The difference between reality and fiction is at the heart of all the films I've made. I believe our reality is in part based on fantasy or our desire to reach our fantasies. Film is a medium that can combine the two. The fourth wall is broken in my film on three occasions, only to remind the viewer that they are watching a film; they are not in a fantasy world.

Are you concerned some will think the film lacks focus? In other words, is it possible you tackled too much material for a 22 minute short?

The film was originally planned to be 30 minutes, but was cut down after I realized some of the material was inappropriate and a little redundant.

Was this a class project?

I'm allowed to submit it for credit in a seminar course I'm taking. It was made with the supervision of my instructor, Dr. Janina Falkowska.

Did you seek help from any of your peers in the film program?

I cannot stress how important it is that people work together. When I started at Western, there was a general trend that people would make films in groups of three or four and keep the project secret until its unveiling at the Western Film Festival. Since my last film, Return to Sender last year, we (the students of the film program along with that of Fanshawe College) [demonstrated] that it is possible to make films with casts and crews of 15 to 20 people and to learn from those experiences.

Phantasmagoria screens this Friday at 5:30 p.m. in University College Rm. 84.



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