Wednesdays at the Drive-in: Color TV, No Vacancy

by Clementina Marini Clarelli

We chatted with Daniel Brown about his newest experimental film.

Daniel Brown’s new short film Color TV, No Vacancy takes us through a haunting journey inside a mysterious motel. Within the impersonal setting of adjacent rooms, odd characters live out separate narratives, undisturbed. The surreal nature of the film, enhanced by a captivatingly vibrant cinematography, provokes a sense of discomfort in the audience, who becomes the only spectator and intruder. As the camera moves through the walls of the motel, it unveils these surreal and private narratives, revealing Hindu deities, prom royalty tropes, mermaids and lovers, inhabiting dream like realities.

We had the opportunity to speak to Daniel Brown about his creative style, the concept behind the film, and the process of making it happen.

In a couple sentences, can you describe your creative style?

I like to think of it as reality or a version of reality plus some magic, and the magic can be as simple as how light falls through a glass of water.

Who or what influences your creative process?

My childhood, life, people, books, movies, music… I think the world just happens and my job is to take that in and reinterpret it.

What’s the concept behind “Color TV, No Vacancy?

I wanted to make a film about America or Americana but in an abstract way - a fantasy noir. I wanted to experiment. To make something that was pure cinema, just image and sound. Ultimately I wanted to make a film that could be experienced like a painting, where you see something, and hopefully you find yourself thinking about it and having your own ideas about what it means.

Can film ever tell the truth? Should film ever tell the truth?

I think truth is elusive, perhaps impossible, because the truth looks different to everyone. I believe we’re all prisoners of our own perspective. In film, we do get to actually see the world from someone else’s eyes, which can be a revelation. But I don’t know if that’s truth. That said, I’ve seen musicals I would describe as being more truthful than some documentaries. Film is one of the few art forms that I think can truly represent what it’s like inside our brains, unrestricted by time and space or even reality. That’s an amazing and honest thing to me.

What was the greatest difficulty you encountered while making the film?

It's really been a wonderful process making the film, with so many people offering their support and time. I think the hardest thing- because I did this in my free time- is going home after a full day of work and continue to chip away at the film. It becomes a test of your endurance.

What are you the most proud of, in regards to the film?

One of my main goals for the film was for it to be different than watching a normal film. I hope people connect with it on an emotional level but I’m trying not to do any of the traditional things to achieve that reaction. I saw it recently at Camerimage, and seeing it in a pack of films... I think I achieved that outcome.

You can see more of Daniel’s work here.