Scary Places/Shapes & Sizes

Log line:

Our film of Jack Cochran’s erasure poem from “The Geography of Nowhere” indicts American car culture and the alienating urban environments that result from cities designed around freeway systems.

Brief synopsis:

Our film of Jack Cochran's erasure poem, "Scary Places," extracted from "The Geography of Nowhere" by James Howard Kunstler, combines unexpectedly unsettling images of city freeways, urban traffic patterns, and highway construction, rendered extraordinary by using two different cameras, one of whose sensors has been modified for infrared photography, to concretize the current shape of the city using Austin, TX as an exemplar, and makes effective use of Regin Petersen’s 2011 new music composition, “Shapes and Sizes,” performed by the Ensemble Kwartludium (creative commons license), melding music, text, and moving pictures together in a beautiful but alienating critique of American car culture and its disregard for the environment worthy of Jean Baudrillard, showing what happens when cities are designed more as conduits for car than as social spaces for people.

Text of the poem:

Scary Places

a car-crazed society
a construction plan
epic proportions
freeway lanes shimmering
In the real world
civilization undone
an encapsulated life
in a motor car
The whole megalopolitan mess
would demoralize mankind
the human habitat ever-building, ever-moving
we are so busy building
more nightmarish development
Eighty percent of everything
spiritually degrading wastelands
the freeway loops around
the whole toxic spectacle that politicians
proudly call their everyday environment

  • Pamela Falkenberg
  • Jack Cochran
  • Jack Cochran
  • Pamela Falkenberg
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Experimental, Short
  • Genres:
    Poetry film, Environmental, Urban living and urban design
  • Runtime:
    5 minutes 59 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    July 9, 2020
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    4K digital video
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Strangelove Time-based Media Festival
    Folkestone, England
    United Kingdom
    July 30, 2020
    World Premiere
    Official selection
  • LIVING TOGETHER AGAIN – Venice Architecture Short Film Festival
    September 1, 2020
    Official selection
  • Buzz Vicious Film Festival
    Iranduba/ Manaus/ Presidente Figueiredo, Amazonas
    September 7, 2020
    Latin American premiere
    Official selection; Winner, Best Super Short Film
  • Hombres Videopoetry Award Screening
    September 26, 2020
    Italian premiere
    Short list of 10; Award for Best Music
  • Zebra Poetry Film Festival
    November 19, 2020
    German premiere
    Official selection
  • VASTLAB Experimental Film Festival
    Los Angeles, CA
    United States
    December 17, 2020
    American premiere
    Official selection
  • URBAN VISIONS. Beyond the Ideal City
    November 11, 2021
    Bologna premiere
  • Pleasure Dome
    December 8, 2021
    Toronto premiere
    Part of the curated program, Decontamination
  • CINETEKTON! International Film & Architecture Festival
    October 26, 2021
    Mexico premiere
    Official selection
  • Architecture Film Festival Rotterdam 2021
    October 6, 2021
    Netherlands premiere
    Official selection
  • soberania por la soberania audiovisual

    November 21, 2021
    Ecuador premiere
    Official selection
  • ALC video art festival
    May 5, 2022
    Spanish premiere
    Official selection
Director Biography - Pamela Falkenberg, Jack Cochran

Pam is an independent filmmaker who received her PhD from the University of Iowa and taught at Northern Illinois University, St.Mary's College, and the University of Notre Dame. She directed the largest student film society in the US while she was at the University of Iowa, and also ran films series for the Snite Museum of Art in South Bend, IN. Her experimental film with Dan Curry, Open Territory, received an individual filmmaker grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as grants from the Center for New Television and the Indiana Arts Council. OT screened at the Pacific Film Archives, as well at numerous film festivals, including the AFI Video Festival, and was nominated for a regional Emmy. Her other films include museum installations, scholarly/academic hybrid works shown at film conferences, and a documentary commissioned by the Peace Institute at the University of Notre Dame. She is an occasional contributor to Moving Poems Magazine (

Jack is an independent filmmaker who has produced, directed, or shot a variety of experimental and personal projects. As a DP he has extensive experience shooting commercials, independent features, and documentaries. His varied commercial client list includes BMW, Ford, Nissan, Fujifilm, Iomega, Corum Watches, and Forte Hotels. His features and documentaries have shown at the Sundance, Raindance, Telluride, Tribeca, Edinburgh, Chicago, Houston, and Taos film Festivals, winning several honors. His commercials and documentaries have won Silver Lions from Cannes, a BAFTA (British Academy Award), Peabody Awards, and Cable Aces. Some notable credits: Director of Photography on Brian Griffin's Claustrofoamia, Cinematography for Antony Thomas’ Tank Man, Director/Cinematographer of Viento Nocturno, and Cinematographer of Ramin Niami’s feature film Paris. Jack was trained at the University of Iowa Creative Writers Workshop as well as the University of Iowa film studies program.

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Director Statement

For over five years, Jack Cochran and Pamela Falkenberg have been making personal films together again under the name Outlier Moving Pictures. They hope their work will prove worthy of the name: avoiding the usual patterns and approaching their subject matter from the margins (which sounds better than saying that as filmmakers they're oddballs and cranks). Pam and Jack met in graduate school and made films together when they were young. Jack went on to become a professional cinematographer working out of LA and London, while Pam stayed in the Midwest, where she was a college professor and independent filmmaker before dropping out to work in visual display.

Their first film together, "The Cost of Living," based on some of Jack's short poems, screened at several film festivals, including the Buffalo International Film Festival and the Cornwall Film Festival, was nominated for two awards at the 2019 Queens World Festival, and took the award for best experimental film at the 2016 WV FILMmakers Festival. Other short poetry films have screened at the Ò Bhéal Poetry Film Festival (2016, 2018, 2019), the Juteback Poetry Film Festival (2017, 2018), the Festival Silencio (2017), the Filmpoem Festival (2017), the 6th CYCLOP Videopoetry Festival (2017), the 6th, 7th, and 8th International Video Poetry Festival (Athens Greece), REELpoetry (2019, 2020), and the Hombres Videopoetry Award screening of shortlisted films, 2020. Their most ambitious film, "Teddy Roosevelt and Fracking," about environmental threats to the wild landscapes of North Dakota, premiered at the 2018 Queens World Film Festival, where it was nominated for three awards and took the award for Best Documentary Short, followed by awards at the Go West Film Festival, the Ozark Foothills Film Festival, and the American Presidents Film and Literary Festival at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museum. Their most recent poetry films, "In West Virginia," and "Flag Country," based on poems by Dave Bonta, have already screened at the Buffalo International Film Festival, the Small Axe Radical Film Festival, the Newlyn Film Festival, the North Dakota Human Rights Arts Festival, and the Show Me Justice Film Festival. Pam and Jack have just completed a new triptych with Lucy English on climate change, "I Want to Breathe Sweet Air" and another about the dystopian city, "Scary Places/Shapes & Sizes," from Jack's erasure poem. They are currently at work on "Now and Then," an experimental film based on a new collection of Jack's poems, and also on their first feature together, an experimental road trip/documentary essay about the loneliest road in America, Highway 50 in Nevada.

Jack and Pam co-direct the films they make together, and they collaborate fully, even when they divide up the credits. Their poetry films usually start with a poem (often, but not always, one of Jack’s poems), which they think of as analogous to a script. However, when collaborating with Lucy English on “The Shadow” and “The Names of Trees,” the process was more dialectical: some images and sounds came first, then Lucy wrote the poems; the poems inspired more images, and eventually the edited film poems. For us, the exact process depends on the project and remains open to experiment, so our body of work is somewhat disparate and hard to categorize. Some of our eclectic interests include collage, found footage, and repurposing; the film essay and film poetry; image capturing and post-production techniques that reveal what cannot be seen with the eyes alone (e.g., high shutter speeds, moving cameras, infrared photography, green screen and digital layering); landscapes and the ways humans mark them; human rights/social justice; and postmodern melodrama.

Jack has written poetry all his life, but he never knew what to do with it until he shared his notebooks with Pam, who said, “You’re a filmmaker -- shouldn’t your poems be films?” Pam and Jack both want to make lots of different kinds of films together, but Pam is especially proud to have been the one who suggested that Jack’s poems should come to life as films. They are both delighted that making films of Jack's poems has led to interesting collaborations with other poets and filmmakers.