The Virus Cross Country: a poetic chronicle (with codas)

In early March 2020, Jack started writing a poem about the pandemic, just as the lockdown started in the US. While practicing social distancing, we turned his poetic chronicle into a film as we travelled between our homes in Austin, TX, and Rockford, IL, and doom scrolled the COVID-19 news on the internet, social media, and our neighborhood apps. We thought Jack's poem was finished when Texas and Illinois opened back up in late May/early June 2020, but we soon realized we needed him to write a coda, and we continued to film during the Black Lives Matters protests, the resurgence of the virus, and the dangerous use of federal forces in American cities. We can’t foresee how all this will end, but we have already had to add more codas, taking our chronicle through the unthinkable Jan. 6 storming of the US Capitol by right wing insurrectionists in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s failure to accept his loss in the 2020 Presidential election. More codas may still be in the offing, as new variants continue to emerge and Covid craziness takes even more bizarre forms. Whatever happens, we imagine the timeline we trace will be even more chilling to comprehend in retrospect.

  • Pamela Falkenberg
    Director
  • Jack Cochran
    Director
  • Jack Cochran
    Writer
  • Pamela Falkenberg
    Producer
  • Pamela Falkenberg
    Cinematography and production design
  • Jack Cochran
    Editing and sound design
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Experimental, Short, Other
  • Genres:
    Poetry film, Essay film
  • Runtime:
    21 minutes 28 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    March 1, 2021
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    4K digital video
  • Aspect Ratio:
    16:9
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    No
  • Student Project:
    No
  • Bizzarya Short Film Festival (English version screened)
    Porto
    Portugal
    February 15, 2022
    Portuguese premiere
    Official selection
  • Ostia International Film Festival (captioned version screened)
    Rome
    Italy
    September 20, 2020
    Italian premiere
    Official selection
  • About Rules News Sun Moscow Film and Screenplays Festival (English captioned version screened)
    Moscow
    Russian Federation
    August 21, 2021
    Russian premiere
    Official selection, Nominee
  • Luminous Frames (captioned version screened)
    Copenhagen
    Denmark
    May 15, 2021
    Danish premiere
    Official selection
  • Rieti & Sabina Film Festival (captioned version screened)
    Rome
    Italy
    November 25, 2020
    Official selection
  • Frostbite Film Festival (English version screened)
    Denver, CO
    United States
    January 2, 2021
    Rocky Mountains premiere
    Official selection
  • Arts x SGDS Online Festival (English version screened)
    New York, NY
    United States
    October 21, 2020
    North American premiere
    Official selection
  • Bad Film Fest (English version screened)
    New York, NY
    United States
    December 18, 2021
    Official selection, honorable mention
  • Copper Coast International Film Festival (English version screened)
    Swansea
    United Kingdom
    September 25, 2021
    UK premiere
    Finalist
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 (http://discussion.movingpoems.com/).

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, 2020), 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), the Hombres Videopoetry Competitition (2019 2020), and the Zebra Poetry Film Festival (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 acclaimed film, "The Names of Trees," in collaboration with Lucy English for her Book of Hours project, has screened in more than 30 film festivals in more than 15 countries, has been nominated for awards many times, named a finalist for best poetic film and best short film several times, and won the Lois Weber Pioneer Award at the 2020 Queens World Film Festival. 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, and the North Dakota Human Rights Arts Festival. Pam and Jack have just completed a new triptych with Lucy English on climate change, "I Want to Breathe Sweet Air,” and 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.