Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

Our process in making this film from Wallace Steven's famous poem, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird," now in the public domain, was to capture the startling images his words evoked for us using whatever crazy means necessary, and to manipulate those images in unexpected and visually poetic ways. What we hope to achieve is something like what Stevens lauded in translations of his poems in foreign languages, where what mattered to him was carrying "the poems forward without regard to the words." Williams seems generally skeptical about literary exegesis of his work. Regarding the collection including "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird," Stevens commented that the poems were "not meant to be a collection of epigrams or of ideas, but of sensations." Later, writing about a different poem ("Fabliau of Florida"), but perhaps also apropos for "Blackbirds," he insists, "it is not the sense ... that counts, because It does not have a great deal of sense; it is the feeling of the words and the reaction and images that the words create." We hope we have created a flight of fancy with our adaptation of "Blackbirds," a nonsense that carries Stevens' poem forward in a new way.

Link to the text of the poem:

  • Pamela Falkenberg
  • Jack Cochran
  • Wallace Stevens
  • Pamela Falkenberg
  • Pamela Falkenberg
  • Jack Cochran
  • Jack Cochran
    Editing and sound design
  • Pamela Falkenberg
    Production design
  • Project Type:
    Experimental, Short, Other
  • Runtime:
    8 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    January 11, 2020
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    4K video
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Lisbon Film Rendezvous
    November 13, 2020
    World Premiere (original screening date postponed to summer 2021, due to the pandemic)
    Official selection
  • 8th Ó Bhéal Poetry-Film Competition
    November 26, 2020
    Irish premiere
    Official selection
  • Film Olympiad

    May 22, 2021
    First Greek selection
    Official selection, Nominee
  • Hallucinea Film Festival
    August 12, 2021
    French 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 wants to make lots of different kinds of films with Jack, but she is especially proud to have been the one who suggested that Jack's poems should be made into films.

Jack's bio:

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. He 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?"

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

Jack Cochran and Pamela Falkenberg have been making personal films together again under the name Outlier Moving Pictures for about five years now. They hope their films will be 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, was accepted by several film festivals, including the Queens World Film Festival (2019), the Buffalo International Film Festival, the Denver Underground Film Festival, and the Cornwall Film Festival; was nominated for two awards at the 2017 Jim Thorpe Film 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), the Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Festival (2018), the REELpoetry Festival (2019, 2020), and the Newlyn Film Festival (2019).

Their most ambitious film is an experimental documentary essay about the North Dakota landscape and Teddy Roosevelt, "Teddy Roosevelt and Fracking," which showed out-of-competition as a work-in-progress at the WV FILMmakers Fest in October 2017 and premiered at the Queens World Film Festival in March 2018, where it was nominated for three awards (Best Cinematography, Best Director, and Best Documentary Short), taking the award for Best Documentary Short. "Teddy" has also screened at the 2018 Ekofilm Festival in Poland, the 2018 Buffalo International Film Festival, the 2018 Go West Film Festival, and the American Presidents Film and Literary Festival at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Museum and Library in October 2018, where it was nominated for two judges awards and won the Audience Choice Award. Most recently, "Teddy" was a finalist in the silent film category in the 2019 Near Nazareth Festival in Israel.

Along with that, a series of shorts about photo opportunities and roadside attractions in Texas (the first installment of which, "Prada Marfa," premiered in the True Texas Travel category at the Thin Line Festival in April 2018), and some brief experimental romantic comedies based on Craigslist's Missed Connections, a compilation version of which, "Missed Connections Anthology," premiered at the Austin Spotlight Festival in April 2018, and screened for the second time at the KinoDrome Festival in Cleveland, OH in September 2018.

Their most recent poetry films include an autobiographical love story ("Bad Rhyme/Duel Lament"), adaptations of Dave Bonta ("In West Virginia" and "Flag Country," from his book, "Failed State"), collaborations with Lucy English ("The Shadow" and "The Names of Trees," for her "Book of Hours" project), and an adaptation of Wallace Stevens ("Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"). Their most recent and upcoming festival appearances include Carmarthen Bay in Wales, the Ozark Foothills Film Fest, the Lisbon Film Rendezvous, Small Axe @Tolpuddle, All Together Now, VASTLAB, the Dallas Medianale, the NEO Another Ideal Screen Festival, the Hombres Videopoetry Competition Short List screening, and REELpoetry 2020 and 2021.

Jack and Pam co-direct the films they make together, and they collaborate fully, even when they divide up the credits. Their poetry poems usually start with the 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’s poems; the poems inspired more images, and eventually the edited film poems. For us, the exact process depends on the project, so our body of work is somewhat disparate. Some of our eclectic interests include collage, found footage, and repurposing; soundscapes composed from natural sounds and samples; 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; and postmodern melodrama.