Young filmmaker tells how his dad, a well-known painter of landscapes, helped him see the world
Carl Reader , Staff Writer
SOLEBURY — When Solebury resident Jody Lipes set out to make a film about his father, artist Jan Keith Lipes, he knew just how to do it.
He had a role model on how to approach art.
In the film, Jan Lipes of Hidden Valley Drive, a former physician with multiple sclerosis, comments that in all the stories about him, eventually those who wrote about him cut through all the issues about his illness and his former profession and concentrated on his art. For the award-winning painter whose traditional oil landscapes are exhibited in Philadelphia and Bucks County galleries, his art is what is important.
For Jody Lipes, the same approach prevailed.
"It was very important to me that it wasn't a film about my dad from the perspective of a son to his father," Jody Lipes said. "I wanted it to be a sort of objective stance."
The film, called "Portrait," was objective enough and impressive enough to win the Bucks Fever Film Fest 2002 award for Emerging Documentary. Sponsored by the Bucks County Chamber of Commerce, the Doylestown film festival showed an encore presentation July 10 of Jody Lipes' film and the other winners and the honorable mention winners at the County Theater.
In all, eight films were encored, with subjects as varied as the struggles of the female telephone operators of World War I to cigar making in a small shop in Brooklyn to high school eating disorders.
A graduate of the George School in Newtown, Pa., and a junior at New York University, Jody Lipes found more than a subject in his father. He has his own unique vision, but he acknowledged the debt he as a filmmaker has to his artist father in the ways he sees the world and how his dad helped him to see the world.
"My dad was very into photography for a while," Jody Lipes said. "I grew up with his pictures around the house, looking at his family photos and stuff. I never really thought of him that way, but I think that influenced me in terms of cinematography. Also, in terms of his paintings, I learned just from the way he frames his paintings."
Putting the still lifes of photography and art into motion to create film is another skill, though, and Jody Lipes also gave his father credit for helping him create his own vision there.
"The biggest thing is the films he chose to show me," Jody Lipes said.
From the age of 3, he was shown the films of the Japanese film giant Kurasowa. Jody Lipes said he couldn't even read at the time, but the movies he was shown had their effect.
"My first action film was 'The Seven Samurai,' " he said. "I grew up with that. I think his biggest influence, aside from esthetically in terms of his art, was the films he chose to show me and the films he loves, which are now the films I love."
Influence can feed a talent, but Jody Lipes knew enough to realize making a film about his father, to be successful, had to be made objectively. Like the writers who wrote about Jan Lipes' art by cutting through the exterior facts about him, the son who made the documentary about him had to cut through the facts that he grew up with him, loved him and had learned from him.
The film does just that. It shows cuts of Jan Lipes at work and it shows him commenting on his art. It shows a photograph of a subject the artist chose and then it will show a painting of how the artist finally depicted it, demonstrating how Jan Lipes views the world.
Jody Lipes had the ability to present his father with his own vision, despite the closeness of the subject. He made it an objective view of someone very near to him through technique and preparation.
"It was a very clinical experience," Jody Lipes said. "I had done it before (he made a film), and I knew what I wanted ahead of time. I shot it very quickly.
"I didn't really feel anything for it until it was done. It came out very easily. I think the first time I went through this I learned that my work has to be about my life, at this point anyway. I don't have enough life experience to make a film about something I haven't experienced, so it needs to be close to me."
Few people are closer than son and father. In this case, the vision suggested by the father became the unique creativity of the son. The project was put together with Jody Lipes' partner in film, Lance Edmunds, his college roommate.
While Mr. Edmunds is aiming toward a career as a director, Jody Lipes is looking to be a cinematographer. The two work as a team.
"I'd like to study cinematography in graduate school, just cinematography," Jody Lipes said. "I'd like to focus on that and really learn it. Although I can focus on it in undergraduate school, it's not as intensive as I'd like it to be. I really want to immerse myself in that. I plan to do an apprenticeship with a working cinematographer before I graduate from NYU. I'm going to take some time off for that."
His next project is in the works. He's working on a short film called "French Kiss," a story of unrequited love. It'll be shot in Pennsylvania in September or October. Count on it being another creation of a son who got his first glimpse of art from the vision of his father and then went on to create his own unique work.
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