Post-Echo is primarily a local record label, promoting mostly Columbia acts alongside a few others from throughout the Southeast, but they also function in part to create collaborative and adventurous audio-visual projects. First, there was the soundtracked graphic novel Drift, a philosophical sci-fi tale that solidified the collective’s high-minded and hallucinatory aesthetic. Then came PASSAGE, a silent (but again soundtracked) serial film that follows its protagonist, Bobby, across eerie and abandoned industrial landscapes, as he attempts to piece together questions about existence, narrative, civilization and his own history.
The final part of the film was released this past winter, but now Post-Echo has released a “remix” — a choose-your-own-adventure version that allows Bobby and the audience to engage the film crew and their own questions regarding the story in three-minute snippets that incorporate both old and new footage. It is, if nothing else, a fascinating intellectual exercise
Free Times caught up with Franklin Jones, one of the leaders of Post-Echo, to ask him how (and why) all of this came about.
Free Times: So where did the idea to do a remix of PASSAGE come from?
Franklin Jones: The concept of PASSAGE as this existential-type remix thing was always an idea we shared, but the whole choose-your-own-adventure rabbit hole didn’t take shape until a few months ago. We first started releasing PASSAGE in monthly installments last year with each successive installment growing in size, scope, and hopefully mystique.
For the release of the fifth and final one, we wanted to re-examine the previous four installments from different perspectives — sort of like if the events from Rashomon wandered into the Donnie Darko wormhole. Instead of multiple people experiencing the same event from different perspectives, multiple events are being experienced by the same person at the same time in different places. When all five installments were complete, the goal was for the order of the segments to not really matter. Someone could feasibly watch them backwards or shuffle all five at random; the story and message would remain ultimately the same.
Honestly, as the storyline evolved and set pieces and editing grew in scale to the point where multiple Bobbys were not only sharing a screen, but at times fistfighting, I think we lost sight of efficiently communicating this part of the story in favor of just completing the damn thing.
The “cinematic remix” angle is a revised way of doubling-down on this concept while also belaboring the viewer less. There’s over 100 minutes of content in PASSAGE; it’s more easily digestible in bite-size meta-chunks.
The original concept was already fairly meta. What’s the appeal of sending that into overdrive on the remix and incorporating the film crew into the concept?
Originally, the plan was for the film crew to have a quick cameo in the epilogue of the final version. However, filming ended up lasting just over a year, and that’s an especially long time to stay in the mindset for something like PASSAGE without some new ideas developing. Lots of weekends were spent where the three of us wandered South Carolina’s abandoned periphery looking for the right terrain, the right structures — most importantly, the right terrain and structures where we wouldn’t get shot or worse.
These were things we actively had to worry about in addition to the usual frustrating logistics of filming. A lot of what made it to the screen was produced under not ideal circumstances. For instance, during the segment with Bobby and the chair in the field, we came across an elderly lady near the woods who warned us that her son was “shooting his guns out here, so be careful, he’s not forgiving to trespassers.” That entire scene ended up being filmed with gunshots going off just beyond the treeline. Don’t ask us why we stayed. The chair was heavier than it looked, and we were already out there. This kind of thing happened all the time. It was a real journey for everyone and on par with the story we were trying to tell.
By the end, it just made sense, given the project’s already meta nature, to work the filmmaking journey into the concept and abandon the cameo idea in favor of a more developed plot layer. Plus, it also gives the viewer an additional Bobby to control — in this case, Bobby Markle, the actor playing Bobby Markle the character.
Built into the concept is the notion that we have a degree of agency in how we interact with the world around us. Does PASSAGE — in either iteration — challenge that notion?
I’m not so sure it challenges the notion as much as it encourages viewers to interact with what they find personally intriguing. Different people respond to different things. Sometimes a fuse box is just a fuse box. Other times, there’s a pair of rusty metal headphones inside with a mysterious voice whispering to you from the other end. Think of a self-aware Super Mario declaring agency from lateral movement; it really all depends on what we feel inclined to explore. For example, when we do find that mysterious fusebox with Bobby, the significance of this discovery is left up to us. There’s always the option to just walk away and explore the rest of the world. And if that doesn’t strike your fancy, you can always go Evil Bobby and try to kill the film crew.
Who did all the music for the remix?
Choose-Your-Own-PASSAGE features original music from Cancellieri, Koda, Forces of a Street, Devereaux and JFS. The filming/editing process happened first. Then we presented the artists with a silent template of images to musically express their interpretation of just what the hell was going on with Bobby and where they felt the story was headed. We were incredibly lucky to work with such inspired musicians all operating at the top of their game. It’s beyond humbling.