The idea for “Gilbert” spawned from the semi-ethereal experience of getting my wisdom teeth removed. An eighteen-year-old anesthetic virgin, I had no means of guessing that the sedation injected into my veins would be the catalyst for my very first break in consciousness. As my self-awareness floated into oblivion, my body began to walk, talk, and text blood-spattered photos of its gauze-packed jaws, all in autopilot mode.
When my mind finally snapped back into place five hours later, I was met with a sudden bout of existential terror: while operating outside the bounds of my ego’s correctional gaze, what was there to stop my body from entering a murderous frenzy? I have always been distrustful of my subconscious, believing that even the slightest regulatory slackening would result in homicidal mania. To confront this phobia and come to grips with my philosophically distressing dental incident, I decided to make a film.
In its early stages, “Gilbert”’s largest creative obstacle lied in determining how to relate my non-tangible, personal experience through visual media. As the project’s script explored ambiguous themes of memory and personhood, it seemed wrong to convey its narrative using the traditionally literal shots of live-action filmmaking. Instead, I approached “Gilbert’”s shot list symbolically, capturing images which represent the narrator’s mind in the fickle process of recalling his rodent-based trauma.
The film’s subjects, however, are not abstracted equally, with each image lying on a scale between near-objective portrayals (ie. the dentist’s chair or blood-soaked teeth) and free association (ie. the ceiling mounted balloons or static worm circle). The sheer diversity of the project’s shot list made “Gilbert” a joy to film, as I found myself performing a litany of unexpected tasks from nursing a tobacco hornworm to buying a rat carcass from PetSmart.
Looking back, I view “Gilbert” as the most significant work produced during my initial foray into filmmaking. Although lacking in some technical respects, I believe this film marks a pivotal step in forging my directorial vision, as attempts to push the medium of film into uncharted waters.