Grindin’ it out: Kevin Everson keeps on filming

It’s hard to tell whether Charlottesville’s resident experimental filmmaker Kevin Everson spends more time behind the viewfinder of his 16mm camera or at airports.

Since 2010, Everson’s films have played at, among other venues, the Toronto Film Festival, the New York Film Festival, and throughout Europe and South America, frequently with him in attendance. The Whitney Museum’s Everson retrospective ran from April to September and was warmly reviewed by the likes of the New York Times. His films were also released in a 3-DVD set called Broad Daylight and Other Times.

Meanwhile, he continuously made new movies, five of which are screening at this year’s Film Festival in an hour-long program, hosted by Everson.

Everson, 45, seems pleased by– but wary of– his critical laurels. “It’s Kool and the Gang,” he says. “I’m just grindin’ it out. It’s good. I take it with a grain of salt, because at the end of the day, I’ve got to make new s***. So I never let it get to me...

“I’ve got no problem with it,” he laughs.

Everson’s latest movies are “an exercise in form,” he explains. “There’s five films, but three different forms.” Most are fiction, but one is a semi-documentary.

Predictable Everson isn’t. With his usual avant-garde flair, he “did three films based on Columbus, Mississippi, that aren’t shot in Columbus, Mississippi,” he says wryly. “They’re shot in Cleveland, Ohio, which makes complete sense.”

One is Chicken, based on Tennessee Williams’ play, Kingdom of Earth, and involves Columbus, Williams’ hometown. Another, Ten Five in the Grass, is about black calf-ropers in Louisiana and Mississippi. Everson says that he sought to capture the “graceful craft” of the ropers as they prepare.

Two of the films were inspired by ’70s pop culture. Rita Lawson’s Boy sprang from Everson’s curiosity about actor and Columbus native Nathaniel Taylor, co-star of Sanford and Son. Everson couldn’t find Taylor’s audition tapes, he explains, so he “had 10 actors in Cleveland audition for [Taylor’s] role in Sanford and Son.” Another film, Early Riser, was inspired by a scene from the 1970 film Cotton Comes to Harlem

And then there’s Chevelle where you get to see two GM cars getting crushed. Who says experimental cinema isn’t action-packed?

"What Kevin does is find aesthetic significance in ordinary moments," says Hook art critic Laura Parsons. "Focusing on working-class African-American experiences, he makes visual poems that unfold slowly, often with repetitive elements, which locate value within everyday labor and leisure."

As these latest films tour the festival circuit, how does Everson stay excited about his work while “grinding out” next year’s movies?

“I just like making art,” he explains. “No one’s going to make it for me, and the only way to get better is to keep making stuff and to figure out what worked and what didn’t work for that piece, and then move on.

“It’s like being a dancer or anybody else– you’ve got to practice.”

Kevin Everson will host a program of his films at 2 pm Friday, November 4, at the Regal 3 on the Downtown Mall.

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