08 Dec Eliot Rausch
This is a post that I wrote for my students at Kendal College, I felt it could be valuable to others.
Below is a short case study of one of my favourite filmmakers Eliot Rausch, his cinematography and direction have been great sources of inspiration on my journey as a filmmaker and perhaps they will be to you too.
Eliot Rausch is a filmmaker who specialises in short form documentary. His socially conscious work has themes of faith and companionship running through it and his directorial focus often falls on the underdog. Integrity is central to Rausch’s work.
From humble beginnings Rausch worked his way up through school and art college, struggling at times with social anxiety and depression and finding a hiding place in creative work. It appears that his own struggles have channelled him toward the challenging and sometimes uncomfortable content that fills his documentaries. Drug addiction, loss and mental illness often feature but are softened with a glow of hope; this is mirrored in the warm tones and soft light that often characterise his films.
Looking back at his earliest published work can offer a snapshot into the themes that inspire Rausch. Nearly 7 years since it was released on Vimeo it also shows how far the filmmaker has come. This short is raw and challenging in it’s content, it captures the inner conflict of drug addiction yet somehow presents a way out, though it may be far from reach. In many of his earlier films, Rausch presents an intimacy with his subjects, as if there is no division between filmmaker and character, one friend and another.
In 2011 Rausch won the Grand Prize in the Vimeo Awards with his film ‘Last Minutes with Oden’. In characteristic style Rausch thrust the topics of drug addiction, mental illness, loss and faith at a huge web audience. The genius of this film was in Rausch’s choice of main characters, one of which was a three-legged dog named Oden. As Oden reaches the end of his life, crippled by cancer, his owner is forced to come face to face with the loss of his best friend who has remained faithful, loving, forgiving and non-judgemental through the most traumatic times in their life together. Rausch presents the uncomfortable truth that these traits are often lost when human beings are in the grip of trauma, loneliness and ill health. We can learn a lot from our dogs.
Much of Rausch’s work is handheld or shot on a steadicam. Free from the limitations and complications of additional film equipment, he is able to work fast a light and develop a deep intimacy with his subjects’ through close shots and symbiotic movement. Much of the beauty of Rausch’s work comes through the use of light; mainly natural, it is clear he has an instinctive ability to utilize the changing properties of the day in a play between light and dark, warm and cold, good and bad.
Rausch has become an acclaimed director of commercials and web content, is one of my favourite filmmakers and is responsible for capturing one of the most arresting and beautiful shots I have ever seen on film. He is also humble and cares greatly about the integrity of his work and still doesn’t understand why he has done so well! The shot that I mentioned is at 1:47 in the video below. The dialogue from the video is part of a 70 speech by Charlie Kauffman at a BAFTA Screenwriters lecture series which can be seen here – guru.bafta.org/charlie-kaufman-screenwriters-lecture-video