Chris Sakr, blooming king of Southern Oregon celluloid
Got a quarter? Flip it to Chris Sakr, a 19-year-old amateur film-maker and a walking jukebox of film trivia, wisdom and insight. An ever-bohemian lad, Sakr comes across as a walking talking cinema-culture collage; running his fingers through his Coppola-Castro scruff, speaking in a neurotic Scorsese staccato beat, bats flying across his haunted-lover Goddard eyes and gracefully chain-smoking like Alain Delon; the end result is a style all Sakr and painfully raw.
"I like to ask questions with my art and let people answer them for themselves," said Sakr, a Portland native who has bloomed a bit in Ashland soil and plans to head for the Hollywood hills to toss his celluloid lasso in the near future. Sakr is in a renaissance of guerilla film-making; writing, producing, story-boarding, casting, directing and editing like a budding whirlwind.
Sakr takes a deep breath, laying on the grass, framing the clouds and the sun and the birds in his mind, making up little metaphors. He starts rattling off his muses like a man possessed. "Oh, Scorsese's great. He doesn't over-think visuals. It's all about the motion of the camera, that's why he's masterful. And Kubrick's got that depth of field; the wide-angle, even in the close-ups, that's why movies are the way they are now, then there's Truffaut, with the hand-held camera and that theory that the world's a soundstage. It's all about the guerilla film-making. I gotta stay true to that."
To a stranger, Sakr's frenzied ranting might seem a little overwhelming, but he's no slouch. Prior to arriving at college he'd already received a degree of acclaim. "One of my good friends' mother works with an annual domestic violence vigil in Hillsburo. They wanted me to a make them a documentary on domestic violence," said Sakr. "I couldn't do it, I needed to tell a specific story." Thus was created "Adrian's Eye," a short film about an 8-year-old in a violent household written and directed by Sakr which is still shown at that and similar events, in schools and on public access. "People recognize me from that work," said Sakr. "They released a QA interview after the film. It is still one of the most nerve-racking experiences of my life."
Sakr credits much of his influence as stemming from "catholic guilt" gained from his upbringing. Adopted, Sakr was mainly raised by his mother.
"I'd never really done a comedy before getting here," said Sakr, who usually prefers more grounded narratives focusing on the human condition. Recently he produced some light satire regarding his dorm experiences, but usually Sakr goes for a more organic style of drama. He, unlike many contemporary film-writers, prefers avoiding trauma.
"The average Joe doesn't have it easy; you don't need tormented characters to create interesting or compelling narratives,' he said.
Also, in quite rare form, Sakr doesn't like graphic depictions of sex or drug use in his films.
Sakr fell in love with the medium of filmmaking at a young age, when a group project led him to directing a short film in middle school.
"I just fell in love with being behind the camera," said Sakr. "I never liked art classes or being told what to do with my art," said Sakr. "It's my apprehension about film school. I enjoy being able to do a lot with little money. I did a lot of storyboards before ever picking up a camera."
Now Sakr is wading through deeper waters, learning to cast, learning to chop.
"I like actors to be familiar with lines; it either gives them a better platform for educated improve or the ability to work directly with the wonderful lines I've written," said Sakr with a chuckle.
Prior to moving to Ashland he mostly wrote all of his leads for his lifelong friend and production partner Michael Hall, which they produced together through Sall Productions.
"I generally write my own stuff. I write relatively quickly; I can do a full length script in between three weeks to two months," he said. "At that point, if I decide to produce the script we go into post-production."
His next project, which begins filming in the Portland industrial area, is called "Homemade Napalm," focusing on the social breakdown within a tight knit group of homeless teens.
He gets excited now. "There's dissent in ranks, and things can go horribly wrong, as you can imagine," he says, talking quickly.
"I hope," said Sakr, "That my films can speak for themselves without my having to speak for them."