Rob Christopher shot “Pause of the Clock” on 16mm film in Colorado and Chicago in 1996. He edited it last year. In the 18 years the movie sat in the can, the world of filmmaking changed — but “Pause of the Clock” remained the same, inadvertently becoming a souvenir of a world in technological flux.
After graduating from Columbia College of Chicago in 1997, Christopher was forced to abandon the project, leaving it untouched for years. In that time, digital filmmaking became the default, and 16mm became increasingly difficult to shoot, scan or even view.
Christopher was forced to confront the film industry’s transformation when, nearly two decades after shooting “Pause of the Clock,” he noticed that 16mm processing was becoming increasingly sparse. Fearing the film’s deterioration, Christopher dug out the original negatives, used his savings to have them scanned, and resumed work on his film last year.
“As I began to string the shots together on my computer, something beautiful happened,” he said. “The film spoke to me again. I began to see the real movie buried in the footage.”
He mounted a Kickstarter campaign — a solution that, when “Pause of the Clock” was shot, would have been impossible — which raised over $15,000, to fund the film’s post-production and distribution.
Finally, after two decades, Christopher was able to finish his film — a “living time capsule,” as he describes it — in time for it to premiere at the 38th Annual Denver Film Festival last Saturday.
A Denver premiere for “Pause of the Clock” is fitting, given that parts of the film were shot here in Colorado.
When production on “Pause of the Clock” began, crowdfunding did not yet exist. Much like the film industry rapidly evolved as Christopher set aside the project, the Kickstarter funding that allowed him to complete it relied on modern innovation.
Though his film is largely complete by the grace of the Internet, most current technologies that drive our social interactions are noticeably absent from his film: Characters don’t use social media or cell phones; they don’t use digital camcorders or edit on computers. It’s an analog world — one that is gone.
In that sense, “Pause of the Clock” is the seamless marriage of two disparate decades: Its gritty, filmic, handheld visuals are foreign to the film world of 2015, but its depiction of snowy Colorado is instantly familiar.
The movie follows college roommates Rob and Dylan, who are working together on a film called “Crueler than Truth.” Their friendship is strained when Dylan finds — and secretly reads — Rob’s diary. Dylan’s secret feelings of attraction toward Rob muddle the pair’s dynamic as Dylan stumbles across unsettling news about his friend’s character.
Their shifting relationship manifests itself as Rob and Dylan continue to work on “Crueler than Truth,” creating what Christopher described in a statement as a “fragmented reality” that blurs the line between life and plot.
The film has an obvious analog quality that seems perfectly at home in the Colorado of the past, and is equally stunning in 2015.
“‘Pause of the Clock’ is not simply a souvenir — it’s a message from the past about how our society has changed in 20 years, while also exploring those things about us and our relationships that technology can’t touch,” said Christopher.
“Pause of the Clock” plays at the Sie FilmCenter, in Denver, today, Monday, at 2:15 pm. Tickets are available online.