A young girl (April Word) goes to live with her building contractor father (Larry Harvey) after he divorced her midwest mother (Barbara Jasperson). She takes with her the red leaves of her former home and tries to preserve their color. She enters another dimension by way of her insecurity and the mischievous daughter of a puzzle maker, Delvie (Flora Ham).
It started as a short story from Lorett's point of view as she writes her mother about the goings-on in California. This changed to a detailed description to her father in order to convince him that the events really happened so he wouldn't punish her for missing "the test." In retrospect, I should've left it in it's original form.
I think it's a major issue for children who are moved around when young that their sense of "home" becomes abstract. This insecurity about where home is can actually lead to a more flexible appreciation of the world. The image of insecurity in this case is represented by the high chair which becomes a vehicle for exploration. Lorett's early dream of a carnival ride that doesn't let you off near the entrance but takes you "far away" is later taken to extremes when a high chair is discovered on Mars. The notion of "creative trauma" fascinates me. Some of the most intense discoveries I've had in my life were through shocks and insecurity. Security can simply enforce habit. But for each person the degree of trauma with a constructive outcome is different. For some, shocking events shut down the individual and limit their perception. For the character of Lorett, however, the dislocating events provide a portal for her future development.
I had avoided the video medium for years because detail was so lacking in comparison to film. However at a certain point it was clear video was the wave of the future and the only way I could afford to make another movie. Composer Richard Marriott loaned me his consumer Hi-8 camcorder and in late 1993 I plunged in to shooting what I considered a simple story about a girl who didn't know where home was anymore. The project was timed to be shot in autumn and I had people in Minnesota send boxes of red maple leaves to me in California for use in the picture. As usual though, the project stretched out for months and painting the leaves red became a plot element.
April Word was the daughter of Jeanie Mackenzie who played violin on my soundtrack for "Limboid." Flora Ham was the daughter of 60s light show pioneer Bill Ham (who had also appeared in "Limboid") and had a bit of theater experience. Larry Harvey was a friend and founder of the Burning Man festival and though he was/is not an actor, it seemed he could convey the right attitude for the role and understood the symbolism. Mathematician Stan Issacs had made the resin arrowhead shape for Limboid and I knew he was a puzzle fanatic so I borrowed 75 puzzles from him for Delvie's domain (the interior of which was shot inside the custom dome house of photographer William Binzen). Robert Hubbard, another friend through the San Francisco Cacophony Society, helped with the camerawork, and veteran carnival sign painter and friend Dave Warren, painted all the "school" signs. The wonderful leaf paintings were done by Catherine Rose Crowther.
It was also around this time that I discovered MIDI and electronic sampled instruments. Though it would be a couple of years later before I studied music formally, I bought my first computer and busied myself composing the soundtrack to Lorett. Listening back to it today, I realize that the desktop orchestra sounds are pretty inexpressive compared to live instruments but the novelty of instantly hearing your music had possessed me at that moment.
"Lorett at a Loss" was never intended to be a major effort but instead a way to get my feet wet in the video world before embarking on my bigger more elaborate projects: "Wreck Tangle," and "Turn Coat." However, they both proved to be impossible to shoot on a cab driver's budget and exist only in written story form on my website.