LIFE IN ART
1978 - PRESENT
THE CONSTELLATIONS COMPROMISED POETRY SHOWS (2003)
Before Silvanus began composing and singing music, he teamed up with jazz pianist Parrish Anderson and produced a serious of well-received live shows in which his poetry was married to Parrish's jazz stylings, and a precisely-timed slide show projection of Silvanus' photographs taken in various parts of the world corresponding to the poem at hand. Dance beats were mixed into the brew, along with female dancers and costume changes. Silvanus morphed from Southern gentleman in a white suit, to disaffected urbane hipster, to a hyper-sexual cowboy growling an extended funk version of his poem "Writer's Sex (Kiss This Moment)" featuring Parrish's Herbie Hancock-styled piano solo. These shows evolved into what would become the marathon 100 song pop opera, Constellations Compromised.
SWEET PIECE - THE NOVEL (Trevisi Publications 2002, 240 pages)
A lush and poetic journey into Southern Gothic fused sex and spirituality against a backdrop of racism, violence and provincial discontents in 1963 North Carolina. Chas Collins is a wounded young hustler who falls in love with a blind girl who may be divinely possessed, or wholly delusional, and their love ignites, and then destroys, a closeted small town simmering with mendacity and Protestant shame. "Jaw-droppingly honest," wrote one reviewer. "A poetic page-turner with cinematic ferocity," wrote another. A whiplash saga of sex, violence and angels that dares to pit vivid and varied sexual encounters side-to-side with rigorous metaphysical discourses, and apologizes for neither. Elegantly packaged in a Eurostyle presentation.
SWEET PIECE - THE FILM (1996 --)
Silvanus spent nearly seven years laboring to bring the script adaptation of his novel, "Sweet Piece" to screen. His L.A. colleague, Brian Hawk, had scrupulously helped hone down the script into a taut, rabble-rousing, lush screen epic flush with Pathe Color, period lounge-jazz, and steamy Southern locales in North Carolina. Years of location scouting, music pre-production, casting submissions, and storyboarding came to halt when 9-11 sent the $6 million funding back to Manila from whence it was to come. Slaughter had signed on a promising young lead local actor, Brian Martin, and was having no problem interesting the likes of Aidan Quinn and Katherine Hegel. "A pity," he laments. "It left me bankrupt, but forced me into music. It will get made, and made correctly, under my direction. It is a gorgeous, emotional journey of highs and Hells, this film."
WAYLON IN THE RUINS OF ROME
A ruthless psychosexual study of a fallen psychologist who tries to reinvent himself as a Hollywood publicist to only run head-on into more psychic calamity. "The budget's only 2.5 million, but the climate for introspection and self-awareness is not here, yet. I don't think there's ever been a film that studies the American male's anxious relationship with his own body - and issues of power and masculinity - so astringently." It's also a rude comedy about Hollywood manners.
LA DANZA MODERNA
In the heart and mind of a young America woman lurks a dangerous Sicilian mystery, or so goes the tag line for this psychological puzzle picture Slaughter has labored on since 1988, and once optioned, but never sold. Mary Richmond rebounds from unrequited love, and a suicide attempt, then reclaims her professional life by taking on a disquieting, bloody investigation in Tucson, Arizona that mirrors her own devastated heart. "This is one of my favorite projects because it tackles the whole problem of subject and object, and the problems of projection, while turning its lens on the obsessive nature of what I call "the love-story dream."
UN INCONTRO | AN ENCOUNTER - 1995
"Stylish and rigorously intellectual." PBS Philadelphia
Undoubtedly, Silvanus got to Hollywood probably two or three decades too late. He arrived in the mid-80s. Pop culture had not been as shallow and glitzy since Tab Hunter and Fabian were crafted into movie stars in the 50s, and movie duds like Star! and Paint Your Wagon had yet to flop and give way to movies about psychological and soul concerns like The Graduate and Midnight Cowboy. But, here he was in post-Flashdance hell, all bright-eyed and determined to write and direct a feature as important as Nic Roeg's Don't Look Now or Coppola's The Conversation.
"A pity," he says, "because the old Jewish masters of the studio system would have understood me - like Irving Thalberg - but they were dead and gone, and had been replaced by coke-snorting young narcissists from Brown and Vassar. The kind who voiced open contempt for anything that dared take art or soul-making seriously ("Oh, phony Joni Mitchell. Whatever. Fellini? Fellini who? He's so yesterday.") In short, dumb."
In the course of thirteen weird years, Silvanus sold one script, optioned two, and saw none of them go into production. "In the early Nineties, frustrated with playing a game whose only rules were who you know and who you blow - a game I don't play so well - so I went out on a limb and made a debut mini-feature, un incontro | an encounter while everyone else was blowing Tarantino."
Silvanus paid homage to the style of acerbic Italian tragicomedies of the 60s he had grown up on by Luciano Salce and Pietro Germi, and ably demonstrated directing skills he had honed in San Francisco theatre in the early Eighties, and evidenced his command of style with demonstrated economy in both running time and budget. Well-received abroad and on the East Coast, and televised nationally on PBS' New Visions series, his debut film failed to make him any new Hollywood friends. In fact, he was working at HBO Films at the time, and after the film was released, superiors in that feudal-styled hierarchy began to treat him rather shoddily.
"Actually, I don't think the taleneted young Asian filmmaker who directed Swimming with Sharks the following year fared any better than I did with winning friends and influencing people."
Hollywood in the 90s was about grabbing power and mesmerizing others; it was not about introspection.
"Somehow I don't think it has changed, judging by the product. "I'm a skilled filmmaker, and I still have the bug. Four feature projects La Danza Moderna, Sweet Piece, Waylon in the Ruins of Rome and Venice in Peril could go into production tomorrow if I had the budgets secured." Time will tell. "I'm proud of these screenplays, and they remain... uncompromised. But filmmaking is too much work to bear compromises and absurd egos that only want to be seen on Entertainment Tonight, and could give a rat's ass about content or soul-making. There are some great, quality people in the film industry; the trick is waiting your turn to attract them."
Produced, Written and Directed by Silvanus Slaughter, 1994, 16mm Film Edited by Cynthia Fitzpatrick Music Score by Neil Argo Sound by Brian Hawk Director of Photography Laurie Schena
Starring Eric Kohner and Honey Lauren
RAGE IN ORANGE (1994)
Some producers hired me to write a stage play about women in California in the early Nineties dealing with the, then, new reality of women testing "positive" for antibodies to HIV. I added some class issues between a street Latina and her upper-middle class counterpart, and her cheating husband; a reformed hooker who was now proselytizing A Course in Miracles; a black mother of a kid with this new dis-ease; and a healthy, straight-acting gay male lawyer." Close to a hundred thousand dollars was invested for an opening at San Francisco's New Conservatory Theater. "The producers came back and told me they wanted it to be less hopeful - imagine that - and to pull out the straight-acting, healthy, gay lawyer who was trying to walk these female neophytes-to-disease through all this hysteria and 90s fear. I walked. These people were out to sell fear. Big Surprise."
THE CONSTELLATIONS COMPROMISED / LE CONSTELLAZIONE COMPROMSESSE - 1994 - 183 Pages
A compendium of published and unpublished poems and short stories dating back to Silvanus' college years, interspersed with photo stills from his film of that year, "un incontro / an encounter." Silvanus' performed his poetry in various L.A. cafes and clubs that year before having a meltdown from having stayed in Los Angeles far longer than any human being should attempt. An initial run of 900 copies sold out. Not a lot by book standards, but, for poetry, notable. Several of the poems would inspire the subsequent pop opera, "Constellations Compromised." "In retrospect, I think some pieces are weepy, but it's a truthful document of a dark, strange era, and my attempt to hold on to certain ideals in the time of Death, AIDS, Yuppies, and Oliver North."
TESLA - SCREENPLAY -1985-1989
Silvanus spent over three years on a massive biopic project about the iconoclastic and misunderstood Serbo-Croatian scientist, writing, re-writing, researching arcane books, hunting down patents, interviewing Yugoslavians with various theories about Tesla and the fate of his inventions. The screenplay was optioned three times, purchased once, almost filmed, then shelved, and the rights returned to its author. "Nikola Tesla is the original Man Who Fell to Earth, the artist who tries to free man from limitation to only be obstructed by man's fear and greed."
CINEMUSIC - WEEKLY RADIO SHOW
SAN FRANCISCO MARCH 1982 - MARCH 1985
Silvanus produced and hosted a one-hour music weekly special for KUSF-FM, a popular spot for kids shopping for Punk and Post-Wave in the early 80s. "I wanted the kids to see how current musics had been shaped by film scores - so I melded cuts by Bernard Herrmann and Pino Donaggio with tunes from films by, then famous, modern film composers like Tangerine Dream, Giorgio Moroder and Brian Eno. It became rather popular, but it pleased me most that punks could sit and appreciate a romantic theme by Bernard Herrmann now without dismissing it as sentiment. These years would do a lot to shape my own musical compositions in the future, and it helped that my show preceded a very popular show by Howie Klein, who went on to head up 415 Records and become VP of Reprise at Warners in L.A."