A musically-infused grungy "screwball thriller about performance and surveillance," Slow Machine is the upcoming Kickstarter-funded comedy by Paul Felten and Joe DeNardo.

Following up the thematically similar short film She's a Mirror, the new project plans to adapt that same mesmerizing experimental style into a full-blown feature. Shot on beautifully grainy 16mm stock, the team's new film is one of the more ambitious projects to come out of the crowd-funding website, and looks to be one of the most infectiously unique productions of the year.

With a deep and eclectic knowledge of both film and music, and with a cast including Eleanor Friedberger and Chloë Sevigny, it's clear that the picture is being fuelled by a fire of deep passion and love for the two mediums. But with only a few days to go for the team to acquire the final portion of the budget needed to create Slow Machine's dense cinematic narrative (Update: they made it!), the project still needs help to become a reality. We caught up with co-director and screenwriter Paul Felten to shed some light on the would-be feature.

Slow Machine seems like it's packed full of different concepts and themes, but how would you concisely sum up the film to those unfamiliar with your work?

I'm bad at being pithy when it comes to these things, and it was all I could do to come up with concise descriptions for the Kickstarter ("a screwball thriller," etc.), but I can say that we're definitely interested in mercuriality - in the self as a shape-shifting, dynamic, playful entity, and so as a force of (potential) resistance to an increasingly meretricious socio-political context that keeps a close eye on all of us even as it encourages 'individualism.' The movie will hopefully reflect that interest.

You mention the film is going to be funny, however the content doesn't immediately scream comedy. What style of humour are we looking at?

Screwball! Both Joe and I are attracted to the kind of rapid-fire verbal comedy you see in Preston Sturges movies, with the occasional well-timed pratfall. Everybody who appears onscreen is funny in those films, whether they mean to be or not. I wouldn't mind something of the kind happening here. Also speed is crucial - not just the speed with which people talk but the way that they move, gesture, take up space.

Andy Warhol is cited as an influence on the film, but were there any other filmmakers you looked to while creating the concept for the movie?

Yes. Jacques Rivette is a pretty towering figure for both of us, especially L'Amour Fou, Celine and Julie Go Boating, and Le Pont Du Nord, the last of which is shot entirely outdoors in very run-and-gun style. He's conceptually elegant and intellectually rigorous, but at the same time so loose - the films feel like they're being made as you watch them, they're incredibly alive... He's also the best director of theater-in-film, I think, aside from Jean Renoir, because the way he makes the films is far more akin to a theater rehearsal process than it is to industrial moviemaking.

We're also looking at work by Robert Kramer (especially Ice), some late Godard (Every Man For Himself is key) and hey, a little DePalma never hurts - he was making screwball thrillers before we were born.

As part of your Kickstarter rewards a soundtrack for the film is listed. With the musicians featuring in the project, just how important is music?

Very. Joe's a musician, I'm an obsessive music listener, and we're both deeply interested in unconventional sound/image collage. I can't say for sure what part a regular old score will play in the film, but I can promise that we're going to spend a lot of time watching music being made, and listened to. Eleanor and her work were a crucial part of the movie from the get-go.

With the movie tackling such a wide array of themes, from the ideas of performance to surveillance to music to comedy and dark humour, how do you keep such a dense film accessible and focused?

We'll see if we can. The remarkable actors we've cast will naturally be a big part of what keeps people engaged. I don't mind the movie being a little unfocused, so long as it isn't boring.

The performance aspect of the film seems like a really intriguing idea, in what ways are you going to play with that theme in the final movie?

We've always been attracted to performances inside of performances - the play within the play - and there's a lot of that in the script: little sub-movies, theater rehearsals, outright (but creative) deception. The very simple, old-as-the-hills conception of performance as a mask that reveals - it's a driving force, here.

I was really struck by your decision to shoot not only on film, but 16mm film no less. What is it about the style that you prefer over 35mm or digital?

The look. The hum. The color and the grain, which are very particular to the format. I know all these things can ostensibly be achieved on video if you treat the hell out of it, but why not just use, in the first place, the thing you want it to look like? We don't mind the trouble.

Likewise, deciding to shoot on film over the cheaper and easier alternative couldn't have been an easy decision to make. Why is that aesthetic so important to the film you want to create?

It was never going to be shot on video; Joe won't shoot on video if he can help it, and he's shooting the movie, so there was never a 'decision' as such. And I was fine with that, because I wanted to shoot on film too.

I'm also really interested in the contingencies imposed by shooting on film as far as they affect preparation. We won't have the luxury of coverage, here - the actors will have to know their lines, and Joe and I will have to know the best place to put the camera before we get to our locations, which we'll only have for a very limited time. And of course, there will be all sorts of unforeseeable changes and decisions we'll have to make when we're actually in the space, which is exciting. The script is pretty arch and talk-heavy; the tension between the speed with which we'll have to shoot and the relative formality of the writing is part of the experiment.

I thought the style of not only the Kickstater video but your previous movie She's a Mirror really captured the grungy, independent feel of the production. Was this experimental nature always a conscious decision, or was it born more out of necessity?

This is our first long narrative, so it's sort of congenitally experimental. Again, we're both really attracted to work that lives in the space between rigor and play, so our approach was neither conscious nor born of necessity - it's always just been the way this movie had to be made.

Why choose Kickstarter over other crowd-funding sites that allow funding even if the set goal isn't reached? The choice seems to fit right at home with the movie's risky and all-in approach to filmmaking, was this part of the reason at all?

In all honesty, it's because when I was investigating the different venues for crowdfunding, Kickstarter had the highest percentage of projects that I personally wanted to back. Fredrick Wiseman was on there!

Plus we really do need exactly as much as we're asking to simply shoot the movie - any percentage of the amount is great, of course, but why not go for broke? It's certainly been an emotionally fraught few weeks, but high stakes are a good thing, right?


You can donate to the project by heading here.