"DEAR PETER," a voice booms. "Each day I walk to work, I pass by a giant pile of sawdust." Onscreen, there it sits: a mountain range of steaming woodchips, somewhere in Southeast Portland. The narrator is Orland Nutt, an experimental filmmaker whose most ambitious project to date, Bear of Heaven, debuts as part of a retrospective of Nutt's work at the NW Film Center.
From the infamous "Dear Peter" series of video correspondence, which ponders seemingly random things Nutt encounters in his environment; to a martial-arts-style dance battle between performers Nathan Johnson and Ashby Lee Collinson called Trinity of Three Dragons; to poems winkingly recited in otherworldly settings, Nutt's body of work is a study in color, meditation, and goofiness. It's the good-natured sense of humor in each piece that draws the viewer in, as if to say, "Come on, get weird with us. It's fun."
As WTF as it often is—Nutt or Collinson might appear wearing creepy kabuki-like makeup to recite a list of "elegant things"—Nutt avoids the morose obtuseness of so much experimental film. His films are a blast to watch because they were clearly a blast to make. Nutt says it's the take that makes him laugh the hardest that's usually "the right one."
Nutt has worked for local animation studio Bent Image Lab since 2002, compositing and color correcting along with "a bit of animation and special effects." The influence of his day job is most apparent in Bear, which features a barefoot woman lustily reciting among stop-motion on a miniature paper set. These poem-films are often direct reflections of the visuals certain passages elicit, a pure expression of instinct and imagination. It's weird and it's cool and a lot more fun than "an evening of experimental short films" might otherwise suggest.