Film/video artist Eric Saks

By Tk Published on .

Last October, Belief, a Santa Monica-based broadcast design studio, did something slightly incredible. They launched Belief EXP, an experimental media and fine-art division, and brought in avant-video veteran Eric Saks to run it. Saks, 38, has a film/video MFA from Cal Arts; boasts a yard-long list of grants, fellowships and prizes; has taught at a half dozen colleges; and has exhibited just about everywhere art film and video is shown. So what's he doing at a broadcast design house? "I'm here to keep the seven designers on staff thinking in different ways -- to keep them fresh and help them explore," he explains. "Belief doesn't want to be just a typical studio. We can also show clients vanguard possibilities."

Vanguard, indeed. Saks is a past master of "low-fi" filmmaking, as he calls it, with many of his works shot on the Fisher Price Pixelvision toy camera. He's also deeply into art based on "audio and telephony ideas," he notes. "I'm interested in the way people `flex' technology." For instance, Don From Lakewood, a strangely amusing shadow-puppety 23-minute Pixelvision project from 1989 (seen here), is based on a phone prank in which a home-bound guy repeatedly calls a used furniture salesman, trying to get him to schlep a sofa over just so he can see if he likes it. His phone fun "is not at all like the Jerky Boys," says Saks. "They're belligerent. A successful telephony project is one where the mark never knows he's been pranked."

Saks, unsurprisingly, is not necessarily wowed by digital technology. He likens his low-tech techniques to sampling or DJ'ing and adds, "pure CGI is kind of hollow to me. I'm more interested in digital imaging that incorporates tactile stuff from the real world. Hi-res is a construct, it's not the way we really view the world."

Hence EXP's maiden project: a stock photo and digital type foundry DVD based around interpretations of pages from an old diary found in a thrift shop, with segments by each Belief designer. "We became fascinated with who the diarist might have been," Saks says. Whoever he is, he'll never know he's been pranked.

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