Doug Pray's 'Levitated Mass' Tells Story of Art, Perseverance and Los Angeles

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Doug Pray’s Levitated Mass is a documentary about a work by artist Michael Heizer—a 340-ton granite boulder—that in 2012 was moved on a custom rig over ten days through California to its permanent home at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art  (LACMA). It’s ultimately a film that’s as much about Los Angeles as it is about the art.

“One day three years ago, Jamie Petricoff, the producer, called me and told me that they were going to move this giant thing through the streets of LA and they would have to take down all the traffic lights. And it was for an art project. And it was immediately of interest to me because first of all, I've never done an art film,” Pray tells “It's just a genre that I really wanted to delve into. And I've always wanted to do a portrait of LA, as a filmmaker, because I've lived here for 25 years.”

Pray’s film involved planning for a live event that was to take place over ten days.  “We scouted the route in a lot of detail, so we knew where the next interesting view was, and it traveled at only five miles per hour, so there were ways we could get around and ahead of it.” Pray explains. “We had three camera people: me; Chris Chomyn, the DP; and Edwin Stevens, who was my assistant and ended up filming a third of the movie. We split the coverage up. And we would jump in moving cars to film it rolling.”

Pray maintains that the film has a message that relates back to all art, including documentary filmmaking itself. "It's a positive movie about sticking to your ideas,” he says. "I relate what happened with the rock a lot to documentaries, because documentaries take so long, and there are so many things that can happen where you lose your will and your way. There's something great about a guy [Michael Heizer] having an idea in 1968, and here it is in 2012.”

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