Utopic editor Craig Lewandowski partnered with director Sandro Miller to create “Psychogenic Fugue,” a 20-minute film starring John Malkovich in which the actor plays seven characters in scenes recreated from some of David Lynch’s most iconic films and TV shows including The Log Lady, Special Agent Dale Cooper, and even Lynch himself as narrator of the film. It is part of a charity project called Playing Lynch that will benefit the David Lynch Foundation, which seeks to introduce at-risk populations affected by trauma to transcendental meditation.
Shot in Chicago at the just-shuttered Red Moon Theater over five days last January, and posted entirely in Chicago with Utopic handling all graphics, VFX and sound design, the film is part of a multimedia fundraising extravaganza hosted by Squarespace and executed by Austin-based agency, Preacher. The seven vignettes are being released one at a time on Playinglynch.com, where, for a donation, visitors to the site can “unlock” segments in advance of the free release.
Tasked with creating two pieces— seven stand-alone scene re-creations and an entire short film comprised of all the re-creations, Miller and his creative director, Stephen Sayadian, came up with the idea of filming Malkovich actually playing Lynch reciting quotes from various interviews that diehard fans would recognize to tie all the vignettes together. A hallway was built for those scenes, complete with strobes and smoke, loosely modeled after a commercial Lynch shot years ago.
“My role in production was twofold,” says Lewandowski, who also edited the short film “Hell,” directed by Miller and starring Malkovich, which is currently hitting the festival circuit. “The first was to make sure we stayed true to the original films. The second was to help make the hallway/Lynch pieces as interesting as possible, using them to offset but also bind the re-creations together.”
Lewandowski began work on the project by building a reference edit comprised of all the scenes they would be recreating, which he would later use in his edit. It also served as a guide for the shoot; Malkovich used it to study his characters. In post, Mike Matusek (Nolo, Chicago) used it for color correction.
Back row l to r: Craig Lewandowski and Justin Winkler, Utopic. From row l-r: Sandro Miller (director), Stephen Sayadian (creative director), Eric Alexandrakis (composer).
Invited by Miller to be on set for the shoot, Lewandowski ensured the framing, timing and action closely replicated what Lynch did in the original scenes while also working with cameramen to get all the cutaway pieces needed for the re-creations and hallway shots.
“I knew we’d have an opportunity to really push those hallway shots, utilizing the strobe and close-ups of the images painted on the walls, so I had the DP grab all kinds of elements I knew would be handy later,” he says.
Once in post, Utopic sound designer Brian Leitner and composer Eric Alexandrakis, who has worked Miller before on various projects, were brought in to help with the rough cut. VFX were handled in house by Justin Winkler with Ryan Gilbert adding graphics with Heather Mitchell executive producing.
“While I loved working on the vignettes and the entire film, I am most proud of the trailer,” says Lewandowski. “That’s where I was able to sit back and just GO. Stephen helped with the structure, Brian added sound design, and Eric provided a crazy amount of music stems for me to manipulate.”
The complete film, “Psychogenic Fugue,” premieres at the upcoming Festival of Disruption in Los Angeles, curated by Lynch himself. Lewandowski and Gilbert will be in attendance along with Lynch, Miller, Robert Plant, Frank Gehry, Mel Brooks, Kyle McLaughlin, Laura Dern and a host of other actors and musicians who have been part of the Lynch body of work.
“There were many big-time players involved in this film, all located in different parts of the country, so I’m really proud that the production and post was done completely in Chicago,” says Lewandowski. “The set design, costume, hair and makeup, and of course, directing and acting—it was fascinating watching all this come together. I’m grateful that we got the opportunity to handle the post production and showcase the talent at Utopic.”