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Watch: An Exclusive Clip from Alison O’Daniel’s Independent Lens Premiere, The Tuba Thieves

Artist and filmmaker Alison O’Daniel appeared on Filmmaker‘s 25 New Faces list in 2019 as her feature The Tuba Thieves, screening next week on Independent Lens, moved from stop-and-start production — she had been shooting the film in “bits and pieces” since 2013 — to a finishing sprint. Inspired by a news story about a rash of tuba thefts from Los Angeles marching bands, the film is an impressive and wholly original expansion of O’Daniel’s overall project. As I wrote in the 25 New Face piece, “Sound — as subject matter, metaphor, and structuralist organizing principle — is at the heart of O’Daniel’s work, which mixes conceptual art practice, narrative storytelling, documentary and engagement with the deaf and hard of hearing communities.” Along with the story of the instrument absconders, The Tuba Thieves‘s expansive form allows for mini-essays on the Deaf Club, a San Francisco punk rock venue that catered to the d/Deaf community, as well as John Cage’s seminal “silent” work 4’33”.

O’Daniel talked about the film’s evolution in an interview last year with Natalia Keogan:

In the very beginning, I remember talking about this project as having an “exploded narrative,” and it isn’t necessarily confined within a cinematic single-channel film. It’s expanded into performances, objects and materials. A lot of the titles for shows and for sculptures come from the script. I always talk about the writing process on this project as a listening and making process. People would get added to the script based on performances that I did with them….

I’ve always thought of the script as breathing, and I am really averse to film rules. I find them so restrictive and unexciting. I’m really excited about working in this way where a film can just constantly unfold, explode and implode. People are constantly really engaging and interesting to me, so why not include them, write parts for them and celebrate the richness that happens between all of us?

Check out the clip above and watch the Sundance world-premiering The Tuba Thieves on Independent Lens beginning May 20.

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