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Adam Cooley - No Reason To Exist (2009)

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can't or won't not

[note: this text is written after a wrap-up of Terrence's favorite films screened at Tromadance] Columbus-native Adam Cooley?s ?Can?t or Won?t Not? was entirely produced, conceived and executed as a visual, computer-generated and modified experiment by the 23-year-old self-taught director. It was, perhaps the most artistically challenging and provocative film shown during TromaDance. [note: this text is written as the first thoughts on Can't or Won't Not] However, it was the next film, ?Can?t or Won?t Not,? which proved itself to be a surprisingly, experimental gem of a film. This digital, computer art  themed film was created by a 23-year-old Columbus, Indiana native, Adam Cooley. This, his first movie, was a visually promising , color-filled work that played upon a fusion of pop-culture and computer-generated effects. It was a challenging and interesting exploration of virtual and real life that sadly needed tighter dialogue and a little more variation. All-in-all, Cooley is film-producer that deserves and needs to further continue and refine his heightened visions. - Terrence Aldridge


This film is about the struggle to love yourself, even after you realize that there's really no reason to exist. The title of the film is a play on words -- it's me saying, "hey! There's no reason for this film to exist, either!" I mean, does the world really need another grainy, black and white, no-budget, experimental film? Maybe not. I gurantee you've never seen anything like this, though. It has been my most well-recieved work. I actually designed my own video game specifically for a 10 second dream sequence in this film. A lot of imagination and creativity was involved in the creation of this film, and it felt like an effortless brain vomit, since I did the entire thing in a breezy, easy 2 weeks time. Most of the film is actually conversations (mostly with myself in a mask), and most of the footage was shot at around 3 AM every night and then edited in the day time. This film was made the day NOTHING... was finished, and I think I made it, again, to cope with my ex leaving me, as lame as it sounds. This film is pretty messed up, as I was messed up while making it. Features a cameo from John Wayne.
Stream the film, in 6 parts:

Download the film:304mb avi direct link page

"The most watchable and well-made no-budget film I've probably ever seen, No Reason to Exist by Adam Cooley was conceived with literally $0 but the grainy black and white high-contrasted visuals look like a million bucks in this context. This whole film is mostly a one man show and is very loose and bizarre but has a unique and interesting energy that makes the entire production feel fresh and compelling. Cooley seems to enjoy playing around with genre conventions and cliches and I smelled a Godard reference or two in here (aside from the film actually being dedicated to Mr. French New Wave himself). A compelling, fresh, easy-to-watch film with a perfect length (just under 46 minutes). Cooley is truely gifted and a true original, something most filmmakers can't easily claim, it will be interesting to see what else he does in the future. - Josh Smith, Ink and Dagger zine

MAN OF THE GRAVEYARD MAN (2009, 10 episodes, 36:13)

This was my "animated" series about a guy who was a former folk singer who retreated to the graveyard in his mind. Most of the animation is just still drawings of me or people I know, and there's a few live-action (done with a webcam) segments as well. Very off-the-cuff stuff, very weird, with no thought put into it, but I tried not to make anything about it cliché. That was the big thing... throw out anything that was too obvious. I mean, it's easy to throw random weirdness at the screen, you know? But it's difficult to make any of it make "sense". I guess I wanted this to make sense. Does it? I dunno. I did the entire series in 3 weeks, usually spending about an hour or two per episode.

One episode is a bonafide internet hit, but only because it has a cat playing keyboard. That episode in particular was a joke, called filler, that was about HOW the episode was going to be popular because there was a cat playing keyboard. And, sure enough, it was. The lesson to be learned is that you can easily be popular as long as you are obvious and safe. Which is sorta an obvious and safe point to make.
This was officially released on DVD in 2009 by Strange Vistas, in a limited-run release that will be worth shitloads of money one day. There exists a "Graveyard Man" Dancing Kitties video that is only available on the DVD, that features the entire cast with their faces ripped off and put on synthy kitties dancing. Synthy kitties dancing. Synthy kitties dancing. Synthy kitties dancing. Synthy kitties dancing. Synthy kitties dancing. Synthy kitties dancing. Synthy kitties dancing.

Stream the entire series:
Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5
Episode 6
Episode 7
Episode 8
Episode 9
Episode 10 Download the entire series:here? or here!


This series was made with my friend Sea Monster, who supplied most of the art and some of the story ideas. He said that if you want to contact him, for original art, he will charge a very REASONABLE price, contact him here. Samples of his shit are here. We set up a youtube account for it here and a myspace account here.

This is a fun animated series, completely different than the last few things I've done, and it shouldn't be taken too seriously. Usual doses of absurdity, surrealism, and more. You know the deal. The show is primarily about a pot-smoking superhero deer but it's not a pro-drug show (or an anti-drug show, for that matter), the show is about existentialism, politics, surfing, and being ridiculous. This is the most fun I've ever had working on a project, and it breaks the 4th wall every few seconds.
A bit more fun than the stuff I usually do, but with a quiet and subtle darkness underneath as usual. I think the main idea behind this project was to create something completely different than what I would usually make -- and, perhaps, to test the audience, in a way. What exactly, or why exactly, does an audience want in a show about a pot smoking deer?
This thing has really divided up my fanbase, some thinking it's brilliant, some thinking it's pointless. I won't deny that some people will probably only like this little series and probably hate the rest of my stuff, but there is definitely a link between this and all my creations. It's not wildly different -- though it is a bit less experimental, it's just as wacked however. Still, I am a person who likes Mean Girls and Dog Star Man as much as each other. I think a lot of experimental directors can learn from mainstream films, and vice-versa. So, yeah... Will probably continue this in the future. Will be playing at the 8th Annual Noise! Festival in Canada, with all episodes connected.

Stream the series:
Episode 0
Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5Episode 6
Download: 127mb Avi


The No Trilogy is a series of films I did in the Summer of 2009 to the Fall of 2009. They are intensely personal films and are meant to be viewed one after the other, if possible. They deal with disconnection, disintegration, disorder -- in that order. Here is a trailer for the entire trilogy. This was released on DVD by Placenta Records in December of 2009. 


This film was filmed in 7 days. Sickeningly vibrant and oversaturated colors. Had no idea how to make a film, just knew I had to make one. Good thing for everyone -- hah -- that I ended up enjoying the art of filmmaking, and decided to continue! Since I had no clear idea how to do anything, or what to do, I simply took some pictures the first two days of "shooting" that I found interesting, and incorporated some people I work with in videos from the 2-minute-video capturing part of a crappy borrowed camera. I then made a "story" around the pictures I took and videos I shot, and I spent the next 5 days doing some stop-motion, drawing things, and shooting stuff with a webcam, and each day represents a 'part' in the film.
I've been told that this is one psychotic work. I do know that I've personally watched it myself a few times and I still see things I don't remember filming. This film is very rough around the edges, as I had no idea what I was doing, of course. Never read a manual. It was just a learning experience, but I think it was important, even in its roughness, to release this film, as is, to show the art of learning. It has an energy to it that is unexplainable and very appealing or annoying, depending on how you look at it. A very lonely quality is present in this film, probably because I was housewatching by myself and working on this film just to pass the time. I was alone for over a week straight, just working on this movie. Probably should be in the Guiness Book of World Records for being the cheapest film to ever screen at film festivals (including Tromadance Indiana 2009 -- where it was voted as one of the top 3 films of the festival -- and at the Westside Welding and Machine in Vancouver, WA and will be screening in some other places soon, supposedly). Features a Charlie Chaplin cameo.
Stream the film, in 5 parts:

Download the film: 270mb avi!


The day of finishing Can't or Won't Not, my girlfriend of 7 years told me she was moving away. She had cheated on me, which came as a huge shock, and completely out of nowhere. To cope with the sudden end of a long-term relationship, I went to work on my next film. I shot some scenes with her; the bulk of the film is a large bunch of shorts I made which weren't really connected, except I worked on them all from the time knowing she was going to be leaving to the day she actually left, over the course of 2 months. The idea is that there might not be continuity between the shorts, but there is quite a lot of the same themes and ideas explored in all of them. I started the film the day she told me she was going to leave and did everything in it until the day she left, when I called the film "finished". It's rough, but it was important to release it as is, because it is an interesting collage/scrapbook/essay of a disintegrating relationship. This has been submitted to Tromadance. Features Michael Jackson and Alfred Hitchcock cameos.
Stream the film, in 6 parts:
Download the film: 326mb avi!

Adam Cooley's collage film Nothing is More Beautiful than Nothing (2009) possesses a style and energy similar to those made by the likes of Stan Vanderbeek and Jeff Keen in the 1960s. Crucially though, that energy has been translated into something which is ultimately unique to Cooley himself. So while Nothing ... is effective in forging a valuable link with its ancestors, it certainly can't be reduced to them. It remains to be seen where Cooley takes his vision: how he focuses it; what he uses it to 'say'. However, viewed as a sketch or a work in progress or a suggestion, Nothing... indicates the arrival of a filmmaker well worth following in order to find out. - Russell Hedges, University of East London

ME, MYSELF, AND MY THIRD EYE (2010, 55:11)

And, suddenly, a change. Extremely desaturated. 4 stories. President's wife artificial insemination sperm contamination, electrical wall socket romance, Statue of Liberty costume searching for kitty, classic rock riff acapella songs in a quest to soil the good name of a rapist father. Mixing animation and live action. Tons of stop motion and split screen. Looks and feels like no other movie before it, and probably no other movie that will come out afterwards. A revelation! A black comedy! It's a riot! It's absurd! It's surreal! I could write about it all day, but who not look up reviews for it instead? It's an award-winning hit! It's impressively no-fi! It is aimless and paper bag cat wanders through a deserted house FOREVER, transcending space and time itself apparently. Aren't you excited?! Boy, I sure know I am! Perhaps it's a tragic character flaw, to be excited by the idea of something. Perhaps I should get more into the actual feeling of a work. The actual character. The actual communication. Our bodies are constantly changing. Every 7 years.

Stream in 7 parts:

Download: 330mb avi


A film entirely in reverse, except for the dialogue, which is spoken forwards, but the last sentence in a paragraph is heard first. A guy who enjoys necrophilia meets a girl who embalms dead bodies. They fall in love. In reverse. And so on. Entirely conceived, filmed, and edited in about 5 hours, and then put out there, returning myself to the more fun and rough earlier films, instead of the more composed stuff I'd been doing. Shot on 3 cameras in one long take, constantly cutting back and forth. Fun stuff. Blurry, pixelated, alien, cluttered, uncultured, blown-out, rough, ugly. After this film, I had decided to adopt a new, more static approach to my films. Accepted to the first annual film festival.
Stream: yeah
Download: 44mb avi


To coincide with a year's worth of filmmaking, this film was created both as a summary of the previous year, and as an end of an era, of sorts. There are a few references to films I'd made in the past, but the majority of the film is concerned with telling stories in a new way. Instead of the shakey camera I'd used for previous movies, the camera is mostly just a static observer.
Also, there is a lot more concern with nature and beauty, and the visuals are definitely upgraded quite a bit (still pretty lo-fi, but not drowning in digital muck like the previous films). Making baby steps towards a new direction for my cinematic no-fi art, I guess.
Anyway, this no-budget experimental film is all about no-budget experimental filmmaking. I am creating a film and no one will work with me. So, I create a film anyway. The film eventually turns into an absurd recreation of real-life events, until eventually becoming a straight-up documentary.
Musical numbers, dinosaurs, smashed guitars, time-lapsed footage of wounds healing and snow melting, a long bowling sequence, weird animation, and more. By far the best reviews of my career, with some people labeling me as a genius and a god, and a ton more people saying that it was amongst the best, if not THE BEST, experimental creations ever made.
That still doesn't translate into me being successful, or me making any money, or anything, but that's fine by me. Enjoy!
Stream in 5 parts: pt1

Download: 508mb avi

his films the more I see. They become like a giant Rorschach painting, as styles and sound change at an almost incomprehensible rate ,he weaves a work of the world of the 21st century. If you are looking to see where the outermost edge of modern film making goes look no further - You are staring right into the heart of it. - suicidepuppet on May 06 2010
The work of zero-budget auteur Adam Cooley is a provocative reminder that the career trajectory of a filmmaker should not necessarily conform to that envisaged by the majority of aspiring media professionals – and, likewise, the psychedelic potpourri of actor-director-editor Cooley’s lo-fi visions, rendered with primitive software and poor equipment, are a rejoinder to the overproduced gloss many seek to emulate. But his work (of which this is perhaps his finest achievement yet) is at once an entirely honest and personal experience, as well as a totally unprepossessing odyssey of unrivaled cinematic genius. Currently Untitled positions itself as a pseudo-documentary, charting the misadventures of a semi-fictional character who’s “making films for absolutely no-one”, and as such, through its hodgepodge of sped-up, slowed-down, pitch-shifted, colour-twisted imagery, mines much the same thematic territory as Jean-Luc Godard’s 1980s output, or even the work of Toshio Matsumoto or ShÅ«ji Terayama, both of whom Cooley cites as influences. That the majority of film wannabes dream of becoming the next Christopher Nolan, Steven Soderbergh or even James Cameron is itself not a depressing reality, nor is it a valid cause for argument, but the prohibitive and knee-jerk attitude these same students and hobbyists – and, we must add, their educators and champions – have toward alternative cinematic sensibilities is not only shockingly fascist but socially intolerable. The more exposure given to filmmakers like Cooley by any media outlet helps to break this mindset: contrary to conventional movie wisdom, his work has garnered high praise and genuinely supportive reviews, with limited independent sell-thru releases of this and other films in the US – facts that not only offer encouragement to all alternative filmmakers, but quite rightly suggest Cooley’s films in particular deserve much more than a cursory interest. Unfortunately, modern mainstream attitudes might preclude this, which is an incredible shame, because it should not be inconceivable to see an Adam Cooley original on show in the same arthouse and multiplex theatres that promote Avatar (2009; dir. James Cameron) or Iron Man 2 (2010; dir. Jon Favreau). -

Adam Cooley
Nothing is More Beautiful Than Nothing
Adam Cooley

Feature By: Jonathan Earley

Using only lo-fi cameras and Microsoft's infamously retro graphic software - Paint, Adam Cooley has created a series of abstract short films that resemble digital toxic waste - and I mean that in a good way. Adam's videos take the observer through a sequence of psychological stages: first repulse, then confusion, then fear, then curiosity, then a zen-like state of calm hypnosis.
After creating his first video about eight months ago out of boredom, Cooley's videos have shown in film festivals across the country. In an experimental and emotionally guided process, Cooley  assembles his videos from a variety of online and home-made sources.

C-buz: There appears to be a lot of thought and creativity that goes into each of video. Could you explain your basic process?
Adam Cooley: There isn't one, honestly. Haha. Things just come to me. I just will shoot whatever I find interesting, and then just piece it together in some way that makes sense to me. I can't explain it at all, actually.

CB: What types of equipment and software do you use?
AC: So far, I've been extremely lo-fi and primitive in what I use. My equipment has been a JAZZ DV152 camera, some Sony VHS camcorder, some old Logitech webcam. My software is VirtualDub, MSPaint, and Windows Movie Maker... haha. One day, I'll probably do something a bit more, um, hi-def.. but right now, I'm trying to push this lo-fi thing to its logical limit.

CB: Audio plays a big role in your videos. Do you feel like that is as much work as the visual component?
AC: Oh yeah, definitely. I spend more time on the sound than I do anything else. Thanks for noticing!

CB: Most of your videos feel very satirical. What are some themes that you are trying to express?
I am basically just expressing things that are interesting to me. There is definitely a dark sense of humor -- maybe, more accurately, a very particular sense of humor. There's elements of satire, parody... there's pretty much elements of everything.. all my videos are just my brain vomit.

CB: To someone who may not be into abstract art, your work may seem pretty nonsensical or meaningless. Is there a method to the madness? When you create your videos, do you have a clear story or idea in your mind?
AC: Well, I tend to just shoot things I find interesting and don't put much thought into it, initially. However, as I continue to shoot and edit, things start to coalesce and a story develops. I suppose I do start out with a sentence or two in my mind that would constitute as a "plot", and I will say it's definitely not meaningless, because everything eventually fits into place. I can take anything and make it fit the theme, or the idea I'm trying to express.
“I like to compare making my movies to solving rubik's cubes. I just kind of play with them a while and eventually all the sides even out the same color, but it can be a long and complex process. ”

CB:How do most people react to your videos?

AC: Well, it's definitely love-it-or-hate-it; there's no middle, there's no indifference. I will say, most people will at least recognize its merits in the editing and the sound -- the technical side. Most people can get into that at least. But I don't think everyone really appreciates the other elements. Which is fine, you know? I showed one of my films (CAN'T OR WON'T NOT) at Tromadance, and one girl yelled, 5 minutes into it, "THIS IS THE MOST *bleep*ED UP THING I'VE EVER SEEN!" There was also tons of laughter. I've noticed people seem to laugh at my stuff a lot. Sorry, laugh WITH it... see, even though I didn't initially intend to do this -- since people find them so funny -- I market my films to people as abstract comedies now. Haha. Unless they don't laugh. Then, it's a drama! ... But, really, the best answer for this is: The people that are meant to "get" it.. get it.
CB: What or who are some of your biggest influences in terms of film or fine art?
AC: Film: Jean-Luc Godard, Damon Packard, Takeshi Kitano, James Fotopoulos, Jon Jost, Shuji Terayama, Toshio Matsumoto, Bella Tarr, Aki Kaurismaki, Jon Moritsugu, Ryan Trecartin, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Ki-Duk Kim, Shinya Tsukamoto, Giuseppe Andrews, Stan Brakhage, etc. Art (not too fine): Ad Reinhardt, Giorgio de Chirico, Zane Lewis, Rosson Crow, Keegan McHargue, James Jirat Patradoon, Blu, etc.

CB: When did you first get into video production? What sparked your interest?
AC: About 8 months ago. Honestly, I was just bored. I was watching my girlfriend's house for a week, I downloaded VirtualDub and I just played around with pictures and footage and made an entire film with no money and nothing planned-out, almost completely with MSPaint and a webcam. It's since went on to play various film festivals. I just did it out of boredom. But I keep doing it, mainly out of boredom as well.

CB: Have you shown any of your work publicly besides on the Internet?
AC: Yeah, my first film played in Oregon, in a theater in Washington DC, and at Tromadance in Franklin, Indiana. I also just submitted some of my films to an art institute, a few film festivals, and a cable access show who wants to use clips from my stuff -- all this is based in New York. I've been so busy with making stuff that I haven't had time to totally advertise and get my stuff out there like I want to, but I'm going to be screening my stuff April 30th at the Bishop in Bloomington, Indiana.. if anyone's interested.

CB: What are your thoughts on Youtube and how it has made video sharing so widespread and accessible to the general public? How has hit affected you?
AC: Youtube used to be amazing, back when it started. It's still cool, but it's nowhere near the beast it used to be. Too many musicians and film studios and so on, complaining about money they never would have had to begin with. I think art should be free.. I think everything should be free. Donation-based, or perhaps you can put the product out there for people who want it -- but if people REALLY want to see it and don't have the money, then you might as well just provide it for free. That's a whole other rant. Personally, ubuweb is my youtube.

CB: What is your favorite video that you have created and why?
AC: I haven't made my favorite yet.

CB: What are your thoughts on the Columbus music and art scene? Do you feel like things are moving in the right direction? What would you like to see change?
AC: I'm not sure. I've been involved with it since I was 12, and I've had bands with varying levels of success, and I've seen a ton of bands that should have been successful come and go tons of times. There are so many insanely talented people in Columbus that it boggles my mind. There are still tons of close-minded people who can't handle anything beyond 4/4 and 3 power chords, but that's everywhere you go. There actually is a surprising amount of open minded people around here, which I really appreciate. I really enjoy living in Columbus, actually. The biggest problem is getting your work out there. It seems like there's nowhere here for me to actually play my music, or to show my films. Luckily, we live close to Bloomington!
Could you describe your involvement with audio and music production?
I have been making music since the age of 12, when I started just banging on coffee cans and yelling. Since then, I've been in about 30 bands. I mainly make music now with just Scissor Shock and Robe... all my bands tend to be on the experimental side.

Could you talk more specifically about Scissor Shock? How did you form? Who all is in it?
Scissor Shock has released 5 full length albums, about 8 EP's, about 20 split releases, and a bunch of other miscellanous goodies. Our entire discography is at ... Scissor Shock formed out of boredom, by me, in 2003, and it's always been mainly my band, but I've had many, many collaborators over the last 7 years. Right now, it's mainly me and Aaron Booe. All of our releases sound quite different, and I've had quite a bit of success with the project, I guess...

What is a typical Scissor Shock show like?
Well, we haven't played a show in about a year, but all the shows were pretty intense and ridiculous. Confrontational, to an extent, but also fun. Not violent, just in-your-face and absurd. They've all been pretty different, as I have different collaborators during each one. A few shows were just me and a drum machine -- one show had about 17 people on stage. There are a few clips on youtube, if anyone's interested.

CB: What are some of your goals for the future in terms of video work and art?
AC: Keep challenging myself -- and challenging the viewer.

"...whacked! LOVE the sounds..." - Giuseppe Andrews, actor/director

"Artistically challenging [...] provocative [...] interesting [...] Cooley is film-producer that deserves and needs to further continue and refine his heightened visions." - Terrance Aldridge, critic

"A revolutionary in the world of no-budget filmmaking and animation.  A self-taught film genius." - J.M. Liebenau, director/label owner

"[Adam Cooley's films] are an abstraction so far from the original idea of 'underground cinema' that it's like light from a dead star. Mr. Cooley is a true no-budget auteur in every sense of the word [...] Brilliant." - Josh Smith, zine writer

"A filmmaker well worth following." - Russell Hedges, University of East London

"Graveyard of the manyard mangrave, I want to smoke orange juice at the pants rave. I like to show [Adam Cooley's] stuff to people to freak them out." - Aaron Funk/Venetian Snares, musician

BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION:I write, direct, produce, animate, edit, shoot, score, light, and act in all my work so far, with a few occasional collaborators (mainly UUUUUU and SeaMonster3D). I started making films in May of 2009. I work extremely quickly and don't stop to really edit myself. I am completely self-taught, and use primitive means to achieve my goals, with films usually being edited with MSPaint, and with Windows Movie Maker to put it all together. I also mostly edit sounds in Sound Recorder. The digital camera I'm using to film with is a $24 Jazz DV151, a primitive kid's camera. Most sound is recorded with the camera mic; overdubs are done with a 10-year-old computer mic. Final editing is done in VirtualDub, a 1mb freeware program not usually used for film editing. So far, I have not spent a single dollar on making anything I have made, unless you count the electricity I'm using to edit this stuff on a computer. Almost everything that would require money has been borrowed. If I can't borrow it, I just don't use it. Also, there are mistakes galore (sounds not syncing up correctly, scenes cutting off at the wrong time and then starting later), but I usually don't stop to fix them or think about them really. The films are rough, honest portraits of my reality. I often use reverse and sped-up footage, usually don't show anything more than is necessary to get information across, and everything is jumpy and skippy, since frames are constantly being removed. The films are usually short but packed with lots of stuff to take in, perfect for repeat viewings. I am constantly trying new things; I realize that not all experiments will be "successful" but there's no such thing as a failed experiment if we learn something from the experiment. By viewing my films, you will see someone who is constantly trying new things in an age where everything has been done. That's important, I guess. Oh, I am constantly sampling videos and music as well; I have use thousands and thousands of little microsamples. I am making films to explore new sides of myself, and art. My influences are Takeshi Kitano, Giuseppe Andrews, Damon Packard, Shuji Terayama, Shozin Fukui, Sogo Ishii, Shinya Tsukamoto, Jon Jost, Jean-Luc Godard, James Fotopolous, and Toshio Matsumoto. I also make music fulltime with my bands Scissor Shock and Robe.. If you'd like a CD of that stuff, email me. Finally, here is an interview with me about my films. 

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