John Allen Gibel says he belongs to a couple secret societies. He'll even tell you which ones, though of course there are certain things -- call them "secrets" -- he won't reveal.
But Gibel is comfortable enough with his membership to spoof such organizations in Gas Ain't Ironing: The Musical, which highlights the next installment of the Film Kitchen screening series along with California, a short film by Scott Carney.
Gibel, 22, says he became an initiate in both the Masonic Lodge (York rite) and the Ordo Templo Orientis for several reasons, including the groups' fraternal aspects, the symbolism they employ, and their claims to possess arcane knowledge accessible only to members.
Artistic curiosity also drew him -- and indeed, the initiation rites provided some novel experiences that he says ranged from "traumatizing" to "silly."
Gibel's not free to discuss those experiences, of course. But his desire to lampoon them coalesced with another artistic urge. "I just wanted to confront something that was particularly mundane, anticlimactic and entirely mediocre," he says, "and employ [it] in the most esoteric manner that I could."
The avatars of dullness he chose were gasoline and ironing, the latter as in "removing wrinkles from clothing." In Gas Ain't Ironing, the doings of secret groups of men wearing hooded cloaks or other odd regalia revolve around these two items, and are mixed with spoofs of the popular media and observations about what Gibel calls "the illusion of consensus reality."
The performers in Gibel's 45-minute narrative, meanwhile, range from professional actors to street people he befriended while studying filmmaking at Point Park College and Pittsburgh Filmmakers. Locations include Downtown's Mellon Square and the PPG Plaza ice rink, the Carnegie Museum's Hall of Architecture, and one of the caves at Laurel Caverns.
And there are songs, too, among them "Super Doppler Radar Copter," "Meat Meat Meat Bridges" and "Baphomet Rap." Gibel wrote the lyrics, with music by the Seattle-based band Leo's Operation and Pittsburgh's Nate Kukulski.
Like Uniontown native Gibel, Scott Carney also came to Pittsburgh to study film. Carney traveled further -- he's from Louisville, Ky. -- and among the films he'll show at the Dec. 9 Film Kitchen is one shot further away still.
Carney's California began with a bunch of Super 8 home movies his dad and aunt shot on a family vacation to Los Angeles when Carney himself was still in short pants. He was inspired to revisit California, and spent two-and-a-half weeks traveling and shooting more footage.
He cut the film to "California," a song he'd written. But the film's defining traits are its visual effects, achieved with a blowup to 16 mm film and the help of an old-school optical printer, a device that combines images by re-photographing them. Carney used the optical printer at Pittsburgh Filmmakers to superimpose images, print four images into a single frame, and speed up or slow down each to achieve a certain rhythm to complement the music. So while he was working with pictures, he says, "Sometimes I looked at it like I was scratching records or something."