Michael M. Bilandic’s films combine cyberpunk aesthetics, rave-inspired colour palettes and hilarious screenplays. Starting out as a PA for original NYC bad boy Abel Ferrara, Bilandic explores the changing face of the city, often through the eyes of artists or idealists lingering on the precipice of total irrelevance.
While Bilandic’s work is consistently funny, there remains a pervasive sense of melancholy, with evident sympathy for the precarity of his characters and an incisive perspective on the eternal struggle between the cynics and the dreamers.
His 2011 debut Happy Life centres on an ageing techno enthusiast who attempts to save his record store by throwing an “old-skool” rave in an abandoned building, convincing a legendary MC called DJ Liquidz (played by Gilles Decamps) to come out of retirement for the night. 2013’s Hellaware sees a struggling photographer stumble upon a Juggalo rap-rock group in Delaware during a coke-fuelled YouTube deep-dive. He decides to make the face-painted, shitfaced teens the subject of his next project, ruthlessly exploiting their adolescent earnestness for his own means. Finally, the protagonist of 2018’s Jobe’z World is a middle-aged rollerblader / sci-fi fanatic / drug dealer, tasked with making a drop to his favourite movie star only to end up on the lam after the actor is found dead in his home.
Mr Bilandic returned to filmmaking at a time when most other people were content with staying at home and staying alive, thats right, 2020’s not fun Covid-19 global pandemic. Bilandic and longtime collaborators, Sean Price Williams on DOP duties (as he did on the three earlier features) and actor Keith Poulson couldn’t let lockdown get in the way of making the art-world satire Project Space 13. Poulson plays Nate, a performance artist, who gets a coveted show in Manhattan, but when he begins his provocative piece, the city shuts down for COVID-19. Unswayed, he continues his performance for an audience of none—until pandemic-panic rages on the outside and the gallery hires private security to watch over him and his art.