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Filmmaker Rob Bowen explores ideas of masculinity and patriarchy through careful collaborations 

click to enlarge KATIE HERMANSON
  • Katie Hermanson
When I speak with local filmmaker/University of Colorado at Colorado Springs film student Rob Bowen, age 40, I’ve just watched his 2014 short film, Lather Rinse Repeat, which won him UCCS’s 2015 Rosa Parks scholarship.

Inspired in part by David Foster Wallace’s speech “This Is Water,” the film follows Dani and Tristan, played by Desireé Myers and Erica Erickson, as they navigate a daily cycle of banal events people might not even realize are misogynistic. Bowen shoots them with a Dutch angle, tilting the camera a few degrees from horizontal to defamiliarize the situation and force viewers to evaluate the scenes as fresh. Toxic masculinity is a recurrent theme in his work.

Bowen, a Manitou Springs resident, was born in Germany, a self-described Army brat, and he spent his adolescence in Memphis, Tennessee. Between his military family and his Southern environment, he says he saw a lot of unhealthy models and expectations for how men should act, things he didn’t become conscious of until later in life. He feels like people avoid these conversations, which ties into a concept from Wallace’s speech: “The most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about.”
His work walks a fine line. On one hand, many men won’t even engage with women on subjects like this. But on the other, he doesn’t want to be condescending to women — benevolent but no less a part of the problem. To cope, he relates experiences he’s seen, and he works with his actresses and his wife and co-producer, Angie Bowen.

“Filmmaking is a collaborative effort, [even] on the no-budget indie films,” he says. “[It’s important to make] sure your actors feel heard when they have questions or concerns about their characters.”
It’s respect and best practices all at once.

Bowen is set to receive his B.A. in Film Studies, with a minor in Women’s & Ethnic Studies, in May, after which he intends to pursue graduate school. Most of his shorts are watchable on his YouTube channel, whatsabudget, and he regularly screens his works with the Peak Film Forum at the Tim Gill Center.

He’s working on his first feature film, Life’s a Tarantino Flick, a study of Tarantino’s postmodern, pastiche-ish filmmaking style. It’s a research-centered collaboration with Professor Teresa Meadows, funded in part with a grant from UCCS through their student-faculty mentor program. He hopes to release it this summer.

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