Jimmy Traynor is arguably the greatest filmmaker you never heard of. He is certainly the most prolific: during the past decade, the 28-year-old Baltimore native has turned out an astonishing 105 productions, both shorts and features, in nearly every imaginable genre. Number 106 is currently in the works.
As a film artist, Traynor is the heir to the maverick traditions of the celebrated cinematic outsider-icons. He follows in the footsteps of Orson Welles by not only wearing the obvious quadruple crown of director-producer-writer-star but also takes after Welles in two key hands-on aspects: cutting and editing the films himself and physically constructing and dressing the sets. As with fellow Baltimore filmmaker John Waters and pioneering avant-garde artists Kenneth Anger and Andy Warhol, he employs a reliable stock company who share his off-kilter imagination. And not unlike Roger Corman, he can turn out films on the thinnest of shoestring budgets and with supersonic speed and efficiency.
Describing the Jimmy Traynor experience is equivalent to asking one to perceive what a collaboration between John Cassavetes and Jean Cocteau would look like. Traynor’s filmmaking approach recalls the Cassavetes of “Shadows” and “Faces” with a gritty sense of physical and aural realism captured in edgy handheld camerawork. Many of his productions are shot in actual homes, alleys and streetscapes, providing a cinema verite feel to the ebb and flow of his storytelling. But as with Cocteau, there is a unique dreamlike atmosphere…the surreal swirling within invisible currents of daily life, surfacing where and when it is least expected.
If this is not enough, Traynor’s films also bubble with a special humor. Two of his Christmas-related shorts resonate with this special brand of mirth. In “Billy’s Christmas,” Traynor plays a petulant youth given to bouts of miscreant behavior. At one point, he invents a pinata-style game which involves hanging a playmate from his wrists off a basketball hoop and whacking him with a golf club. Santa Claus, of all people, eventually rights the bad Billy of his nasty ways…almost (Billy replaces grocery bags stolen from a neighbor by raiding his mother’s refrigerator of its contents to replace the loss, then denying knowledge of where his mother’s food has gone). In “Billy Saves Christmas,” Traynor revives his Billy character as a stand-in for an ailing Santa, but his appearance creates such anger and agitation among children that he finishes his chores by running through the streets and throwing gifts through windows, smashing glass and Yuletide cheer in the process.
Get the interview in part two of JIMMY TRAYNOR: THE GREATEST FILMMAKER YOU NEVER HEARD OF>>>