You will not see his name in the credits of the latest Hollywood blockbuster, though he has worked with his share of movie stars. His films were not funded by big-time producers and entertainment studios, but they have managed to forever change the history of opera stage presentation and underground cinema. He does not have an Oscar resting on a shelf, but his work was recognized by a number of independent film festivals all over the world. His movies did not bring him billions of dollars and an army of fans, but they have become a part of the legacy that he now shares with the younger generation.
Ronald Chase is a man of many talents. He has worked seriously in dance, painting, photography, cinema, stage design, and most recently, education – embracing everything that ever got his creative juices flowing. Born in Seminole, Oklahoma, he was always hungry for art which was missing in his small town life. It is this passion that encouraged him to leave for New York – the city of dreamers. There Chase entered Bard College, where he spent his days studying dance, directing, and design. Dancing his way through Europe, Chase picked up painting. Painting has led him to photography, which, in turn, has sparked his interest in film making.
Like one of his personal favorites, Federico Fellini, Ronald Chase prefers showing rather than telling. His films contain hardly any dialogue at all. Rather, they are focused on visual perception and deep symbolism that first seems incomprehensible but makes perfect sense once you let go of your inherent stereotypes and open your mind to his unique vision.
With his work, Chase has proven that you don’t need a billion-dollar budget, complicated equipment, expensive makeup and costumes, A-list actors, and a crew of a thousand people to tell a story that will touch people’s hearts and minds. What you need is a bright idea, a strong vision, a perspective slightly different from the usual, and a few partners in crime, devoted to art just as much as you are. In his small productions, Chase often used amateur actors, stolen venues, and natural street sounds instead of specially-written scores.
Here you can see some of his best films. They were never on a big screen. Their names never graced the marquees. They don’t go with a bucket of salted popcorn and a bottle of coke. They were not made for entertainment. They are meant to provoke deep thinking and broaden your horizons beyond the boundaries of the ordinary. Start with Chameleon and work your way to Fantasia on the childhood of Busoni and then the features to see the natural evolution of Chase’s film art as well as transformation and maturing of his vision. We could elaborate some more on the importance of independent film in the modern cultural education, but enough with words – we better just show you.