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Clay Umbrella

A short docu-portrait of my son with a focus on his pandemic-era musical practice.

Clay Umbrella

2 minutes, 40 seconds

16mm, b&w

A portrait by Neil Howard Butler of his son Brooks, aged eleven

Images originated on Kodak 7222 16mm film stock

The composition "Clay Umbrella" written and performed by Brooks Butler and Josh Siegel 

Special Thanks to Kyle Provencio Reingold and Spectra Film & Video

A Hubcap House Production in association with The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens

CAPT 166


Portrait of musician Karl Friedrich Abel by Thomas Gainsborough

Brooks Homage to Gainesborough.png

Still of Brooks Butler from Clay Umbrella


This short portrait was shot by me as a demo for a class project I was overseeing as part of my job at Ghetto Film School in Los Angeles. In partnership with The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, GFS offers an annual cinematic portraiture course each spring. The 2021 class featured lectures from Huntington curators focusing on the museum's vast collection of portraits coupled with our own teaching artist's screenings and discussion spanning filmmakers as diverse as Luis Buñuel, Ousmane Sembène, and Julie Dash. For their final project, the students shot their short films on 16mm stock using Bolex cameras. I personally had not shot with a Bolex since my own film school days in the mid-90's and it was an absolute joy getting reacquainted with the technology. I chose my son Brooks as my portrait subject and together we honed in on his pandemic-era musical practice as the focus of this piece.


Although the crown jewel of The Huntington's collection of Grand Manor portraits is arguably Thomas Gainsborough's Blue Boy, I was personally more captivated by Gainsborough's painting of the musician Karl Friedrich Abel. Unlike many of the portraits we studied, this one was not a commission but rather a labor of love. Gainsborough and Abel were friends and there's a tangible warmth that comes through in this painting. Aiming to convey a similar connection with my own subject, I worked in a little tribute to this masterpiece in a composition that pops up a couple of times during the course of Clay Umbrella.

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