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The Night of Pan

Brian Butler invites satanic filmmaker Kenneth Anger and the legendary Vincent Gallo to dance with the devil in the pale moonlight...

Dazed has known artist, filmmaker and black magic enthusiast Brian Butler since he wrote a great feature for us two years ago about his friend and collaborator, the notorious underground film auteur Kenneth Anger. When he got in touch to let us know he was coming to London to premiere his latest short, a depiction of "a pagan ritual that symbolises the stage of ego death in the process of spiritual attainment" starring both Kenneth Anger and actor Vincent Gallo, we felt we should probably ask him a few short questions about that, and his magical experiences in general.

Dazed Digital: What is the Night of Pan, and what does your film depict?
Brian Butler: The Night of Pan is the mystical state which is experienced during the crossing of the Abyss in the Crowlean system of magick. The film depicts this in a personal way – it comes from actual experiences or visions that I have had a result of performing the rituals prescribed by Aleister Crowley.

DD: How did you go about filming it? What happened during the filming was there anything the film doesn't show?
BB: It was shot in two days in Los Angeles. It was all very spontaneous, I built a set which consisted mostly of items from my home. I created Vincent Gallo's character the day of the shoot. It was a small crew. I utilised hypnotic techniques to achieve an altered state of consciousness in the cast and crew, so in some ways it's a record of how certain people function in an environment charged with forces that are not generally understood.
Vincent Gallo did an amazingly possessed performance in the circle with a switchblade knife that didn’t make it into the final version of the film. He has expressed interest in creating his own edit of the footage, so maybe it will come to light then. The exteriors were shot in Loch Ness at Aleister Crowley’s former home – Boleskine.

DD: How did Kenneth Anger and Vincent Gallo get involved, and what did they bring to the project? What's your relationship with each?
BB: It was kind of happened organically. I didn’t write the film with them in mind but I asked them during production and they both agreed to do it. Both Kenneth and Vincent have a very intense presence and the film became something different after they got involved. Later, I created a story around their performances. It's all abstract anyway, since there is no dialogue.

I consider both of them close friends. I work with Kenneth on regular basis on quite a number of projects. We have a band together called Technicolor Skull and I produced a lot of his recent films, so I have more of a professional relationship with Kenneth Anger. This was the first real project that I worked on with Vincent, although we had talked about doing various things in the ten years that I have known him. He was really great to work with I hope we can do something else soon.

DD: Are those Kenneth's Polynesian statues that we featured in Dazed?
BB: Yes that is the cursed statue that Kenneth loaned to Vincent as an experiment. Vincent returned it to me after a short time but never explained why. I think he wants it back now.

DD: How did the LA premiere go and what was the reaction?
The LA premiere went great. I got a lot of good feedback. In the following week, people were telling me about dreams that they had as a result of seeing the film. The way the film is structured, it doesn’t necessarily communicate with the conscious level of the mind.

DD: When did you become interested in 'dark magical themes', and how has your interest developed over the years? What's the biggest popular misconception?
BB: I think it was when my grandmother first told me the story of Lucifer's fall from heaven when I was a small child. I became fascinated with this character  – the sound of his name and the vision of a being or angel made of fire falling from the sky. It put a label on a certain feeling or energy that I have always resonated with. Over the years, I learned more, reading Paradise Lost and later the works of Aleister Crowley, but it's still very simple – just follow where that vibe leads you and you can't go wrong. I guess a popular misconception or misperception is that a lot of people have everything backwards – it's like looking at a mirror where everything is reversed from the reality of the situation. If you can allow yourself to go through the mirror, like in the Lewis Carrol story, then you can start to perceive things from the causes, rather than being a victim of the effects.

DD: What's been your most exciting moment in exploring magick?
BB: I once met someone who was a natural visionary and with her help, I was able to explore the upper realms of the astral plane and came in contact with certain entities who continue to assist me to this day. These operations occurred over a period of just one week  – I discovered a very powerful system of magic which had not been documented before –enough information to write a book, which I intend to do.

Night of Pan premieres at The Horse Hospital on February 20