Interview: Kris

Today we’re joined by Kris. Kris is a phenomenal filmmaker who specializes in short films. She has done both narrative films and documentaries. Currently working on a feature length script as well as a webseries, Kris is an enthusiastic and dedicated filmmaker who has an incredibly bright future ahead of her. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am a filmmaker. These days that is mostly writing and directing, though when friends have projects on the go sometimes I’ll produce or be director of photography. While most of my films are fiction, I do the occasional documentary when the right story presents itself. To date I’ve done exclusively shorts. I do really enjoy the medium of short film, the challenge of getting an audience hooked, engaged, and happy with the resolution all in 10-15 minutes is very satisfying to me. Lately though I’ve been branching out. I’ve got a feature length script that I’m working on, and also a 9-episode web series that I recently started to write. I also do a bit of photography, but that is much more as a hobby to entertain myself.

What inspires you?

Life. The world. When I first started taking photographs as a teenager it was all about looking at the light, looking at the world and thinking, “wow” and wanting to capture it. When I became a storyteller, it was sort of that, but with people. I love being out in the world – at a coffee shop, at a museum, at a park – and just watching people, listening to how they talk to each other, seeing what kinds of things make them go “wow.” I love playing the what’s your story game. Seeing someone, especially when they do something unexpected, and thinking who are you, and what’s going on with you that made you do that. And because I make fiction I can just make up an answer.

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I always wanted to be behind a camera. I can remember the first time I ever took a photograph. It was with my Dad’s big heavy SLR shooting slide film. I still have that slide in a box in my attic. There was always art going on in my family when I was a kid, but I can’t draw so it started out as a way to make a picture. But then it became a way to capture a bit of the world and share it with people. And then I went from photography to video in college because it seemed like a better way to make a living.

I have always been creative, but I don’t think it’s accurate to say I always wanted to be an artist. I loved having a camera in my hands, I loved making things. But for 20 years the things I was making professionally I didn’t consider artistic. I was making training videos and other corporate/industrial stuff. But after a while I thought, I want to tell my own stories. I started doing film as a hobby. Getting my friends together and goofing off in my back yard, or making silly videos of my dog. The more I did it the better I got until I thought, you know maybe I could do this creative stuff for real. Now I’m a professor and it’s part of my job description to keep making films. It is possibly the coolest thing ever.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

I went through many years where my dog would get a role, or at least a cameo in most of my films. Usually one of the extras would be walking her. She died while I was in film school though, so in my thesis film there’s just a photo of her. My new dog isn’t trained well enough yet, so for the time being it’s likely to still be pictures of Blue hiding among the set dressing.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Ira Glass has the best advice, which is to make a lot of work, especially if you feel like the work you’re making isn’t good enough. It will never get good enough without a boatload of practice. And that’s true no matter what kind of art you do. Also, it’s important to get out in the world and have a life. My students often ask me if they should go to film school and I always tell them not right away. Go and experience a bit of life first because that’s what’s going to give you your stories to tell.

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Sarah and Esther working on the step afternoon

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I am asexual and aromantic.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

I haven’t. On set we’re busy working and it would be unprofessional to be discussing our sex lives. And it’s really easy to be invisible as an asexual, which is both good and bad. I am unlikely to get harassed on the street because you can’t tell by looking. I’m not holding hands with the wrong person or whatever. People will assume you are like them until proven otherwise (about all sorts of things) so if I don’t bring it up it doesn’t come up.

Lately I’ve been realizing that invisibility is also bad. That it has a lot to do with why I spent decades trying to be something I’m not. Why it wasn’t obvious to me that there was nothing wrong with me. So I’ve started kind of coming out at work, identifying myself as a queer filmmaker. Universities tend to be supportive of that kind of thing though so nobody has given me a hard time about it. Maybe it would be better to battle the ignorance if I identified as an asexual filmmaker, but a) I don’t really have the energy to have to define it every time I say it, b) it’s not actually my colleagues’ business what flavor of not-straight I am, and c) I would really like to broaden the definition of queer film and queer filmmakers. We shouldn’t have to only tell coming out stories or dying of AIDS stories. I should be allowed to tell whatever stories I want and still be free to be myself.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

The common problem is that it’s not a word your average straight person knows. We come so far down on the alphabet soup of the acronym that people give up trying to figure out what all the letters mean before they get to us. So if I use the word then I’ve got to explain it and then you get that little head tilt of “huh, I didn’t know that was a thing.” And if I don’t actively explain it then the misconception is she’s just single and eventually Mr. Right will come along and solve that problem. Or, among my sister and the rest of the lesbians in my home town, then Ms. Right will come along. But nobody ever thinks she’s single and that’s how she’s happy being.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

There is Nothing Wrong with you. Many people won’t get it, but they don’t have to. You just be you and they can figure themselves out. For me the best part of being asexual is that nobody else really has to get it. The only people who need to understand the details of my sex life are the people involved in it, which, by definition, is nobody. All the well-meaning but annoying people who insist that there is someone out there for you, you can feel free to ignore them. Unless you actually want that, some asexuals do and that’s fine, you be you. But be unapologetically you. You don’t owe anything to anyone else.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

If you’re interested in my work my company website (https://heronmedia.wordpress.com/ ) is the best place for that. New work has images and trailers, when things are on the festival circuit I keep that up to date on screening locations and times, and when they finish the festival run I put them up entirely.

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Thank you, Kris, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Julien

Today we’re joined by Julien. Julien is a young performance artist who loves everything about the theater. They love to act, sing, dance, and are particularly fond of musical theater. They also have a love of writing and enjoy writing screenplays and comics. When they’re not performing, Julien enjoys working on crafts, mostly friendship bracelets and cards. It’s very apparent they have a great deal of passion, as you’ll read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

My primary art form is probably theatre, where I sing, act, dance, stage manage, write, and direct. I’ve written and directed 2 one act plays in the last year. I just finished stage managing my first musical, and was very surprised at how much fun I had. Before getting into the technical aspect of theatre I was more focused on the performing arts and was not sure how exciting tech would be, but I was so glad to find a use for my managing skills in a medium I already loved! I have been singing as long as I can remember and started vocal training 5 years ago. It’s been great to watch myself grow in something that I don’t have much natural talent for – only natural passion.

I also love writing and am currently working on writing the scripts for a comic my friend is making.

Friendship bracelets and other crafts are the art I turn to as mediation. I find the repetition and the slowly emerging pattern very soothing.

What inspires you?

In theatre, I am continuously inspired by the trust and camaraderie that always develops between the entire cast and crew. I love the different aspects of it, and I love being able to use my analytical management skills in conjunction with my creativity and flexibility.

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I’ve wanted to be many things, and had been resisting a theatre career path because I worried it wouldn’t be monetarily rewarding enough. I have now come to the point where I realized that while my many interests come and go with time, theatre has always been such an important part of my life that it’s a safe bet to assume it will continue to be.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Try everything. If you become interested in blacksmithing one weekend, find a class. Anything you can teach yourself, do it. Learn as much as you can while you’re young and find out what sticks with you as you get older.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Demisexual

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

As a writer, a-specs are commonly ignored even among LGBT+ literature.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

Find analogies for asexuality. They’re usually aimed at allosexuals (non-asexuals), but they can help even a-spec people understand their sexuality, especially if they’re questioning. Find ace-friendly blogs and a-spec people who are confident in their sexuality and see how you relate to their experience.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

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Thank you, Julien, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Jonah S

Today we’re joined by Jonah S. Jonah is a wonderful artist who specializes in film and music. As a dedicated filmmaker, they enjoy making short films and do a lot of editing and directing. When they’re not working on film, Jonah also enjoys creating music and plays a variety of instruments. They have an admirable amount of enthusiasm and love for art, as you’ll read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

My favorite medium to work in is film. I love editing and writing, but I have also directed a few short films. I’m still working to develop a distinct style of film, but I pay a lot of attention to the color palettes of my work, as I feel they are just as important as the story itself to the work as one cohesive unit.

I have played classical piano for quite some time, but I have recently gotten into writing electronic songs in Ableton Live. This past summer I released my first album, Songs For Summer Days, in which I sampled sounds from commonplace objects and made a song out of them every day. I also play ukulele for the band Maniac Foxy, but we’re still working on writing songs to perform.

What inspires you?

As a current environmental science major, I’d have to say that nature is a big inspiration for everything I do, from film to music to (the very occasional) visual art.

For each film project I work on, I seek out usually one or two specific genres or artists to sort of guide the visual development of the film. I usually end up using this music to score the film in the end! For example, my first film “La Vie En Rose,” is inspired by French new wave films, so I scored it with some avant-garde jazz, which I thought is pretty much the musical equivalent of the new wave’s freeform-ness. Another project I directed, “Run For Your Life,” has politics at the center of the narrative, so it draws heavily from anarchist folk-punk music like Defiance, Ohio.

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Cliche

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I work in film because it’s an intersection of basically every art form, so I don’t have to choose one to work in! There’s really no more to that, I’ve just always been interested in film.

My interest in music is more complicated than that, but I think that it stems from the fact that my grandmother is an extremely talented soprano singer who used to perform in operas and the Houston equivalent of Broadway. As a result, I’ve grown up surrounded by quite a lot of music.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

I’ve tried to have an extra wear my red hoodie that says “Vampire Weekend” in the background of every film I’ve made. I haven’t kept up with it but it’s there sometimes!

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What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

If you’re entering film, don’t compromise your vision to accommodate the limiting standards that the film industry has put in place. Retain a clear divide between the art that you do for yourself and any professional film experience (internships, PA jobs, etc.). That way, you’ll gain a lot of experience while not succumbing to the limitations of mainstream film.

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Mercury Bob

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I am asexual and I prefer not to specify a romantic orientation (I’m like almost aro though).

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

I haven’t encountered any in the film or music scenes, but that would be because I’m just not that involved publicly. I do know that there’s a lot of pressure on writers to introduce romantic subplots into their screenplays, and I tried that a few times, but eventually I was like “I am never doing this again”.

Additionally, there is a severe lack of asexual representation in mainstream media (along with nonbinary representation), so I hope to help remedy that.

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What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

I’ve heard a lot of really nasty rhetoric coming from aphobic people on Tumblr who post about “ace discourse” but I don’t really want to go into that.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

Someone once told me that if you think you aren’t cis then you probably aren’t to some degree and I think this definitely applies to the asexual and aromantic spectrums as well (and to some extent pretty much any LGBTQ identity). There’s nothing wrong with “questioning” and there’s nothing wrong with deciding not to identify as anything in particular.

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Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

I have put together a film portfolio here: jonahshaukatfilm.weebly.com
The good ones are at the top and they get progressively worse as you scroll down.

Also, here is a link to the album I released this past summer: https://maniacfoxy.bandcamp.com/

Should any of y’all wish to drop by and say hi, my Tumblr is http://topitmunkeydog.tumblr.com/.

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Thank you, Jonah, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.