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: James Hastings

Today we’re joined by James Hastings. James is a phenomenal filmmaker who also dabbles a bit in music and comedy. He’s a freelance cinematographer, though he has a wide range of interests (and also happens to be a fellow fan of the great Buster Keaton). James is also working on writing a feature. It’s always fantastic to see aces in film. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

Oh man, I do all kinds of stuff. My main bag is my work as a freelance cinematographer, but I also do covers and write comedy music for fun. I run a sketch-comedy YouTube channel called Cinema Wagon on which I do videos with my improv and industry friends, and in addition to all of that stuff, I’m currently in the writing phase of a feature film that I hope to produce independently in 2018.

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Bagman, Production Shot 1, photo by Chris Ertman

What inspires you?

A lot of my sketch-comedy work comes from the mildly obsessive way my brain works. An idea or an interaction that I had will get stuck in my head for a while, and I’ll replay the situation that created those ideas over and over again in my mind, but with something going differently each time, and it either becomes really entertaining or I just stop thinking about it until it pops up as part of another cycle of that process. That, or I’ll see a cool shot or think of a visual, then knock out a story to fit around that shot so I have an excuse to try it out. The people that I’m friends with also bring really good, creative stuff to the table all of the time as well.

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Bagman, Production Shot 2, photo by Chris Ertman

My visual style is really informed by the works of Julian Smith, Edgar Wright, Ciaran O’Brien, the Kids In The Hall, The Coen Brothers, Charlie Chaplain, and Buster Keaton. I think the Edgar Wright and Julian Smith influences come through a bit more in my visuals than others. I’ve also been trying to look at and learn more from renaissance art and how the visual composition of those pieces worked.

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Bagman, production shot 3, photo by Chris Ertman

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

I initially wanted to be an animator. I grew up watching cartoons from the 50’s-90s, and I thought that it would be super cool to make things like them. As time went on, I got more into the theatre world, and that lead me to an interest in special effects makeup. Because of this, I found the Indie Mogul YouTube channel back when they were doing Backyard FX, and as I learned more about the rest of the filmmaking process, I went from wanting to be a special effects artist to wanting to direct my own films. Around that time, my dad gave me his old Mamiya ZE Quartz film SLR, and I started learning to take pictures with old photographic lenses, and I realized that I really love the process of working with a camera. I also finally accepted that I’m a terrible animator around that time, and my career trajectory was pretty well set.

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Bagman, production shot 4, steadicam, photo by Christina Estillore

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 have a prop zombie head named Thomas that I made in my time learning FX makeup that I like to hide in the background of the occasional shot. It’s not a consistent gag, but it pops up in most of my indie projects. There’s also a running joke amongst my peers about my propensity for shooting with wide-angle lenses. (12mm and 28mm are two of my favourites.)

On the post-production end of things, I have a set of “woosh” sounds that I recorded at the age of 14 in my bedroom that I have used in almost every project on which I have been in charge of the sound mix. Sometimes, it’s subtle, sometimes it’s very noticeable.

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Bagman, still 1

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

This one is tough since I’m still pretty young myself, but I have two pieces of advice that really helped me.

The first one is specific to cinematographers. It is not your job to make the images of a project look the way that you want them to. It is your job to help the director get what’s in their head onto the camera’s image sensor. You’ll be bringing ideas of your own to the table for sure, but at the end of the day, unless you’re also the director of a project, you don’t get the final say. The sooner you can learn to collaborate effectively, the sooner you’ll start to get called back to work on more projects.

The second one is a little more general, but it was important for me to hear. If you’re just starting out, you probably suck at what you do. That’s okay. Everybody sucks at first. The important thing is to power through that sucking and never stop trying to learn how to be better. As long as you’re trying to improve, you will. It may take a long damn time, but it will happen, and you won’t even notice until you look back at your old work and see your progression.

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Contract Killer, frame grab

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I am a grey-romantic, sex-repulsed asexual.

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Dead End Town, 2012

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

It really depends on the crew that I’m working with.

Some of the older, more established people in the industry aren’t really familiar with the concept of asexuality, but it also never really comes up when I’m working with them. If it does, I tend to blow it off by saying something like, “I care more about my craft than relationships.”

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Relentless, on set, photo by Dan Chomistek

Younger crews that have been coming up at the same time as me have been far easier to explain asexuality to if it comes up, but again, it’s pretty rare. People hire me because of the way I make things look, not the way that I feel (or don’t feel) about other people.

It’s probably easier for me as a white, cisgendered man in the industry to deal with it than other groups of people, though.

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Pee Break, frame grab

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

I think the most common one that I’ve encountered has to be the idea that asexuality is just a lack of maturity. I’ve also heard a lot about it, “going against human nature” as well. Standard stuff. It got old fast.

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Realistic Musicals, frame grab

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

I actually had a pretty easy time coming to terms with my asexuality, so I don’t have much advice specific to asexuality.

I was a bit of a social outcast when I was younger, though, and when I finally did develop a group of friends in my high-school, it turned out that I had a lot of other stuff to work through. It really helped me to talk to them about those things. If you can find an outlet like that in real life, great! If not, there are all kinds of resources about asexuality for you to check out.

If all else fails, just know that you’re not broken. You’re valid, and there’s a veritable crapload of people like you. We’ve got your back. Take care of yourself.

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Recalculating, frame grab

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

I take set-photos on Instagram,
http://instagram.com/jawmsie

I tweet about all of my finished projects, as well as the occasional BTS schennanigans,
http://twitter.com/jawmsie

And I release all of my comedy sketches on the Cinema Wagon YouTube channel.
http://youtube.com/c/cinemawagonvideo

Thanks for checking out this interview, and I hope you enjoy my work if you do check it out.

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Bagman, still 2

Thank you, James, 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.

Interview: Janina Franck

Today we’re joined by Janina Franck. Janina is an incredibly versatile artist. She has just published her first novel entitled Captain Black Shadow, which is currently available on Amazon. It’s a fantasy adventure involving pirates and it sounds like a great read. Aside from writing, Janina is also a filmmaker and website designer. She’s incredibly dedicated to her work, as you’ll soon read. 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 make films, design websites, and write.

I’m a bit of a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to film at the moment, but I’m trying to specialize. It’s a lot of fun working on something like that with a team.

Writing isn’t something I’ve ever been able to stop. It doesn’t matter if it’s a short story, poetry, or a novel – I’m constantly writing something and there’s not really a day that passes without me even putting a single sentence on paper. I also just published my first novel: Captain Black Shadow. It’s available on Amazon in both hard copy and e-book.

I also have a writing blog with a friend where we both write a short story a week based on a common prompt.

What inspires you?

Honestly this is going to sound cheesy, but I’m really inspired by the reactions of others when they see or read something I made for the first time. It’s incredibly motivating and it keeps me going and gives me faith in what I do.
Aside from that, long walks by myself can also do the trick.

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

I’ve always been writing and making up stories, but I rarely ever thought of it as being an artist. I started writing my first novel when I was 11 and finished it when I was 16. It was never published though, because let’s face it – your first work is never great. I sometimes look back over it and cringe before making some adjustments to make it slightly more bearable again.

I also always wanted to be involved in films, but that desire wasn’t quite as pronounced when I was little.

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 animated a signature that I can put at the end of the films I direct, but I’ve only applied it to one short film so far. Though I am considering adding it to my books as well.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Never give up. Be stubborn. Don’t make it for someone else or with the intention of selling it and becoming famous. Make it for yourself and then see how it goes from there. But the most important part is to keep going. Don’t lose courage if you haven’t worked on your art for a few weeks or months – it’s never too late to go back to working on it, and you should do it. No one else is going to create it for you, so you have to make it happen.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m a pan-romantic asexual which can be tricky at times since there are so many people who don’t really get what it means to be asexual.

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

Oh yes, very few people I speak to in real life have any idea what it means to be asexual, unless they are ace themselves. I’ve been broken up with because of it as well.

Usually I just explain what asexuality is and they at least begin to understand on some level. With narrow-minded people I just avoid bringing it up, because they’re not worth the agitation.

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

Most people seem to think that asexuals simply won’t have sex for any reason. They also seem to think that being aromantic and asexual is the same thing. Aside from those, I have encountered plenty of people who point-blank refuse to acknowledge the existence of asexuals, so I guess that means I’m not real?

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

You’re not broken.

You’re fine just the way you are. There is nothing wrong with you.

There are a lot of us. You’re not alone.

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

I have a Tumblr, please feel free to message me about anything! http://xilaya.tumblr.com
Here’s the writing blog I run with my friend: http://twoforonewriting.tumblr.com
And a Facebook page for my books:  https://www.facebook.com/chroniclesofthebat
As for my short films, there is my YouTube account: https://www.youtube.com/user/Njurana
And I just finished my Master Thesis project which is an ARG: http://glimmer.men

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

Interview: Liv Cohen

Today we’re joined by Liv Cohen. Liv is an amazingly talented filmmaker who is currently studying film at Emerson. She currently specializes in camera work and is incredibly dedicated to the art of film. She has made a couple of shorts, which are definitely worth checking out. This is an artist with a very bright future ahead of her. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am a film major at Emerson College.  My focus is in camera work, so operating and taking care of the equipment.  Filmmaking is very difficult and very fun.  It’s also impossible to do alone, so it’s a very team-oriented art, which you can’t say about too many other artforms.  Right now my reel consists mostly of footage from the haunted attraction that I both film and act at.  I started acting in the haunt when I was 16, and I’m now 21. Acting was never a huge interest of mine but I’ve gotten to perform as a lot of interesting characters (zombies and cave-dwellers, insanity patients, and murder victims) and film even more interesting and beautifully macabre characters.

What inspires you?

The owner/director of the haunted attraction has been an inspiration of mine since I met him.  His name is Wayne and he is the type of visionary director that I’m hoping to be able to work with for as much of my career as possible.  I know not every director is going to have the sense of artistry and vision that he has, but they all better know that they have big shoes to fill.  I’m also inspired by nature.  When you’re out on a hike or just a stroll downtown and you see all the colors that the sun produces naturally, it makes me want to use those colors in my own work and find ways to bring them out so others might be able to feel the way I feel when I get to see such beautiful hues.

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

Nope!  I was not headed down a path that was even remotely related to art until my junior or senior year of high school.  I signed up for a photography class my sophomore year of high school, and by complete accident I had signed up for film (35mm) photography instead of digital.  But my mom had a 35mm camera that I could borrow so I figured why not I’ll stay in the class, and I fell completely in love with it, but it stayed a hobby in my head. Then my senior year of high school I took a “student news” class, where we filmed and edited little pieces that would appear on the student news channel inside the school, and I fell in love with video even more than still photography.  So I didn’t make the decision to pursue art as a career until senior year of high school when I realized that I would never be able to stay away from cameras.

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?

Signatures and symbols are hard to sneak in to film unless you’re a director, but I usually go for a more high contrast look with all of my stuff, so someday I’d like to be known as a “go-to” person for directors who are looking for a high contrast look.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Don’t give up.  Whatever anyone else tells you, do not give up. Go to art school if you want to go to art school.  Don’t worry about the cost and about the loans and about job security.  No one has job security anymore.  Follow your heart, not your head, because your head will be happy with any sort of income but your heart will be miserable if it doesn’t get to express itself.  Never stop practicing, never stop experimenting, never let the fear of failure stop you.  Keep going. You’re going to be amazing.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as a heteroromantic asexual.

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

In my field, not really, but I’m not “out” in my field.  I prefer not to mention my sexuality because of the fear of dehumanization or objectification or backlash as a result of voicing my orientation.  Those things have happened to me many times.

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

So many people seem convinced that is a phase or something that I will “grow out of” or that will fizzle out once I “meet the right person” or that I’ll change my mind “when I want kids.” I’ve identified as asexual since I was 17, but before that I always felt the same way I just never had a word for it. Before I knew the word “asexual” I identified as “straight but really bad at it” or more simply “broken.”  I know that I’ll never want kids because when I was a child I didn’t want kids, when I was an adolescent I never wanted kids, and now as an adult I still don’t want kids, and when I’m an older adult with a significant other and more years behind me I still won’t want kids and I’ll still be asexual.

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

People seem convinced that asexuality is something one can change or grow out of, or something that one should want to change or grow out of, but I wouldn’t change a thing about myself, and you shouldn’t want to change a thing about yourself either. There is nothing wrong with the way you feel.  You are perfect and valid and a whole, complete, wonderfully complex human being just the way you are.  Don’t let anyone convince you that you are “missing out” on good sex, or that you’re somehow incomplete or invalid because you don’t feel sexual attraction.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with or missing from you.  You are a beautiful person and I love you.

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

YouTube!  I have a few personal and haunt-related projects on my YouTube channel.  A few of my pieces are also on my haunts official channel.  Their stuff is scattered across multiple channels because we’re really disorganized.  There are a few pieces that are unlisted so you need the links to view them.  I’m providing links to all.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCflLCAUg9ZMo2N_SDNGrmeQ

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXASHOL3o2RvAM_p-3-OSDw

48 Hour Film Festival submission [I was director and cinematographer]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jqUOdbFf4I

In-Class film [I was editor]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDRkje2W2NY

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

Interview: Chuang Wang

Today we’re joined by Chuang Wang, who is also known as millenniumfae online. Chuang is a phenomenal versatile artist who works in a number of fields. They mostly do digital illustration and animation, but they’re also working on a short film and do a lot of painting and drawing. They also happen to be a fellow Guillermo del Toro fan (be still my heart). Chuang demonstrates an amazing amount of talent and there is so much emotion and beauty in their work. I was amazed at how they use color and lines to draw the viewer’s focus in. This is an artist with an incredibly bright future. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

Acesurvivor
Ace Survivor

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m a fourth-year full time student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, working primarily digital illustrations and animations. I make movies, paintings, comics, and drawings, and I write my own scripts and stories. I’m currently making a short film called The Amber Witch, which has been over a year in the making, and will be finished within the next six months. I’ve also worked with phone game app developer teams. You might have also seen one of the pop-up ads that I’ve animated.

What inspires you?

Not any one thing. I’ll definitely say horror has always been a fascinating genre and source of inspiration. Good horror is successful because it’s entertaining enough to capture an audience, and terrifying enough to stick with someone after the story is over. Horror is a great catalyst for critical thinking and audience interest.

So my visual and storytelling style definitely draws from Konami’s Silent Hill series, manga artists Nakayama Masaaki and Junji Ito, Guillermo del Toro’s horror films, and others. Real life definitely offers the most inspirational horror – decay, corpses, and death particularly terrifies me.

My current Amber Witch film, a story about a witch that preserves ‘beautiful’ fresh corpses within orbs of amber, was inspired by National Geographic Johannes Bojesen’s photograph of a sheep corpse frozen in a pond. The top section of the sheep’s body had decayed to bones, and underneath the ice the sheep was perfectly preserved.

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

I didn’t take art seriously until my first few years of high school. On a whim, I began making fanart of my favorite video game and decided to join an internet forum fandom community. A pre-teen submitting their beginner art to an online forum of not-so-friendly adults went … as badly as you could imagine. I dedicated myself to improving out of pure spite. I quickly developed a work ethic, and decided to take my art skills to college, and beyond that.

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?

In every comic I’ve ever printed and distributed, there’s at least one onion sitting somewhere. Don’t tell anyone, but that onion is my avatar persona. Because I have an unholy love for onions. Especially raw and eaten like apples.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

‘Constructive criticism’ is 98% garbage. The only way to truly improve is to make and make more art, and to keep sight of your enjoyment. You develop a working rhythm within days, and that steady level of production is what’ll give you skill. Correct anatomy doesn’t actually exist, color palette and theory changes from person to person. ‘Good art’ goes in and out of fashion like everything else.

Not every artist draws every single day and works themselves to the bone while subsiding on cigarette smoke and pinot noir. I never did, and neither do my professional associates. This isn’t the Olympics. Improvement is sometimes just this one new technique that you decided to try on a whim, sometimes it’s you drawing this exact same pose over and over, until you couldn’t possibly mess it up ever again.

It’s not cheating if it works. Selling and crediting stolen art as your own is one thing, but using Photoshop filters, drawing aids, tracing and copying, anything that shaves off time and energy is what art has always been like, and what your idols and role models have always done. You’re only shown a carefully picked collection of finished art, and not the piles of garbage that led to it.

Iknowingme
I Knowing Me

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Panromantic asexual. My agender identity definitely muddles the ‘romantic orientation’ part, which has caused me enough drama to last my sad, queer little life.

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

Definitely not in my field of art … but my asexuality has been a rocky road from start to finish. Me being a young, brown (then-identifying bisexual) teen led to years of self-neglect. I had no reason to say no, so I always said yes. As far as I knew, my strange neurosis and underdevelopment could be solved if I ‘powered’ through it.

I knew asexuality existed, but never thought it could possibly apply to my life. What possible benefit was there in being asexual? There’s no role models, no pride, no happiness in that life. It was a tough time. I ignored my body’s various aches and pains, and it ignored me. Then I made that conscious effort to reclaim asexuality, and that fog finally began to clear. My asexuality was my way of growing into myself, in a completely different way than what I was taught.

My asexuality definitely affects my art, though. One of my popular, earlier stories was about a mythical figure called The Crypt-Delver’s Maiden, whose physical appearance was designed after the famous Xiaohe mummy, which is known for its long, curly hair and beautiful eyelashes. The Crypt-Delver’s Maiden was a story about falling in love with an emancipated (sentient) mummy, and now that I look closer, this character was very much designed in an asexual light. There’s no hint of her body or her figure, and she emits no sexual energy. Falling in love with no sexuality in the relationship almost seems like a learned skill for most people, but for me, it’s all I’ve ever known.

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

That it can be changed or compromised. I can predict these kinds of responses the minute before it happens. Sometimes, people voice some plan to change me. Sometimes, it’s subtle actions like invading my private space or belongings, or trying to ‘guide’ my thoughts and opinions. Sometimes, people get angry, because I ‘lied’ to them, or that I’m not involving them.

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

Keep it positive. Distance yourself from anything that rubs you the slightest wrong way. You aren’t owed any explanation, or behavior. Your comfort and safety is that much more important.

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

I’ve got an artblog on Tumblr, millennium-fae-artblog. I also offer art commissions, and I’m currently making various Ace pride merchandise to be sold on Redbubble and Storenvy, so keep an eye out for those!

Fenharel
Fenharel

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

Interview: Malgorzata

Today we’re joined by Malgorzata. Malgorzata is another first for Asexual Artists: she’s a cinematographer. She has a unique insight into the language of film, which makes for an absolutely fascinating interview. Cinematography in unique in that it’s both the technical side of art and the artistic kind. Cinematography is part of what allows the audience to get lost in the film. It brings the story on screen to life. Malgorzata is a phenomenal cinematographer, as you’ll soon discover. 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 cinematographer, which basically means that I get to create the visual language of a story in a close collaboration with a director. It’s a great combination of artistic expression, understanding of emotions and technical knowledge about equipment and light.

Apart from that I still from time to time work on personal projects in photography, where I focus on human body, trying to catch those little moments of vulnerability and intimacy.

What inspires you?

I have a background in fine art, so majority of my inspiration comes from classical painters, especially Danish ones, like Hammershøi. But in the end everything visual can inspire me, whether is a photograph, a movie, or an observed moment from real life, when light was so exquisite and memorable that it just stays in your mind, waiting to be used, recreated.

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

I always laugh that I got into photography because I couldn’t draw so I started taking pictures in the need of trying to express myself. After I’ve finished my degree I got slightly bored with still picture and got into creating a moving one. The workflow in cinematography is so much different that being a photographer. You get to collaborate with great people, you are never alone, the artistic dialogue and spirit keeps you going. In the end we are trying to tell a story, whether it’s through sound, image or acting. It’s the working spirit of feeling alive on a set, that got me hooked. So, in the end, there was always something like a creative streak in me, that now I got to channel through working with other amazing creators.

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?

My style and approach to the work usually depends on a story and how the director wants the portray it, but I have my little quirks, like an extensive usage of negative space and emptiness in a frame or an approach to shoot emotional moments in profile close-ups to give an audience a feeling of closeness, but still not to reveal too much, so the moment is not becoming overbearing. In photography I do a lot of artistic nudes/semi nudes but my subjects are never portrayed in a sexual way. Nudity through photography for me is completely asexual, a body becomes a geometrical play of shapes and shadows. It’s intimate, but never erotic.

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What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Stay true to who you are. Don’t even change that. There will be people looking upon you, because you don’t fit into their limited universe, times that you might think it might be easier to change yourself or pretend. But never yield to that. Being yourself makes you special and that’s what uniquely is represented in your work making it honest and real.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as a Gray-A. Sometimes I can overthink who I am in the need of trying to fit in or understand, and it’s OK. Being slightly confused and searching is somehow a natural state and I’ve learnt to accept that.

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

In general film industry is a tough environment for women especially in camera or other technical departments, mostly because it’s still considered as an ‘alpha male’ job. Adding being ace to that sometimes feeling like an overkill. Because of that working in my field my sexuality usually doesn’t come up, I don’t feel the need to share it. But when it does come up it’s met with massive ignorance. But mainly on the same level that in other aspects of my life.

They only extremely negative experience I have ever had was not coming from fellow crew members but from a subject of a documentary I’m working on. Irony of this encounter is that we are in the middle of shooting a documentary about prejudice against sexual minorities in a seemingly accepting and liberal country like Denmark and my own sexuality came up in an offscreen conversation with a married, gay man who is a drag queen, so he represents a variety of minorities himself. I was met with highly judgmental approach, ignorance and prejudice. Starting from the fact that he (and other drag queens that joined) had no idea that asexuality even existed(!) to the borderline offensive comments (when I tried to explain what it means) that he can “sacrifice” himself and fuck me, so I will know what it feels like, because he couldn’t imagine being able to live without sex, ending with the note that he might accept who I am, but he can’t respect that. Irony of that whole evening hit me so hard that I still can’t process what happened. Here I am, working to give a minority a voice, to reveal that acceptance doesn’t meet respect and I am facing the same prejudice form a fellow LGBT+ member. If they don’t understand, than who will?

IMG_7824

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

“But you are not repressed!”, “But you had girlfriends/boyfriends!”, “You are just getting through a phase, because you haven’t met anyone special yet.” Probably three the most common reactions I’ve heard. If I had a dollar for every disbelieving reaction that I’ve encountered over the past two years, I would be financially set up for life.

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

Don’t let other people get into your head that who you feel you are is not true. I’ve been struggling with the disbelief from even the closest friends for I while now and I’ve learnt that even as much as it hurts me, I have to ignore that. Because I know myself and what I feel, how I see the world, the best and there is no one know has a ground to say it’s wrong or different. They don’t live in my head or in my heart.

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

For the films I have been working on, they are circulating around festivals in Europe, that’s why it’s impossible to publish them online before two years mark (weird rules). Hopefully one day you will stumble in the cinema and see my name in the credits (haha).

But in general I have a website with samples of my work, that I use as a portfolio.

http://malgorzatapronko.com/

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