When you’re working full-time as a freelance film director, there’s nothing more bittersweet than having a roommate who is not only one of your closest friends, but also a full-time freelance cinematographer. Zane and I are constantly approaching each other around the house with crazy ideas for short films or music videos, so living with each other is sort of like a daily creativity expansion.
When Zane and I were in film school, he shot my self-directed senior thesis project that later went on to win a Student Academy Award, the highest achievement for a student filmmaker. The directors of Disney’s Frozen were the ones who presented the award to me in Los Angeles, but honestly, the Oscar was just as much Zane’s as it was mine. The film was nothing without him.
Fast forward to two years later where I am now a 23 year old (Zane, 24) working our asses off in Jacksonville, Florida, a city that’s perfect for our craft. We’re still young, we’re still constantly learning, and we’re always feeling influenced and inspired by other people and artists around us. Personally, I’ve been heavily inspired by the work of English artist Tahliah Barnett, better known by her stage name FKA Twigs. I’m so drawn to her because we both come from dance/music backgrounds, we’re both video directors, and we both have aspirations to marry Robert Pattinson one day (she’s a little closer to this than me though since he’s actually already put a ring on her finger).
Essentially, I share one distinct characteristic with Twigs, and that is our connection between audio and visual. Music and noise, to us, is so dynamic that it can (to me, should) be used as a character. It should play a bigger part in a film or video than just being something in the background that breaks up silence. It should affect the viewer emotionally just as much as the story does. In addition, I’ve noticed that over this past year, almost all of the film work I’ve created and conceptualized (mostly with my creative partner, Keagan Anfuso) has had some element of movement or dance included. Dance is something with which I’m growing a strong cinematic connection and I’m frequently thinking about new stories to tell through body movement in filmmaking.
So, last summer, I wanted to experiment. I pitched to Zane an idea for a passion project; self-experimentation with body movement expressing emotions set in an empty, gutted-out home. Using a dirty white blanket as the only other element in the room besides my body, we would “shoot some cool shit and see what we get.” It was the first time I had a project idea in my head that wouldn’t really have any meaning or distinct concept, which allowed the project to be open-ended and up for audience interpretation. People perceive others’ emotions in their own individual ways, so we thought it would be interesting to simply provide the art and allow its viewers to derive their own meaning.
Zane was in.
I had already chosen a song: a thickly electronic track called When The Train Comes by Luxembourgian artist Sun Glitters. After a quick Facebook post for a location, Chris Arsenault, a friend well connected with realty in Jacksonville, responded and took me to an old home in Springfield that was absolutely perfect—loads of natural light and gloriously dusty floors. We grabbed Zane’s camera, a Lumix GH4, and headed down the street to pick up Luis Rivera, one of Jacksonville’s best photographers who agreed to take behind-the-scenes stills and help any way he could.
Basically, the shoot worked like this: Zane would float around the set, filming me at different angles performing improvised, expressive movements until we felt like we had enough material. Then, in post-production, I began selecting shots and editing the video with the Sun Glitters song. However, something felt off. The feelings that surfaced from the visual weren’t aligning with the feelings that emerged from the song. We shot almost everything in slow motion, resulting in very emotional shots radiating an interesting sense of darkness and beauty that we were really fortunate to have captured. The song, on the other hand, was heavy-hitting, loud, and full of instrumentation from the beginning. The song didn’t really build; it’s on one level the entire time. I needed something with more depth.
I’d been listening to a new album titled Are You Alone? by one of my favorite bands, Canadian duo Majical Cloudz. There’s a track called “Heavy” that I found myself listening to on repeat. It was easily one of my favorite songs on the record. I thought, “What the hell!” and placed the track over the small edit I had already made. Instantly, it created the flow. I was connecting with the footage on a brand new level and felt so much better. After a wild goose chase of trying to contact the band to get permission to use the song, I finally connected with them and they agreed. I then finished the edit, Zane colored the footage, and we were done.
It’s now so interesting to watch, because initially we had no concept for this video, but I’m finding myself connecting it to things that I’ve been through. I’m forgetting for four minutes that the person I’m watching is me, and I’m simply watching the video as a first-time viewer. I’m taking this dancer’s expression and movement and creating my own idea as to what story this character is telling.
I feel like sometimes, in art, you need to forget about the rules, forget about the expectations, and just go outside and create. Sometimes, the results can be surprising.
View more of Drew L Brown’s work on Vimeo.