Alicia J. Rose is a musician, photographer, and filmmaker known for her many brilliant music videos, as well as the new short film The Gift of Gravity.
- Alicia J. Rose Photography
- The Gift of Gravity Trailer
- The Descent (video)
- The Cassette Tape as Responsive Design
- Hi, Alicia.
- Hi, Raymond.
- The Gift of Gravity just premiered the other day presently. How did that go?
- I was really nervous. I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous ever in my life when it comes to premiering something in front of people because this particular film was such a roller coaster and it really is an emotional story. I mean, it isn’t. It isn’t. It’s really fun and then you’re holy crap. I just got whipped through the blender. That was part of what I wanted to do, which is a fairly bold thing, I’m finding out, for a first narrative short after watching 60 films this weekend, which … The vibe of a lot of those films, it’s almost like test pilot for a web series. Everything feels very, though there were some fun moments. My film is not like that.
My film is 15 minutes, and it’s in its own little tiny film or essentially could be the beginning of a feature film where it leaves you on this question, and it’s got an intense little art. It’s very stylish, aesthetically oriented because that’s how my brain rolls. But to answer your question, it was received very well, which was amazing and I was super psyched but I’ve never been so nervous, especially in the context of everything else I saw. I was like, “What are we looking at? I’m thinking of this. This is crazy.”
- Right. How long have you been working on this?
- We started talking about the idea last January. I think I’d written the initial script by March, and we started workshopping with the actresses around that time and then I’ve tied the script down by May. We shot it in May, and then we started editing after we shot it in June and realized pretty quickly that I needed some more stuff to fill up the story, which is pretty typical. For any film you make, there’s always going to be pickups something. You’re like, “Oh, yeah, there’s a hole. I’m going fix that before the light has changed this summer.”
We did some pickups in August and then kind of had all the pieces and then pretty much took another 4 or 5 months to edit it. We really wrapped it in December, early December. Then really, really wrapped it with credits and everything 2 weeks ago.
- Oh, wow. How long has it been that you were planning to show it at this festival?
- We only found out we got into POWFest toward the beginning of the year. It was in January, then we knew we’d have to just tighten up the cut and get them a final version, but it was a very successful screening even … We sold out the small theaters and they moved us to the big theater. That was cool and people were really enthusiastic. It was interesting. Yeah, it was fun.
- Where does this go from here?
- Short films are interesting. We’re submitting it to loads of festivals, so we just ran a successful Indiegogo, which is cool. We’re submitting to a bunch of different festivals. We’ve submitted to some, haven’t gotten into a handful. Hopefully, we’ll get into a handful over the course of the year because it’s different. This is, of course, my opinion, being the filmmaker and also a fan of films and having … We just watched of a weekend’s worth of films at POWFest, which was pretty cool. I think it isn’t like everything else, which is going to be good or bad. I mean, I have a definite point of view. Coming from a place where I have developed a visual style over the past 4 or 5 years and even before that, as a photographer.
It’s going to take the right festival to be like, “Oh, wow. This is different, let’s go for it.” Because it’s also a slightly difficult subject matter where it deals with bullying and abuse and some things that aren’t exactly just like, ‘Woohoo, let’s watch a short film kind of material.” I think it’s make a little more challenging to program, but at the same time, I had 15 people come up to me and tell me that they were moved and that they cried. I’m like, “Oh, my God, right. I’ve watched it so many times I forgot that’s what it did to me when I first watched it.”
I don’t know. I mean, I wanted to make a film that was about these young women who take you with them on this really natural ride in the beginning of their day and then do some bad things. They smoke some pot. They drink some energy drinks, and then they … Because energy drinks are really the evil. It’s not the pot. It’s never the pot. It’s always the Red Bull. They decide to bully an ex-friend and they get into trouble and they witnessed some really hard stuff. It’s an interesting film. I’m really excited about it. I love it. I also didn’t call any punches.
I made an intense little film that isn’t a lifetime story.
I wanted to make something beautiful and challenging and transformative and also leave it open on a question of, what do we do if we make that choices and happen to capture this terrible scene with our phones? We’re sitting on this video, which is really the essence of where the film winds up.
- Let’s take a step back.
- Yes, I put a lot in there.
- No, no, no, no. It’s great. That’s great. I wanted to leave with that. Now let’s talk about, where are you from?
- Originally, Los Angeles but then San Francisco and then I moved here to Portland in 1995.
- Officially, I’ve lived here longer than where I grew up, so I’m almost a native-ish Portlander in ’95. I’ve seen some shit.
- Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’ve seen some of the doors of Portland.
- Some of the best.
- How long have you been doing photography?
- I started doing photography at the same time that I started playing music as an accordion player and making … Doing all of that and also working in the music business, all pretty much around 1990. Then even though I learned how to do filmmaking in high school and in college, that’s when I went to school, foreign music became much more interesting. At the same time, I also was focused on photography so I let go of the idea of directing and filmmaking at a really young age because growing up in Los Angeles, I was just like, “I don’t want to be a part of that.” It really is still that.
There’s, of course, good things in L.A. I can’t say it’s all bad but because I gave that up, I’d kept doing photography because when I’m working in the music business and working with all these bands, it always seemed to come up as a need. I was just around people. “Oh, you take pictures.” Yeah, and I learned how to use a dark room when I was 20 and ultimately, I was booking clubs in San Francisco. I booked a club called The Chameleon, and one of my conditions for booking the club was having a dark room in the basement. She said, “Yes,” and I said, “Yeah.” Then I developed all my own black and white, printed it and worked with lots of bands even then in the ’90s.
Then when I moved here, I worked in music distribution in a company called NAIL that I ultimately became president of, which seems crazy now but that’s how it was. Then I got out of that and started booking clubs, again, here. That is when I got back into photography. There was a time when it wasn’t as … I mean, I was still doing it. When I started shooting The Decemberists, for example, in 2000 when I was working at NAIL and shot there a Picaresque album cover and 10 other shoots for them that helped define their whole thing up until they got signed to Capitol.
I think working with them actually was one of the more interesting and illuminating moments of working with a band where I thought, “Wow, okay.” Not only do I, of course, love doing this, which I had been loving before, but they just … Colin and I, at the time, had this collaboration. It was really fun and I realized that it was a natural thing for me to tell stories while taking pictures and then that just snowballed. I started doing more and more photography and working with just loads of bands, and I shot hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of bands now. I’ve loved it.
At the time, primarily, I was working in film and I switched over to digital since and, because of that, have gotten more into directing and that happened around 2008 when I started getting more into directing.
- Okay. Why accordion?
- Why not? The accordion is … It was so just cosmic and it made so much sense to me. I grew up, like I said, in Los Angeles in a very Jewish, iconoclastic, strange, weird, little family and almost everybody played an instrument. I tried, with all my heart, to play all kinds of instruments and really, I tried piano and I got it, but I wasn’t that excited about it. Guitar, bass, I sucked at both of those. I started singing. I could do that, but I just … I felt really like a fish out of water with my family.
Alicia playing the Accordion as Miss Murgatroid, photos by Andy Batt
- I left L.A. and then went to school in San Francisco and started working as a barista at a small music/laundromat called BrainWash on Folsom, just out the market. One day, this band, Joseph something, I can’t remember his name. He had this accordion and I was just literally a barista. I just saw his accordion. I was like, “That is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.” He let me play it that day. I asked him, “How do I do this?” He goes, “Well, strap it on and feel the buttons.”
You’d feel an indentation on the left-hand side and that’s middle C and then everything kind of move around middle C. I was like, “Oh.” So I did, indeed, press middle C with my middle finger and that’s what you’re supposed to do. It sounds dirty, but it’s really not. Then you’d pull. It gorged the lungs of the accordion and making a sound really softly. I’m trying to get people to be-
- Just changed the rating of this podcast.
- More pro-accordion. You just strap it on and then you slip your hand underneath the strap on the bass side and you just tenderly reach your fingers around until you do press middle C with your middle finger, and then you pull your arm out. All of a sudden, it makes this big, bellowing, gorgeous sound and then you play a melody on the right side with your right hand, then, I don’t know, immediately, it started making sense to my brain like no other instrument have. I think I’d loved the portability and the absurdity and the oft-maligned aspect of it because I’m not someone who doesn’t take a challenge. I like things being a little different, a little difficult. I don’t like to give people just what they expect and flop it out and something that doesn’t make me excited. I want to be excited. Then if I’m excited, I want to share.
I got really excited about the accordion, took a few lessons from this cute Italian man in Burlingame or something in San Francisco. I learned enough and I was involved in this music scene because I was booking nightclubs at that point. I’d played for a year when I was 19 to 20 and just had a good time learning, and then I started booking The Chameleon by the time I was 21. The next thing I know, I have my accordion with me so I was practising all the time.
Lee Joseph from HellYeah Records did a show there that I booked. He’s like, “What are you up to these days?” “Oh, I’ve got this accordion. I’m obsessed with it. I’m playing all the time.” He’s like, “We should probably have a single someday.” I said, “Ha ha, that’s crazy.” Then 6 months later, I was like, “Wow.” Somebody offered me a recording time and wanted me to play on one of their recordings, and I’ve been writing songs, so I have these songs. I said, “Lee, do you want to put these songs out?” He did, and that was in ’91. Then I made 1, 2, 3, 4 albums and all kinds of crazy stuff happened. Who knew? The accordion.
- The accordion. The oft-maligned accordion.
- The oft-maligned squeeze box. Now I’m playing the drums, believe it or not. I don’t really even touch my accordion. I’ve been really into playing the drums, so-
- Oh, okay. Okay. Was it hard for you, maybe, emotionally rather than the actual act to switch to doing digital photography rather than film?
- It was definitely, I don’t know, I mean, I’m still in the middle of that transition. Yes and no. I mean, because of digital, it really made the reality of creating music videos on lower budgets absolutely palpable. It was immediate. It was like, “Okay. Now we can actually … I own the camera. This is crazy.” Of course, now I make videos of much fancier cameras that I don’t know and because I can’t help myself and I know amazingly talented cinematographers. However, at the time, having access to something you owned or that your friend owned and that it wasn’t such a hassle just to try to get to make this video, that was incredible. That was the beginning of when I started to be getting super psyched on digital.
I kept shooting film the whole time. I still have my Hasselblad and I still shoot with it. It really got bad when I bought my 5D Mark III and realized, “Wow!” With programs like Lightroom, the efficiency and the amount of photos I can take, it’s just … I mean, it’s liberating to be able to take a thousand photos in 2 hours versus … Or for me, it’s more like an hour, maybe half an hour. It’s tragic. I was like, “Oh, sounds like …” I’m probably overdoing it these days because I just am so excited that I can keep going. Where with film, you have only so many rolls of film. If you’re lucky, a shoot can afford 10 rolls. This is what an indie, whatever, whoever I’m working with, and then you’re processing and developing, getting it scanned and then working with it in Photoshop after that.
I learned really how to shoot on a square. That’s my brain, and so … But I think I’ve done well with digital. I mean, it’s working out. I’ve done some beautiful stuff and I definitely feel like I’ve figured it out and I love it. It’s so nice to have flexibility. I’ve done some pretty nice, high-profile, gorgeous stuff. It just comes down to the same things that it did with film. What’s your light like? What’s your subject? How are you engaging with the person that you’re photographing or the environment? How does it all gel and come together?
Then the technical stuff is really the stuff you don’t talk about. You’re just doing while you’re taking those photos. The camera’s really just the filter between you and the subject.
- What was the first music video that you did and how did that come about?
- Loch Lomond, their Blue Lead Fences. They, like many bands that I’d been working with over the years doing photography for, were like, “Okay. When are you gonna start making music videos? Because really, like, your photos are, like, stills from music videos?” It’s Ritchie, I think, was the person who said that to me and was like, “Come on.” I think he’s the first person where, I don’t know, I felt like I could do video for them. I had a really strong idea and I don’t know. It worked out because I was booking.
Loch Lomond Video Stills
- I think, at this point, I can say that I helped them get a show, some private show where they got paid a thousand dollars. Then we took that and made that music video budget, and we bought all the Super 8 film and just made a Super 8 video for them. That was interesting and challenging in and of itself, and it had its own vibe because it was Super 8. You take the Super 8 film and you get that scanned and you edit and final cut it, and that’s what we did. His brother, helped me edit that one. It was really fun.
I had really no expectations at that point. I just was psyched to do it, and it came out quite well. It had a really interesting vibe, and it did well. Then that led to the next one and then the next one and the next one and now, I’ve made 2,000 of them, of traditional music videos and many more other kinds of videos.
- You’ve been doing that for maybe 5 years?
- Since the end of 2008.
- Yeah. Then after I left Doug Fir, I went to Mississippi Studios and I was there for a while as owner and booker, one of the owners and partners. I did a few more there. I did the Builders and Butchers video there and a few others. Then when I left Mississippi Studios, I went on unemployment and then I made up my mission to make as many music videos as I possibly could while on unemployment, making. I’m never going to get a chance again to go in and just kill it.
You have some many, one after the other. I made 10 in a year, something like that. It was crazy. I came off that and then wanted to focus more in there. Now I’m coming back into the balance of doing them all. I’m working on a few videos now.
- How do you shoot videos now that might be different than 2008? I mean, obviously, you’re not using Super 8 or are you?
- If I have the cause to do it, I absolutely would and I love Super 8. I would love to shoot 16 or 35 at some point. I mean, do it my way. Really, utilize that film. I would just … I would rip it up. I would love to do that. But budgets don’t really allow for that. Really, as a filmmaker, you want to have enough chances to be successful at a shot. Sometimes film won’t allow you to do that. It’s nice to have digital to allow you to experiment in the moment and I like doing that on my videos.
- Do you feel digital just to be a little more spontaneous?
- You can just keep going.
- I mean, with film, you can’t. You’re done. Whoops, all your film is gone. You’re like, “A guest can’t do that.” I mean, you just can’t. It’s expensive and it’s a different thing and it also has a certain kind of permeability. It happens and then it’s done and you can’t redo it. It’s film. You can’t erase it. You just have to keep going, even if it was a hot mess. I’d say being able to do that and being able to take more chances is a really big difference. I mean, I used other digital cameras right after that but they weren’t the Canon. It was some Sony’s with these lattice adapters where you could put cap like SLR cameras on this funky video cameras to make them look like SLRs before the SLRs came out.
I did that and then moved into SLRs and it was the 7D or the 60D or whatever. Now it’s the 5D but then because I started making so many videos, I started some pretty interesting collaborators. Bryce Fortner, who is the cinematographer, director of photography on Portlandia, approached me and he made 4 of my videos with me and shot my short film. Bradley Sellers used to shoot Curb Your Enthusiasm and Mr. Show. He lives in town and he approached me and he shot my last music video and also was second camera on my short film. I mean, these are some bad asses.
- There’s more. I mean, this town is amazing for quality folk who want to live here and have the quality of life that comes with Portland.
- Right. It’s the huge differentiator from somewhere like L.A., I’m sure.
- What’s funny, I talked about this, I think, yesterday and maybe even the day before because I was at POWFest until weekend. It came up a lot. People were asking me, as one of the few Portland filmmakers that was there who … I spent a lot of time there just meeting people and wanting to watch films and really, I wanted to immerse in it. They were asking me, “So L.A. to Portland, what would you say the difference is if you’re in the film business?” I was like, “Wow.” I’ve had this conversation with other people who’d do what I do or supporting what I do.
I think that Portland is a great town for creatives, especially for people like me, directors, people with vision. You’re going to have, in a way, more chance of succeeding, I hope, in theory than in L.A. where everybody thinks they’re a director and a writer. Here, you really have to be to be recognized. You can say it, but nobody really cares.
- In L.A., people were like, “Oh, is that what you are? I’m gonna try to hobnob with you.” People sort of cared but it’s like a dime a dozen. You can throw a penny and hit 50 photographer, oh, not photographer, like director-writers. You don’t really know who’s for real.
Where in Portland, if you’re living here and you’re making work, which is really the hallmark of calling yourself what it is that you do, if you’re making work, people are excited. I think because I had made work and I continue to make work, it attracts folks to me, whether it’s the work itself or the crew to support the work. I’m in a better position because of that. At the same, it’s a slower crawl. It is a lifestyle choice for me for my career and sometimes there’s moments where I wish I was in a bigger city to get bigger jobs and better opportunities.
I’m a very organic opportunity person. I’m ambitious, but at the same time, I really value who I’m working with. I don’t cast the net that wide. I hope that I continue to attract really good people and good opportunities. I would say L.A., conversely, it’s just … Everybody goes there to pursue a “dream.” The nature of that is really difficult because you have a lot of people pursuing a dream and really, very little talents on that level until you got into a certain point. It’s just so competitive. It’s disheartening.
A friend of mine, who’s a wonderful graphic designer, Sarah Gottesdiener, we just had breakfast yesterday. She just moved to L.A. and was like, “Oh, my God. It’s tough.” She’s extremely talented. I think you have to find your packet of people and then it gets better. Here, I think creative people just want to talk to each other. We all just spend so much time in the dark that when we came to the light, we’re like, “Hey, what do you do? Oh, that’s cool.” If they relate to it and are excited about it, the next thing you know, you might be working with them.
I mean, I just love that. It’s for real. If they’re here, they’re probably pretty good. I mean, they’ve chosen to live in Portland, which is half the battle it takes, cajones and ovaries to get that shit done.
- Now I have to ask you personally, the first work of yours that I saw that I was conscious that it was you was the piece you did for Bob Mould.
- Oh, yeah.
- How did that come about that you worked for Bob Mould?
- It’s funny. Ironically, I’ve been talking to him and his manager over the past couple of days about doing another video for them.
- Oh, yes. Sounds another album, right?
- I know. Let’s talk about that at the end. I can’t say much because it’s not 100%. When I was booking Doug Fir, I met Bob. We became friends. I just loved him. We got along really well. I think he’s a sweet bear and he’s bad-ass talented musician and, I don’t know, all those things worked out. We just became buddies. We became Facebook friends also. It’s totally weird, right? Bob’s on Facebook. He’s just a normal person. I mean, he really is a normal guy. We stayed in touch. He was a fan of what I was doing at Doug Fir. He sent me his book when his book came out, which I thought was just the sweetest thing in the world. He, I think, has honestly paid attention to my career and what I was doing and the work that I was putting out. Did I do another video for Merge? My brain is flopping. I keep thinking maybe I did.
At some point, Lindsey … I had been in touch with Lindsey at Merge and I said, “Just remember, put my name up there for the people who want to make videos” I really want to do stuff because I worked with Merge in distribution and at the clubs, I was lucky and actually know a couple of people there. When the time came for Bob to make a video, I think they threw a bunch of names at him and he was like, “Her. I know her. I want to make a video with her and I like Portland. Alicia, let’s do it.”
Within 24 hours, their camp, they really … They just got to go for it. Then 24 hours, they contacted me and sent me the record, told me what he was thinking like a real basic kind of a man goes to the woods and gives up on society. That was the one sentence that … He’s like, “That was my inspiration for writing the song.” I was like, “Oh.” We talked about building a log cabin and I was like, “Well, we can’t really afford a log cabin for the budget that you’re giving us. But we can definitely afford some kind of shack with found twigs.”
- Some kind of shelter.
- Some kind of shelter, like it could be flexible and it can be natural and you’re not building a log cabin. I think we’re on to something. I wrote a treatment. Literally, I think, Lindsey contacted me that morning. I wrote a treatment by 4:00 that afternoon, sent it off to her and then it was approved within a day. Then we shot the video 3 weeks later and maybe it was just crazy, that video. It was amazing and he’s such a trooper and such a good sport. We had so much fun. I loved the way that video came out and we were looking at it yesterday. It’s gotten like over a quarter million views, which for Bob, I think, is fantastic and had a nice speech for a premiere. It was great for him. It’s been a success for him, I think.
It’s cool because it is artistic and yet it’s really visceral at the same time. I love that. He really gave it his all, and he’s like, “I can act.” I was like, “Bob, you can act. You don’t even know you can act because you’re on stage. You have this sort of seamlessly integrated stage persona and person. You are one person. You’re such a beautiful whole human being.” He can throw down. I mean, he can just whatever he needs, so excited.
- When I was researching-
- i.e. Google-ing.
- Yeah, exactly.
- I’m afraid of what you found, Raymond. I’ve been around for a while.
- I was curious about the My Summer As A Goth project.
- Oh, I’m no longer working on that.
- But there are other projects in the future we can talk about.
- Okay. Why don’t you throw one of those out at me here?
- We’re talking about developing the short film I just made, The Gift of Gravity, into a feature and turning that into a full-length project, which I think it will land itself well, too. Because the nature of the 15-minute short that we made almost ends like the beginning of a much longer story. We’ll see what happens with that. I’m also working on developing a fine art photo series that I did in 2009 into either a short film or a feature film. That’s called Fairy Tales. I’ve been working on it since that point but I’ve gone back and forth because of the miserable hell hole of pop culture fairy tale crap that’s out there and trying to figure out of what I’m trying to say is what I need to say, given the landscape. Anyways, we’ll see if that-
- When you’re, were you talking about the prominence of vampire things and-
- God, yeah, or … The vampire stuff is sad. Fairy tales and vampires are two separate things, thank God. It’s more Grimm or Once Upon A Time or all the horrible movies that are never good like the Little Red Riding Hood with that horrible if I saw that movie. It’s just all these things that the canon of fairy tales is inspiration got really hot in Hollywood for a while and then kind of went away. It comes back and goes away. My story is really not about any of that anyways.
It’s about a little girl figuring it out how to be getting control of her life when her home life is becoming increasingly more difficult and how she pulls herself together and gets herself through it by learning things that are really in her imagination. In the film, we see what that is. That’s what I’ve been working on, on that side. Then I’m really trying to continue to build a commercial career as a photographer and a director, so I work on commercial projects as often as I get my hands on them, photo projects doing rebrands for people’s web sites, etc., things like that. I just did a whole rebrand photo project for a really amazing Portland company called Gemisphere. They do therapeutic gem stones.
- I’ve never heard of them.
- It’s amazing and taking pictures of pretty gems is just like, I’m cool with it.
- Oh, nice. Yeah, yeah.
- It’s really fun. Lots of fun things in the future. We’ll see. I mean, after making one narrative film, I’m ready to make a million more. I’m desperate to get involved with a feature project, whether it is I write it or I work with a writer and a producer. I’ve had a few opportunities that have come my way that haven’t worked out. It’s the nature of the beast with this kind of work. I’m optimistic that the work that I do will appeal to other people who might not be able to do what it is that I do and then there could collaborations. I think that’s been probably my biggest illumination. I love writing but I like working with people and helping making stories better sometimes, more than I like writing completely on my own. I’m still learning about myself as a writer.
This year, I dedicated myself to finding and developing some stories and some ideas that maybe I didn’t write or I didn’t come up with and finding a way to collaborate with writers. I think that would be really fun and would take a little pressure off me after what I went through with the short. At the same time, I’m going to continue to write on my own project but I really want the fun of working with people. Because I don’t know how it is for you, but sometimes working in a vacuum is just not fun.
- Collaborations are the most fun part of the job, for sure.
- I love it, right?
- Yeah, especially when you’re working with … When we do web sites with a really smart team that has a designer on board there.
- Then the idea is 10 times better.
- Yeah, because someone’s thought about it and others could be fun but I don’t have the skills to execute this bigger picture and that’s exactly how I am when I occasionally get the chance to work with writers or even creatives from an ad agency, which happens occasionally. I’ve done a few web-form commercials for AT&T. They’ll come to me with … Which is crazy, right? This is how we do it. How do you make a living? This is called the job, right? How do you have the job done? Everybody asked me that. They’re like, “Can you make a living doing this?”
- That’s a great point. See, that’s what the job means. They’re looking for meanings to that.
- what it means completely. I’m just saying you have to wonder.
- That is a theme that runs through this show a lot. Now I did want to ask you, Gift of Gravity, if you were to take that and develop it into a full length, is there anything, and I know it’s just premiered, but is there anything that you would want to do differently with the part of the story? Would you need to tell it differently to make it part of a larger narrative?
- There are absolutely things that I would shift and I would probably tool and condense and yeah, I mean, I tried to put a lot into the short in order to … Also I took a lot out. It’s the truth of the matter, and that’s probably what would come back in. Because there’s so much character development for pretty much all of the characters in my initial shooting script and what we shot. What I originally edited or what me and my editor, because I work with a really wonderful editor, we do work together, it was over 26 minutes and then we got it down to 15.
You can see, even right in there, there is so much to take out. So much about these characters we had to take out. Just to deliver at its essence the story that would be palpable or palatable to film festival audience or its even a web audience. I think it’s a lot of mistakes, when you’re a young filmmaker, you can make by having too much exposition, too many supporting story lines. When you’re dealing with a short film, my experience is just to get it out there, get the message out there, don’t be precious, move on.
If I have the chance to turn it into a feature, I would absolutely be able to … There’d be character development for all the characters. Really, I spent most of the film giving it to 2 characters and then having everything else support those 2 characters. Because in a short film, that made the most sense to just keep the viewers’ attention. Where in a feature, I can get the chance to stretch out a little bit and really look at each of these girls and how their decisions and how their lives, sorry, how their lives and how their personalities and how they relate to the world reflects their decision-making.
The main characters in The Gift of Gravity
That’s something that you’d get a taste of in the short film You see their faces. You’re like, “Oh, that girl is really the moral compass when you see it.” Because you see it in her face and you see them acting. But I didn’t spell it out in the short. I made it be something that you have to just figure out, which I think is a good thing for a short film. But in a feature, after the film, my short film ends, is when the story really begins. What do these girls do, after they’ve created this video of this friend and they’ve had this harkening moment with her?
It will be fun to get to really expand on these characters and be able to create something that’s dark but also light and give the main character or one of the main characters who suffers the darkness, give her a chance to shine and be light and who is she beyond that moment. I think it’s something that I hope when people see the film, that’s what they’re wondering. They’re like, “Who are these girls beyond this moment?” Because one of the comments I got, which was honestly the highest compliment I could get from some folks who talked to me after the film was that they felt that all the performers were supernatural and they were just super curious about who these girls were after seeing it because it felt like they were there. I was like, “Wow. Man, okay. That’s awesome.”Yeah.We’ll see. It will be fun, though, to spend some time developing those characters and a story that was compelling and maybe fine-tuning it. I mean, you make a short film that I think … Initially, I thought it could lend itself to a longer story but I also wanted it to be concise so that the viewer, in short form, would still be invested and would leave wondering but not be given everything.Right. Are you a super fan of anyone? Who would you love like a dream partner, whether it’s a writer or a filmmaker, musician?God, I’m a fan of so many filmmakers. God, who would be … I’m so bad with these questions. These particular questions, I’m like, “There’s a thousand of them.” I mean, I’m a fan of Spike Jonze. I thought Her was really great. At the same time, it’s a little precious for my taste. It’s tough. I love, it’s old now, but I love the John Hughes canon. I think that there’s something wonderful about his style, about there being this kind of thread of teenage cynicism and helplessness and humor, all this in the context of that, which I loved.
I’m a big fan of Guillermo del Toro and stuff that’s even more in the sci-fi realm. It’s interesting. My taste go all over the place. Writer-wise, God, I mean, I did make a couple of videos with Neil Gaiman. He did say that I could try to develop one of his short stories into a short, which I thought about. That could be really interesting at some point. I thought about that a lot. I love, locally, Lidia Yuknavitch, who I think … She’s a genius. She’s amazing. Of course, Chelsea Cain, they’re all …
Her and Chelsea Cain and Chuck Palahniuk are all friends. But Lidia has this point of view in her writing that is just such a wonderful combination of totally just screwed in the head and absolutely brilliant teenage head. This great book called Dorothy Explorer, or it’s not. I think it’s just called Dora.Not Dorothy Explorer. That’s for children.Oh, Dora: A Headcase. That’s what it’s called. But she wrote this amazing characters like this teenager who’s just a mess but she’s so interesting. Of course, somebody already optioned that. I’m also just an indie filmmaker. I mean, I can’t really afford to option anything. Hopefully, at some point, there’ll be something. Really, there’s some kids in that context. I would love to collaborate with a novelist or a writer who’s interested in developing a screenplay from something that they wrote. That’s in my purview right now. It’s like a dream collaboration as just an experience from what I want to do.
Because I feel like I have collaborated on other projects where I have come in and helped rewrite feature-length script stuff and that was a really gratifying experience for me. It would be nice for people to do that for something I get to direct.Are you going to away with the drums or is that just to let some steam off?My band mate, Shawna Gore, in our little band, White Widow, had a baby. He’s way cuter than her guitar. Elliott, I love you but can we get you some headphones? I don’t know. I mean, I love playing. Honestly, I would love to play with new people, not that I don’t love playing with Shawna, but she’s busy with the baby. I would love to play in a new band just to have fun with it. I like to sing and play together and write while I’m singing, which is really … And playing, which is really just visceral and fun. It’s like it’s
Maybe, we’ll see. I mean, it’s funny, though. I’ve had different creative focuses in my life. Music was a big one for a long time. Photography, a big one. Now I’m transitioning, still photography, but more into directing. It is a big job and it’s taking my creative focus. I tend to have one thing that’s the big thing that I do and then other little things I just do for fun. Drumming is just fun, and playing music is just fun. It’s a way to blow off steam now. Where directing, especially directing … Photography is fun for me, but it’s also a lot simpler. It’s just me and maybe an assistant and I get to edit all myself. It’s simpler.
With filmmaking, it’s me plus usually between 10 and 50 people. Then the collaborations along the way are what add up to the final product and I just love the crack out of that. It takes me out of my hole, my basement, my dark Portland cave, and gets me into this really wonderful symphony of creativity with all these people who are just wonderfully gifted and talented.
I’m addicted. I think anybody who likes being the center of energy, especially, I don’t call it the center of attention because it’s not. The center of attention is actually what’s on screen. What’s behind the center of energy is what I am drawn to in the position because you really get a hand in everything. You get to oversee everything and I just love that stuff.
- I don’t know what’s wrong with me, Raymond, but I love it.
- Is there anything that you can talk about? You haven’t mentioned that you’re working on, that’s coming soon from Alicia?
- I am working on a new music video for the lovely and talented Sara Jackson-Holman. She is just a wonderful artist here in Portland. She has this awesome little dance number. We did some shooting last month at the coast, at this incredible lighthouse, the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, and also on the river. But we’re probably going to do one more day of shooting in April when she gets back from tour, just to balance out the story for everybody’s needs.
Then I am talking about maybe doing a new Bob video but can’t quote on that yet. Yeah, you can include in here but we’ll see. If everything goes well, and I am doing it, by the time this finally comes out, I’ll probably be casting for extras. Because if this idea that we’re talking about happens, it’s insane and absolutely plays on my entire history of working in record stores. I will just leave it at that.
- But we’ll see. Yeah, and then honestly, trying to develop The Gift of Gravity … Try to pursue The Gift of Gravity in film festivals, potentially developing that into a feature. There’s been other people who’ve been talking to me here and there about other film projects and future projects. I am just open to hearing what people have to say. I want to work my ass off this year. I guess, we’ll see.
- That’s excellent. Alicia, thank you so much for talking to me.
- Absolutely, Raymond. Thanks for having me on the job.