Interview On Medium with Cali Lili From eVe N’ god: this female is not yet rated speaking with Justin Bozung, Author, Blogger, Journalist, Film Scholar.
Interview with Actress-Director-Singer-Songwriter: Cali Lili about her upcoming Cali Lili Indies ™ Release: eVe N’ god this female is not yet rated™ fresh from a theatrical run appropriately following “The Favourite” and preceding David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive Downtown Independent Cinema — Los Angeles California
It seems that the film medium is the most important to you above other artistic outlets, why do you think that the film medium prevails over others for you and is it possible that for one medium to be more powerful than others?
Cali Lili :
“ LOADED question.
Sorry but this one will require a long-ass answer.
I can’t be true to my team or what I am doing — without answering this fully.
That’s gonna take a while.
I began my actor “training” as a dancer so most things for me are about rhythm, emotion, motion, space and light. “pictures words music in motion ™” and “feMt0™studio” are two main descriptions for my studio . For me, answering your question requires both, a super — personal response and also a “socio-economic” / universal context.
Ever since I can remember, I noticed that the word “actress” held both ‘sacred’ + ‘derogatory’ connotations in some corners. It makes sense throughout ancient history — goddesses were both “sacred” and “profane” — … in the same way everyone feels qualified to “criticize” or praise actors — especially female actors. If done well, there’s a true “mystery” in a good performance — something like poetry with a code not easily cracked.
I’m a poet i guess ? It’s just getting “recorded” in some way, if not on 35 mm — it’s digital. On screen in a movie, or into a mic — for an album.
Sometimes the reaction to the mystery — is to criticize instead of discover. Others are “enchanted” by the mystery. I’m totally against “ tribalism “ but for lack of better description : THAT’s my tribe — those not afraid of a little “enchantment.” I say this without meaning to imply mystery novels or thrillers.
I’m trying to do something I haven’t seen on screen before. I generally remember most of the frames I’ve ever seen, like a photographic memory of sorts, if I’ve seen it — I don’t forget it.
My foundation though is, as an actor.
The work springs from there. I’m coming from a sacred “respect for acting” as someone said in ancient times when audiences had a visceral connection with actors. I am several generations forward — but — the Elizabeth Taylor , James Dean, Brando era — THAT’s what makes sense for me. That era gave birth to many concepts that “vibe” with me.
Following my own personal thread and studying that era has provided me with some guidance. Experimental theater is deep for me and I guess it’s only natural that I’d use it in my films and music. Acting is sacred righteous ‘craft’ — implying both “craftsmanship” and a form of “witchcraft.” Sorcery — which can be interpreted as “dangerous” in a patriarchal culture ( as my female protagonist “eVe” describes ).
When craft is employed by girls / women who don’t play stereotypical roles — when we get a “choice” (says eVe) we are portrayed or perceived as “dangerous” — which can be a form of FUN DANGER.
Very few of us have been provided the opportunity, THE CHOICE , to be dangerous. That’s also why “choice” scares people. The word “scared” and the word “sacred” are almost the same word — but with worlds of difference. That sacred space is familiar for me — I’ve experienced it as a form of deep “knowledge” and I have ZERO idea where I got it. I’m just grateful. It’s like a secret spell. I’m operating on instinct.
My film is dedicated to victims of violence against humanity + mother earth.
I’m really concerned with the fact that people feel they might not matter –
… at a time when humanity matters more than ever.
Every single one of us can do our part to improve this planet, and — just as crucial : this culture of humanity.
I think there’s a part of me that seeks to celebrate the possibilities of what it means to keep evolving into the best version of “me” but simultaneously I’m so worried that others might give up on becoming the best versions of themselves.
I rely on everybody to become their best selves and to save this beautiful “blue” planet.
Do you realize how very lucky we are to be here ?
I’m in the ocean, typically, every day.
That daily practice is my “temple” of sorts.
It’s a direct translation from that physicality — into my work. Film, music, books are a form of ‘transmission fluid’ like an ocean that I surf. I’m sending out ripples + waves . A liquid/fluid medium for authentically connecting with my sisters + brothers — humans — and very deeply — with nature, wildlife.
In this work . I’m finding ways , mediums (media) to express, celebrate : LOVE.
On the one hand I feel each medium can become extremely effective in communication. “Motion pictures” : Film — is perhaps the “hub”? The ‘medium’ where all the spokes meet?
My primary themes are where social justice meets environmental subjects, especially as they concern “girlpower” and oceans / sea-life. “Where Women meet water.”
FILM as a medium — CAN reach a larger audience. So, in terms of reaching out — perhaps it is the medium that reaches farther?
Movies are indeed powerful which is why the business of not only making movies but wide distribution of them should NOT be confined to the wealthy and powerful.
That’s unhealthy for civilization.
Yet — most “film distribution” is in the hands of the wealthy and powerful.
We hope to make a change there.
We hope to encourage audiences to buy the movies and albums my tiny team produces — and prove we can make a difference together.
There’s a “colloquial” / “commercial” context for this discussion.
The art of film — MAKING is both a “calling” AND a business ( fortunately or unfortunately on any given day ). It’s an “industry” and a form of “science — fiction “ it’s very nature — is science — and it is often structured in the form of “fiction.”
As a kid, I wanted an “authentic” relationship with what i do — my “calling” as an artisan. This caused a ton of trouble with my parents — it still does! I wasn’t just “rebelling” for the sake of “rebelling” — i was standing up for my rights.
I think my parents’ viewpoint is something they derived from global cultures, misled by the greedy 1 percenters.
Global cultures need art and artists as much as they need oxygen — but have been duped by the greedy to vote and act against their own best interests. On the way, I believe they have come to revile artists either through jealousy or ignorance.
That’s something I’m working to heal in the world.
We NEED artists like OXYGEN — but many cultures have completely forgotten this.
There’s a misunderstanding too — about what exactly an “artist” is. In that misunderstanding — there’s a lot of destructive energy fomented.
When a culture abandons the artist, that culture abandons its own soul.
I studied anthropology in the arts, so I realize that might be an intense way to view art. But there you are. That’s what I have come to learn. There’s a mystical / zen-like connection to the source of what I do. Alchemy? sorcery? photosynthesis? lol. My projects feel like “slow-cooked … distilling nectars + elixirs.”™
As a kid I needed to explore it but also needed to “justify” it, especially to my parents who totally never got it — (I still do and they still don’t) —
— but I was really lucky to have AMAZING teachers — true educators who “saw me” + encouraged the unique “calling” I was following.
In addition to ‘justifying’ my work to my parents, as I looked around me … I realized that I’d have to also “justify” to a “society” that’s extra judgemental of artists. I was a sort of “runaway with a scholarship” and maybe I still am ?
I’ve never wanted to make a movie that I’ve already seen out there.
Now there’s a whole movement exploiting some of our weakest inclinations … — an attempt to divide us along our “fault lines.”
I work to unite humanity.
That’s part of what this movie is about — when the female protagonist “eVe” discusses “mitochondrial eve” — she’s making a plea for us to realize that most of our “divisions” are cultural and “learned” — when in fact, we all have so much more in common with each other, than anything we might be deluded into believing might set us apart.
So I am working to get past that “hypnosis” and REACH PEOPLE by reminding us about art and the artist.
I’m hoping to prove — with the help of audiences — that my AuthenticallyIndie™ — Truly Independently made film — TruliIndie™ — CAN INDEED find AUTHENTIC “artisanal distribution” via word of mouth and AUDIENCE supporting my work and team on a grassroots basis.
I think this will determine the future of how artists might exist.
As it is right now, there are 1 percenter artists living like CEO’s and most of us “working class artists” — are living like — “pigeons for scraps”.
So in the “corporate movie world” : we see the same movie over and over, in the “corporate music world” : we hear the same songs — … we get “curated by corporations” instead of “curating for ourselves” — … which is the joy of life! Discovery! Thinking new thoughts, thinking our OWN THOUGHTS … ! Growing into the best version of ourselves !
We can buy stuff from each other … we can be Solar, Wind-Power driven, green-economy driven … we can create an economy that sustains the planet — … and … — this is important y’all : each other … let us please — sustain each other.
For me it’s a “21st Century Renaissance Startup ”™ concept.
It’s a way of recovering our humanity and I discuss it in my book “Declaration of IndiePenDance™” :
I relate to what I do as artisanry + “witchcraft” — so I hope for audiences unafraid of enchantment and FLOW.
Just surf with me for a while.
In the movie, there’s a line : “ play makes free.” That line is a sort of response to the concentration camp propaganda “ work makes free.”
As an “overachiever” — I’ve always found myself subject to that “puritan work ethic” — but I’ve discovered that — PLAY — is far more productive than slavish adherence to any form of dogma.
Big Thing : I don’t want us to lose our “innocence.”
Sisters and Brothers : PLEASE let’s don’t lose — a sense of “innocent” “play” (as opposed to a more cynical, malevolent form of “mischief” which we see going on with all the ‘white collar crime’ ).
I am very concerned that 21st Century cultures in every country need to understand how important the individual artist is, in the preservation of civilization.
The more “corporate” — or “hipster” — our cultures become — the more tenuous is our connection to our “tribal” roots … i don’t mean the “hipster” version of “tribal.” What i mean is — the real thing : Roots.
My “purpose” is to be a sort of celebratory “amp” — “amplifying” a sense of celebration — of the “ human voice.” As a performer, I’m interested in nutrition + wellness. So in my work — I’d like to — attempt to contribute toward a form of “nourishment.” That’s why I liken my studio to “AquaCulture” — which is a part of my methodology described in my book.
In the current movie there’s tons of mystic codes to crack! There’s nothing accidental in any given shot. Stuff written on the walls of the set, every costume choice, every silhouette or Crossfade.
The wish for including wildlife shots was in the original script — and my notes to crew were “keep your eyes open all day long for wildlife” — we were prepped to stop shooting in order to capture wildlife. What’s CRAZY is that the wildlife really showed up for us!!! “Octavia” the Octopus STRUTS for us …. And “Legs” the ocean crab equally delivered. All of this wildlife in the movie was a “wishlist” I put into the script — but it was all unprompted.
My process is “poetry,” with roots in Africa and also a form of “zen”- mysticism. That makes sense, given my very mixed multi-cultural heritage. I don’t believe in “tribalism” — but I do believe in the “human tribe” nurturing each other.
I think my work can speak to others … I’m not just figuring myself out — I’m also doing my best to help “row the boat” … doing my best to contribute to others as we “row the boat” together.
As a songwriter, lyrics are huge for me but the movie is like a song. So I’m making my version of “pictures words music in motion ™ “ It’s like — Spike Lee calls his films “joints” — so — it’s something like that for me — but I use other descriptions and they are all attempting to identify a form of “ Poetry in Motion“
All of us are now — “connoisseurs” of the “moving image” — of music + media — in a sense we’ve “seen it all” on some level — but while I detest “ tribalism “ — i am asking people to join me on a discovery of what’s possible right now — but without discarding our “human tribal wisdom” –
When i was a kid, the only toys i begged for, had to do with recording + showing both images / sounds. I even over-dubbed ! LOL …
As part of my “methodology” now … I employ what i call : “ ToyBoxTechnology™” and there are stories, writings, feelings, weeping, and a whole herstory behind these theoretical concepts which became my “tools” … “toys.”
Even as a kid, I was a “GirlAuteur™” / ArtisanAuteur™ — i think it’s a great way to describe my work –
So even as a kid — I charged a dollar for the show 😎 … or any stuff I was making … bc I knew I would have to pay rent and “survive” someday … — I had to leave that house … I wasn’t from a privileged background and I KNEW we could not afford film school for me … ( even if my parents would have allowed it … and they did NOT )
So I had a sense of “necessity is the mother of invention” to my “professionalism,” for some reason … I always asked my friends “ is it professional ? is it professional ? “ … maybe it’s due to having seen women do so much “work” in life and still get taken for granted ? It was likely a way that I could see myself “surviving” an abusive home … — i wanted to work. I am a bit of a “workaholic.” But … how does one define “work” ?
So, that’s what I am still doing … as a kid, I just KNEW how to do these things … that’s still me … As an actress / auteur reaching out to the world … reaching out to communicate …. — I want to SHARE stuff with people in a medium that best suits my “ voice “ … and I approach my films like a singer-songwriter … like “rock N’ rap.”
Now that the film + album are completed, I am learning about the world of “distribution.” Double Wow. THAT is a whole industry unto itself.
I’m “ the WEIRD new kid on the block.” But … I’ve always been the youngest kid in the class — “that weird new kid.”
If I could say anything to your readers, movie lovers , cinephiles , music lovers , audiophiles : I’d say : please LOOK + LISTEN to my films+music from an authentic place in YOUR heart, YOUR brain — … YOUR SOUL … bc every frame of my films+music are made FOR you — from an authentic place in me…. And … — I’m delivering them to you INDEPENDENT of the MEGA-MONEY-machine of Advertising / PR out there that exists solely for the purpose of TELLING YOU what to see, hear, think and feel — … telling you “what’s good” — “curating for you” — ?
I’d ask : Please support my tiny projects + the teams I put together to produce completely unique authentic pieces that are as “collectible” as any original work of art.
I am a “lover” of art.
While I REALLY appreciate SCHOLARS + Thinkers … I Do NOT need anybody “curating” for me LOL … I’m not rich — I’m not a MUSEUM — ! I don’t need a fucking “curator” –
i want to EXPLORE … I want to DISCOVER ARTISTS and ART …
… — it’s so much more fun to, just RANDOMLY walk thru a gallery / museum — or scan a catalogue of films / music + just ALLOW the art / artist to GRAB me … –
I want to say to film-lovers, music-lovers, poetry-lovers, readers — … I wish for us not to be separated into — “cultural castes” … which can become a way to keep us apart — sow discord among people, keep us “ scrapping ” against each other instead of allowing us to notice true injustices in the world, inspiring us to DO something about improving the condition of our brothers / sisters / fellow creatures / mother earth — even as we seek to improve ourselves …
You can see the push to gentrify the internet. Same “ gentrification “ as with neighborhoods + culture.
It’s SO important for me as an artist to connect with people through the piece itself — which has its own life … I channel + shape it, but once the elements “hit the sweet spot” … — then, that baby has her own life to live … — “she” (my film, my song) goes out there and engages with the audience … — whether it’s a poem, song, photography — … or … now … a feature film / full length album.
Indie “unsigned” — “un-owned” — artists can become an “endangered species” if we don’t get to deliver our work out there to PEOPLE … I’m not making art for CORPORATIONS !
I’m making it for PEOPLE … on behalf of the voices of people … and also the voice of “mother earth” and living creatures on this planet … that’s who i am working for …
… so … — if the audience doesn’t express value in the artist — I mean, if the audience doesn’t express to indie artists — that the art is — “valuable” — by supporting indie ARTISTS the same way they “pay” a more commercial artist who is already supported by a huge commercial industry — we risk losing this “endangered species” … — I’m referring to a very real “ endangered species “ : the “un-owned” independent voice of an independent artist . Indie Artists really do need to get that type of support directly from art lovers because we have Corporate “Big Brother” Commercial “Art-Factory” breathing down our necks.
I’m an “artisan.” I just happen to “craft” movies, music, and books. I won’t pander to some commercial idea of what I think will “sell” … but it’s definitely true that the viewer is on my mind when i make a film or song … or deliver a performance …. — i am not solipsistic about this work … I’m respectful of a very long history between the artist + the “village” …
Like Artaud — i am sending out “ smoke signals “ … I’m playing indigenous drums …. and i’d like the “global village” to come together and see the show … share the sacred space … — if only on a collective unconscious level … I feel deeply that my work wants to “travel” (beyond superficial boundaries) — inviting everyone to come together in a “global small town™”
In order to sustain myself through really rough times in this industry (after graduating from school) — when i felt SO despondent, i kept a journal/diary — which became my “playbook.”
At my very lowest point — i walked into an art supplies shop and began asking myself … why can’t I … as film artist … — get simple “PAINT and CANVAS” and just use my TALENT to make my work … like Visual Artists do ? Grab an Instrument like musicians do, practice and perform like Athletes do — just : … PLAY ?
I decided in that art shop … that i was SICK of being despondent and … that I would make my film with TOYS — i mean like Toys R’ Us Toys — Target Store Toys ( personally I am a fan of Target’s Toy Section it’s eclectic ) … and … furthermore, I would do my part — to BE the change i sought …
That’s how i went back to trusting the truth i share with the motion picture camera and recording device as a kid.
Now here’s the mystery / sorcery part : what GUIDES that process “cannot be bought or taught.” It’s magic. When done well, that’s enough. That’s “re-evolutionary.”
One of the things that strikes me about the film is how theatrical it is in its presentation. Was that an idea you saw in the material in advance or something that might have occurred to you during the assembly of the film during editing?
Cali Lili :
“ From inception.
It’s a “Weird” Cool — Zen-Like — film — — I’m SO pumped to put it out there — it’s risky/geeky nerdy and… it’s romantic too — in unique ways — including cinema-geeky ways.
I feel like there’s “minimalism” but also … “lushness” / sensuality … It’s an “inner landscape” … a “dreamscape” to some extent, woven from true life events — about a violent act perpetrated on two female lovers … in a case that is, as far as I know, as yet unresolved … — and we as an audience — “exist” in a “liminal” / “floating” experience that questions reality, but in real time.
I designed the lighting to look as though we were in one of those “snowglobes” … i was very specific and detailed in expressing to the camera department exactly the quality of light I wanted. Light is huge for me and defines my work in some ways.
There’s awkwardness in the story, between the characters personally, their relationships — but also it’s a bit “Brechtian” almost as if the characters KNOW they are tackling “archetypes” … — from personal experience, we all know what it’s like when we try to break “bad habits” — it’s HELL … it’s as though the whole “paradigm” of male-female duality battle of the sexes bullshit … — is an “addiction” — and these characters are “playing out” how we can begin to look at stuff like “misogyny” + the “isms” we are waking up to in the 21st Century … — it’s really time we let go of that baggage …
There’s definitely a language of “symbols” + “clues” peppered throughout the film… a little “treasure hunt” … bits of mystery and meaning … the “triangle” theme alone is like it’s own pathway to clues …” tessellations “ but i did not intend “weirdness” as a stylistic choice — it’s all flowing towards an inevitable place … the beginning to another beginning …
I love the love scenes in the film … most love scenes in most films are problematic I think … and I’m SUPER proud of this one — I hope audiences allow the romance to sweep them off their feet for a few moments before that inner critic gets activated lol ….
For me … love scenes + nudity are a hell of a lot cooler than gratuitous violence + cruelty in movies … I really REALLY detest the effects of violence in movies although sometimes they must depict difficult realities to tell an important story … but I feel strongly that violence in movies should, ideally, be very carefully depicted ….
Maybe we are such connoisseurs … that we are expert or “conditioned” to predict film endings? … we may have been led by commercialism to either envy or so ”undervalue” the importance of the artist in society … that we expect art to be free … I mean I’ve heard from producers that they detest the word “ARTIST” …. So maybe sometimes the culture might follow that very conservative extremist viewpoint — telling artists to “get a real job” … unless it’s a mainstream artist — and that becomes a vicious cycle in which only a handful of a 1% of artists get their work supported.
Without indie artists, non-corporate artists — societies become cruel, barbaric, conservative, stagnant… and as “easy” as it may look — it’s not an easy path so I just feel people benefit from supporting an artist whose work speaks to them somehow and whose not already supported by mainstream corporations. It’s not a choice really, an artist feels “driven” by something mysterious to express something … and the culture benefits from that work.
Everybody has a weird inner quiet place + I’m reaching out from there … just remaining true to an authentic current of energy that was flowing thru me when I began the project. I don’t begin any project until I get that “spark.”
It’s HANDMADE … not mass produced … not from a factory. It’s “slow-cooked in small batches” … stonewashed jeans with distinctive tears (+ tears) in the fabric, home-made cookies, not store-bought.
The original script is almost a graphic novel. The “structure” could be called “archetypal” because it’s tackling such an archetypal topic … I mean, “eVe” as “everywoman” + the “white male authority figure” aka “god” / “doctor Goddard” and that mysterious figure from the story of the Bible, the character of “Lilith.” Archetypes, iconic images … they HAD to be treated with almost graphic novel-esque stylization.
It’s been said that this film brings new meaning to “metaphysical” … the film exists on different dimensions … so it’s not only about metaphysical themes … it is — in and of itself existing on “meta” planes of reality … so the audience can EXPERIENCE various dimensions on every viewing … — I call it “ poor girl special FX : ) “ lol we employed quite a bit of that … and honestly … — I got known for that in some theatrical pieces I made … and I love it … “ economy of means “
The log-line is: “1 day in the Epiphany of a 21st Century Girl … Who Kissed A Girl.” Among other contemporary themes that appear to be “ripped from the headlines,” (and yet it was written + shot before Election 2016 + it’s aftermath ) the film deals with : an interracial love story between 2 women, a bittersweet polyamorous love triangle, LGBTQ themes and a hint of sci-fi/hint of art-house / all-out indie — … with an undercurrent of archetypal “epic” questions about nature, the earth, and human survival — all in the space of a 2 hour “debate” taking place in real time — …and in which the two main characters are never in the same room.
I learned a lot from the theater for sure. Our cinematic essence, our history, began in a theater. Black Boxes. Empty Spaces. Nothing, then something. So Cinema owes her infancy to theater … we dream in the empty space … we “project” into the black … whether it be theater or cinema … for me it’s the same … like we enter into a “black hole” with the audience — except we become “whole” instead of torn apart.
I’d venture to say that I might be unconsciously re-defining those terms? For me, a movie with a ton of violence, big sweeping shots from drones etc … is more “theatrical” — … I’m working on movies that inhabit the poetry of daily life … something we all experience …. Something universal … — dreams, wishes, feelings, hopes, disappointments … these are quiet, private poetries …
I will venture to say these are more “cinematic” because they are more “human” … the camera captures actors’ thoughts, one flicker of an eye — that’s cinema to me, while a car-chase is “theatrical” because it’s more “spectacle” so it’s got that “circus” feeling … — while I am interested in that moment when a shaft of light hits one strand of hair, just right … and you just heard the sound of a bird singing in a tree, then a fire engine goes by …
… and if we say some profound shit on screen … — well, yeah — people say profound shit ALL the TIME …. We need to listen to each other ….
I haven’t used the expression “multi-disciplinary” in a while but I guess that’s an approach I take … –
As a dancer … I understand motion to be about shape, line, form, rhythm, and light …
There’s an actual graphic novel of the project. It will be released at the appropriate time.
As far as “categories/genre” the project is difficult to label … but it could be called a combination plate of narrative drama, romance, art — house, with a hint of fantasy/sci-fi and rock n’ roll … but also perhaps “auteur”? … the music soundtrack is sourced from my debut album out everywhere.
Is it difficult making a theater piece cinematic, and is it difficult making cinema theatrical?
Cali Lili :
“ Depends on the project of course … every project, like every relationship, has its own “vocabulary” … I want to “hit the sweet spot” between form + function.
It’s a process.
Since this film is somewhat an “allegorical fantasy” … — there’s a RAW EDGY Rock N’ Roll ambiance too — … I think it just naturally “unveiled” … ineluctably “disrobed” … in what might be considered a “feminine” way … there’s a “film goddess” at play …
For me, as I mentioned … it’s a natural interplay like breathing … it’s flow … they are inextricable: “ Pictures, Words, Music In Motion ™“ …
As an actress, there’s a difference between theater + film …. — acting in film is more subtle … you do less, but — — acting in a theater, for me, is also an internal process …
This character, “eVe “ as “surfer chick” / Venice Beach resident … contemporary girl with a dream … — is also “speaking for” what I call “the global girl” … so as an actor … I am balancing on a wire between an epic character … + a contemporary colloquial “everyday” character, of course, that was true for the other actors … I feel we struck the balance … it wasn’t easy — except — that it WAS easy — because it was in the script ! …. the “play’s the thing” even in a screenplay … — it provided for us as actors, an “organic” universe to inhabit …. So we “lived there” in that universe …
Ok so here’s a little detour that’ll hopefully take us back to a relevant response …
So — my studio — is similar to the separate set of this film (we shot in various locations) — it’s a hidden “floating” Surf — SHACK- LOFT- Eco-Space at the Venice Beach Canals. We shot in various Venice locations. It’s a “floating” mini-neighborhood within a neighborhood — in Venice, Los Angeles. Most people who live there are not aware of it. I am in love with the ocean and water conservation. Not just a personal spiritual space for me but it’s crucial to the survival of this planet …
So — we shot part of the film at a similar floating location near my studio … — then we shot the other part in a mostly empty local apartment space …
So — the “real” — physical spaces these characters “live in” during the 2 hours of the movie — make a difference for the ambiance + sense of “truth” in the story we share …. –
My answers to the previous question probably speak a ton to this question too … — i think I am unconsciously re-defining norms … updating ”hard drives” + “databases” of cinematic cliches … — just by “wrestling” with the physical material of the film-MAKING …
The story is set in Venice Beach, my “hood,” with some great shots of the Venice Beach community and a very unusual setting … however, I’d venture to say, that when you hear “Venice Beach” and L.A. and “on the water” — the images that conjure — would be challenged after having watched this film — …
How important is it for you to try to break boundaries or try to do things that no one has ever done before? Is it always the goal?
Cali Lili :
“ That’s a great question, Justin !
Hmm. I do detest making any work that feels like it’s repeating someone else’s work … –
I just work from a place of authenticity and I am my own harshest critic … — so if I don’t feel the integrity is there in a scene or a song … — it’s out — ruthlessly … –
I guess — my work will speak for itself.
Even though I am a “female” filmmaker and the film deals with pretty much every “hot-button” issue in the news right now lol … — I approached the film ( and album ) with a passion for both — artistic/cinematic innovation, as well as a desire to make a timeless, universal piece …
As an artist, I am continuing the work I did as a kid in NYC — when I got accepted to NYU before I finished high school … — for me, this drive has always been about the work — pushing the envelope as an artist …
After Obama’s election, we figured the themes I discuss in this film, while timeless themes — might not be as “controversial” as they once might have been … but again, I wasn’t counting on “controversy” or “ripped from the headlines” stuff … — I strive for longevity and universality –
Yet I must admit, after Election 2016 … we strongly came to believe that this film seems to say a lot of what needs to be said — right now … along with that wider scope for global universality.
I guess there will be moments that are puzzling in my films … probably THOSE moments … those puzzles .. are the “boundary crossings” … If I do push to “break” — boundaries or anything else … — my persistence — is in the name of love …
It’s my responsibility as an artist, to be excellent (not just good) and “ to contribute to the weaving of the fabric of human culture … “ — that might sound “grandiose” but — FUCK — i see a whole lot of destructive behavior, including indifference — people acting all “cool” like “sincerity” is uncool — well, to those people — i say FUCK THAT — if you can’t be part of the solution on this planet — you are definitely part of the problem.
Back to boundaries … — I explore them physically — in this current film, the characters are apart for most of the film, never in the same room except for one mysterious moment … — that’s one of the themes I play with … –
Guess what — my next film used to be entitled “ Room “ … — yeah, so that title is taken now. That really upset me at first. But I’m cool now, I love my new title.
Like this film, it explores issues of boundaries … among lots of other interrelated themes.
“eVe N’god this female is not yet rated” was made with an all-female production team BEFORE that became so popular a notion We were, if not the first, among the very first to do so … — but we also worked with some very cool “guy allies.” The world is changing.
I guess I am also “breaking boundaries” in that I am a “female auteur” who also co-starred, produced the album/soundtrack and designed the lighting, sets, costumes, editing — all of which amounted to the expression of a very specific “vibe.” None of that is an ego-exercise — … I don’t need that … — it’s the work this particular project needed and it’s from an organic source. I wouldn’t pollute it.
On the next project, it’s very likely that I would hand over some of those departments … but … who knows? Maybe I’ll design those things on each film ? … the point is — the MATERIAL … the script and story … will tell me what they need from me and I’ll translate that to the team. I am completely in service to the project, which has a life of its own.
I love the production teams — I am ever grateful to them. I’m a member of CREW. I want this film to get out there and show off THEIR amazing work too.
Though I designed the sets — Icould NOT have made them real without Tiffany Leigh Smith / Art Department — she is a genius — translated my scenic design into the physical space — that’s NOT easy … I couldn’t do that — and she’s relentlessly resourceful, one day she picked up some branches she saw on the way to the set — and carted over like half a tree’s worth … — absolutely remarkable. She’s also mega-strong in a tiny frame … among other more acrobatics — she also helped me cart large boxes of produce for my “garden of eVe” set — dressing…!
The Farmers at my local Farmers’ Market donated a bunch of fruits, vegetables, and flowers not only for the crew lunches but also especially for my “garden of eVe” … From screenplay stage onwards,
I really loved the idea of getting the community involved, so I asked — + the farmers totally supported us … I really want to send a shout-out to my local farmers and to independent farmers everywhere … In my book, I relate my own work to a form of “farming” and I hope readers will go out there support small family farms as opposed to large agri-businesses …
My “love interest” in the film, “Lila” ( based upon Lilith in the bible story) is played by Candace Burney. Candace is a “lifestyle coach” … teaches exercise and nutrition — but she was an absolute NATURAL in this role — I cast her because I just KNEW she could be “Lila” … — I am SO proud of her — she is REGAL, GORGEOUS, as well as POWERFUL in the role.
At least 60% of the joy in making film: the HUMAN BEINGS we work with. Even if some experiences become problematic at times — the relationships from a set or recording session are absolutely irreplaceable and PRECIOUS. These relationships are forever.
I think my “style” / “vibe” does break boundaries. While it’s contemporary/new — my foundation is rooted in my deep almost fanatic love for classic films … there are a couple of scenes in this film that are a loving “homage” to two classic movies … I’m hoping people guess which they are … I do make reference to other classic films in the script … “eVe” is grappling with “culture” as “worship” and as legacy, so she is equating “movie culture” with societal culture … she’s taking the enormous risk of asking questions on behalf of the “global girl” … and she pushes for change … –
It seems like narrative or narrative structure are so important to 95% of the world…You mention the importance of visuals to you and conveying emotions through visuals…Why do you think that others have problems understanding this notion? People have exacting definitions of what they think a film should be or shouldn’t be…. Doesn’t the imposition of rules limit an audience member’s experience of the medium itself?
Cali Lili :
“ Yes … the art of film is in her infancy … we must be allowed to have non-blockbusters that survive financially too … — not everything is a competition … how can an art form, or civilization GROW if everything is turned into a FUCKING reality show or contest?
My latest ‘tee shirt slogan”is: “Makin’ A Livin’ Not a Killin’ “ … — we must make sure that art + THE ARTIST can survive … — I’d appreciate audiences buying my films, albums + books so that I can continue to do the work, hire the technicians, crew + other artists … I’m not out here “doing lunch” or “buying real estate”…. I’m doing the stuff that “money can’t buy” …. I’m just “Makin’ a Livin’” … makin’ art that’s not only indigenous “of the people by the people — FOR the people…” but also — for the planet + our fellow wildlife …
I want to say something that audiences may not be aware of …. There’s SO much intellectual property theft in the industry of entertainment … when artists especially young ones put out our material or “submit” to big Corporations ..we really are at risk … like an endangered species … promoters of everything from Movies to music to political campaigns scan the internet for ideas or force us to send them our fresh ideas — then they cherry pick what they want …
How do you rectify the notion that Eve is discoursing with God? What does the film want to say about monotheism and do you have any expectations in terms of how one of a secular disposition could respond to the film?
Cali Lili :
“ I am “secular” … so … it’s all coming from a secular point of view. What I am doing … is addressing a “cultural archetype” one might call it a “bias” … that is so deeply embedded in our fibers… in our “discourse” … “ in the fabric … in the stitches” ( as eVe says in the movie ) …
Whether we are aware of it or not — generally we “operate” on a “biblical” paradigm in our culture — from law to politics, to medicine, to education, to populism … — it’s embedded in the “genetic fabric” of the culture. I want to “adjust” the stitches and make some room for inclusion … — I want the fabric to fit more of us … –
Ironically — I designed the costumes in the film to be a “ dissertation on men’s’ wear “ … so it’s literally “ in the fabric, in the stitches” … (as eVe says in the movie) … –
I am NOT a costume designer … LOL — HARDLY SO — I can barely put together an outfit for myself that most people would consider “normal,” … some might consider my personal style even inappropriate … or weird and they are vocal about it lol! — so my own personal daily style is definitely my own … — but there you have it … this project — NEEDED these particular clothes — and they were designed organically. Necessity is indeed “mother of invention.” I had a good seamstress do the actual sewing/fitting.
“eVe” MUST enter this debate with “god” because … things just are not workin’ out the way these biases promised they would … and it is a debate — i actually intended it to feel like a “filibuster” kinda like that scene with Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.”
Once a girl becomes a “woman” in the workplace … once a woman gets “married” on the “societal stage” she gets “woke” to the harsh realities of misogyny + slavery … yeah, we are indoctrinated into slave culture as soon as shit gets real …
“Misogyny” … is the “supremacy” of the white male authority figure … devoid of righteous “goddesses” …
As a Wings Hauser super fan — we know that he is God. Are you making a statement about celebrity culture by using such a known actor in the role of a deity — regardless of whether the deity in the film is actually there, or in reality even in existence?
Cali Lili :
“ For Sure. Glad you noticed.
First of all — if you are a Wings Hauser fan — this film will BLOW your mind. Along with being a sort of “ironic” commentary on some of his previous roles — it’s just a great role and he KNOCKED it out of the ballpark and into the next state.
I am SO GRATEFUL and So PROUD of Wings’s performance — — it’s got nuance, heartbreak — and power. I really don’t think I have seen him get to flesh out his amazing range so fully — I’m SO PUMPED for people to see him — obviously, I hope people will make it a point to support this film for so many reasons — … I want to share what my crew did + I also want to share Wings’s performance …
The script was originally written on “stickies” … as I navigated the treacherous world of being an actress + also raising funding for a completely different movie project … this … “eVe as everywoman” character kept “popping up” … I kept seeing “eVe” in various skin colors, but all as the same girl … a ‘global girl “ … telling a “god figure” as an archetypal all round “authority” … what she feels … in this “long overdue conversation…”
This was all getting written via some form of “channeling” I was experiencing — just … as I was finding out what it’s really like to be an actress + a “girl” trying to make a good film in Hollywood — and I thought … — whoa — Wings could play this “Doctor Goddard” character better than anybody I can think of …
Then I thought of “what people would think” if I cast him … Then I thought: “ I AM SO SICK OF THINKING about WHAT PEOPLE WILL THINK” — As a director, I thought … WOW … this would be an awesome comment on Wings Hausers’ previous roles … Wings Hauser playing a “godlike role”? it’s perfect.
We had initially met on a set, working really well together, then with him casting + directing me … we loved working together as fellow actors in a few other projects when I was a kid … + later he had hired me to co-write a script …there were rumours that we were a couple but we really were partners …. I mean, Wings raised a daughter as a single father — he is such a gentleman — so we hated those rumors …and they came about ONLY bc nobody could understand how we could be partners in an equal partnership.
My studio space in Venice was hand-built … but what’s outrageous — is that was built by my buddy Wings … when I was just a kid… I was in LA working in a movie role + we became platonic friends — fellow actors …. He had confided that he was building something + I half-jokingly shared the design of a surf shack I’d made in school ( I was about to get skipped out of high school into University with a scholarship ) … much to my surprise he loved it + had it built!!!
Years later … after we’d become partners in business + in life — I insisted that I buy the studio with my earnings so that it’d be an equal partnership — and then I turned it into a tiny film + music studio — hired our first core teams + went to work.
Well in light of how things do take place in the entertainment industry ( and other industries) between younger women + powerful men — it’s understandable that people might not yet understand our partnership but integrity is definitely my compass so I’m super proud …
The whole inherent bias/sexism thing embedded in the industry was one of the reasons I started turning down acting roles. My Master’s Degree earned at a young age wasn’t really the “calling card” that was in demand.
So in spite of the “chip” I had on my shoulder about “what people might think” about us working together yet again … — I asked him about whether I should do the project …
Both he and my manager advised me that girls are treated like “crap” in this industry … and they both were concerned that I might get some role that might be short term lucrative, but which might turn me into a “flavor of the month” …
So when I told them I’d written THIS project … they were beyond thrilled. He asked me if he could read the script … and I was really nervous for him to read it, knowing that he wouldn’t lie LOL … GULP … He loved it.
He had chosen to do mostly TV for quite a while — and after reading the script, he wanted THIS film to be a statement. I can brag that after we wrapped, he told the crew and anybody else he met that I am in his “top 5 directors.” I know he never slops around with those kinds of compliments so — that was really unexpected — and I am super proud of that.
So — … in this response, I have to add — it’s also the “white male authority figure” informing “celebrity dominance” — in terms of partnership as well as the institution of marriage — … how a very young woman is treated by society if she merits a real partnership with someone more established — and assumptions people make about her “worth” ….her capabilities …ie. if u are skipped grades in school u might b a genius but if u are doing exemplary work in the workplace — that’s competition…
Also how society treats a young woman when she marries. I became a partner with an established older person at a young age and yes I got married young, even though my plan was to NEVER get married. Society treated me differently after I got married … and NOT in a good way …. — THAT — rocked my world badly.
Especially being married to an established famous person. It’s REALLY challenging. suddenly I became “somebody’s wife” … — “less than a person” and certainly, not an artist in her own right. That was a gut punch. A sucker punch too.
UGH OMFG were they kidding? That was disgusting to me. That experience taught me the definition of misogyny.
Once I became married to a “known” celebrity, it was weird out there for a while…
It’s almost as if, — people can’t tolerate it if they can’t decide what your relationship is or define u — by labeling — the way they have labeled previous relationships — also my childhood was difficult so I believe in healthy amounts if privacy + balance … which isn’t always the norm … I mean suddenly I was no longer “available” to men + even tho I was “available” to girls — my male partner is completely respectful of me + my privacy — he’s really my best friend + apparently that’s something a lot of people just plain didn’t comprehend?…
I mean … it’s the 21st Century … — I always knew that “marriage” was a challenge for a girl … but never did I realize that even a 21st Century society, can just try to “erase” her after she is married … especially if she marries someone older, more powerful/celebrated.
After getting past the shock … I became quite fascinated with this particular form of pathology in our culture. And it is PATHOLOGY.
As a very “young bride” I looked up to my older partner and yet, I never deferred to him when it came to making decisions as an artist, about my studio, my work etc … after all, I’ve been an artist since I was born and I defer to no-one … whenever we collaborated, we had our “animated discussions” and even all-out battles … but … we are equals at all times.
People assume things about our partnership because they were viewing the relationship through the lens of marriage as it has been labeled, enslaved over time.
Our partnership as equals began and continues to be a remarkable experience of mutual respect … again … not without my standing up for my point of view against an older male who was born many years before me … I think it helped a lot, that his father was a gentleman + his mother was a true lady — a strong graceful woman who raised a man, not just a boy … I think it helped that he raised a daughter as a single father … but … even so, I had to learn how to stand up for myself in a partnership … and that was good for us both …
That’s all reflected in the film to a certain degree.
I don’t see this equality partnership mirrored in too many other relationships … so perhaps this is all part of my “destiny …” to somehow transmit/share what a partnership between male and female can be…?
I have to add here … :
Having also been in relationship with FEMALE partners : It’s sort of a similar bias in my relationships with women … some women are more “alpha” … some women are “tops” as in a lesbian relationship … some women are more “butch” … some more “femme” … and all these interactions … are dances … we dance together and it’s better for all to create harmony, to choose love and passion over “winning” a battle … while at the same time not “collapsing” for the sake of a dominant/submissive paradigm … my films deal with this topic too ….
CELEBRITY CULTURE IS the EMBODIMENT of those dominant/submissive/commercialist paradigms. What Wings’s character is doing in this film is … reflecting us all: what might happen if we were able to have this conversation with “Authority Figures” who finally HEAR what we all have to say … “Authority Figures” who LISTEN TO US.
We figured I might be extra stressed out on the first day of filming my acting scenes while I was directing… I’d never done both before … but it turned out I had food poisoning lol … I just threw up before my first take but I’m super proud I barely had to get makeup to do touch ups (lollll) I threw up efficiently …also my first dialogue
scene is a hangover scene so I wasn’t supposed
to look too good …
I almost thought I should quit after vomiting but Wings was like oh come on just go do your thing lol … it really matters to have a true partner … and the team was so cool …
Another funny anecdote is the mini battles between Wings and our extraordinary art department — Tiffany Leigh Smith lol … she is a tornado of energy + Wings was already perturbed …as was my cat … about moving stuff out of the studio and basically gutting the space to create the “garden of eVe” set in Venice Beach …. Tiffany would move stuff out of the space + Wings would be like — WHYYYYYYY!!!!!!???
You mention being a fan of Chaplin’s MODERN TIMES….What is it about the film that you admire so much? You mention visuals and emotions…What do you get from MODERN TIMES in the realms of personal experience yourself?
Cali Lili :
“ The triumph of love and persistence over the: “ COG in the machinery “ spoon-fed mediocrities.
The fact that Chaplin’s film is like an existential “whistleblower” — a WARNING like Eisenhowers’ about the “military-industrial complex” + facism ….it’s straight up- WARNING SIGN: about …- not getting “CAUGHT” in the large machinery and therefore — becoming obsolete ..
The terror and injustice — of — human beings not mattering to the cold machine … swallowed up by the giant machine … the ultimate triumph of love and persistence –
If we, as a human race — globally, all stick together and choose love, choose ourselves, choose humanity — we can beat that monster machine … the economic injustices and war …
We now have an amazing opportunity to CONNECT with each other’s humanity — via social media … since Chaplin already blew the whistle — we better not “blow it” — these are tender times … ( i really can’t believe this section of the interview was done a few years ago … before our current crisis… wow )
That film in particular, and many of Chaplin’s … just make me bust out crying LOL … it’s like Chaplin’s song “Smile though your heart is breaking …” One minute you are smiling or laughing … and just around the corner, he will reach into your heart, hold it in his hands, and say hello … — + you trust him … because you know … around the next corner … — you will be smiling again …
His humanity …. the sacred humanity of his films …
Artists are the keepers of the flame of humanity … We have a responsibility … and Mr. Chaplin did not shy away from that responsibility …. If artists don’t take the opportunity to “model” freedom and integrity — … then we as a civilization, are truly lost … — we can get “found” though — and maybe after our current crisis … we can “find” our way back better than ever, to create a stronger culture. That’s partly what my work strives for and I feel it’s my responsibility to carry on what people like Mr. Chaplin initiated.
There are so many contemporary directors that I’d love to work with as an actress if I ever get the opportunity in a world where actors + directors can’t even communicate with each other except thru power brokers … : “the Spikes”: Spike Jonze, Spike Lee … “the Andersons: Wes Anderson + Paul Thomas Anderson … Ava DuVernay, Kathryn Bigelow, Gary Ross, David O. Russell, Denzel Washington, David Fincher … so many more … — I’d LOVE to be cast in any of their works! — it’s rough tho, as an actor, to even get NEAR roles like these … often we don’t even know what’s getting cast so we can’t even read for those quality roles — many actors don’t even get to take a shot at the best roles in the best films — it’s a gated community — — … I wish directors and actors could communicate more easily — — maybe that can happen going forward — …
… — but as a director, I tend to feel more “authentic” to my own “voice” if i “study” the classics like Chaplin … as opposed to looking at what anybody is doing in current cinema … —
I also like your mention of Jack Ripper’s line in DR. STRANGELOVE about “Precious Bodily Fluids and he withholding his essence…” What did that line resonate with you, what does it mean to you?
Cali Lili :
“ I’m attracted by science ( tho I am an idiot with numbers ) … my great, great uncle, was a scientist … I spent some time with him in Paris, we had kitchen competitions on making the perfect poached egg … of course cooking is science.
My current film involves some science themes and even a hint of “sci-fi” … a couple of images that I find almost “horrific” … — in response to real-world incidents … and the film itself is a “response” to a real-life act of violence against an LGBTQ couple … — so in order to address some themes … — there is an element of “fantasy” — my style leans a bit toward “magic realism” if I had to use a label but I really don’t want to — because I don’t think it can be categorized. It’s organic, authentic and it lives on its own terms.
Women in Science is an interesting topic for so many reasons … I think it’s also really SEXY … “Geek Chic” … “the Sexy Part of Smart. “
The “precious bodily fluids” line — made me laugh from a very deep place — because it struck a huge chord of truth … it’s fun, to be laughing at the “crazy” ( of that character) while one part of your brain must acknowledge that “precious bodily fluids” has a ring of truth … we all “ know “ it — on a visceral … precious bodily fluids level …. each one of us is incessantly engaged in some act that involves a precious bodily fluid … your blood “ flows” …
My film explores the concept of female sexual “Fluidity” … I feel that female fluidity might save us from losing what is most precious … I feel that “her” fluidity can lead to the ending of war.
We create our own “World” in a film, invite the audience to enter and we “live” there together for a while … each of us with a slightly different experience, but all of us sharing that collective unconscious … “fluid” … “liminal” space ….
If I were living in the “ Strangelove” — World of that film … i would agree with this character’s premise about the “importance” of “bodily fluids” lol … — but his conclusions — his decision — to end the world is a copout … it’s lazy/scared — that’s the OLD PARADIGM … it’s overly “phallic” …
You mention how you’ve been a student of writing and studying the female/male tension — why do you think that this exists in modern society? How does it cease? Can it cease? And if it did, what the world be a less interesting place?
Cali Lili :
“ Since I was skipped so many times, the youngest one in class … just totally focused on my studies and getting away from an abusive childhood home … this exploration was completely unconscious … I was sublimating everything about sexuality in my art … I poured all of my energies into dance …. acting … writing songs ….
My parents were in a 24/7 power struggle, which led to violence …. sometimes I’d have to call the police … Obviously, my first-hand witnessing of the destructive aspects of this battle between my parents created a huge effect on me ….
The FEMALE / FEMME element is an untapped resource … which holds the power to radically improve life on this planet ( bodily fluids LOL) … if we let her … if we nurture her .. and even .. “fight” for her when necessary … she has a “herstory” to share .. that will only improve upon “history”.
As I grew up a little … I found myself expected to behave as an “adult” when I was really — just a TEENAGER who happened to get a free pass to the adults’ lecture hall in College. I was taking courses with students who were themselves, professors in other countries!
After school, I began asking questions about gender as well as sexuality … in a personal but also HIGHLY Political manner … my experiences as a “Girl” in the business world … and in the “world” — all of it … everything — fed these questions
Still a “runaway with a scholarship” — when I was becoming an “adult” … and I was “safe” enough to consider such “frivolous” matters as sexuality and being a “girl” … I realized that most people had navigated these “waters” in high school …
I have a Masters’ Degree but not a high school diploma. That kinda says a lot huh.
I never “dated” much … though I did always have boyfriends … but my focus was on — my art and — just plain survival … ( like the Charlie Chaplin character … : )
When I began to explore these topics .. I paid attention to my reactions + questioned my own biases … — I couldn’t help but react to the INSANITY of PROP 8 — I was SHOCKED — that my beloved CALIFORNIA could adopt such a measure … it really hit me.
Experiences, feelings, questions, and ideas seemed to magically appear in my personal life — and they just happened to magically dovetail with the screenplay I was writing for my film … so this led me to do some research … along with personal queries about sexuality … so the film is a semi-autobiographical “coming out” story, of sorts … but definitely not a full-on biographical piece … the next film continues where this one left off … however, they are each very much their own universe.
It has always been my feeling that the work should speak for itself … it’s all about making a great film, a great album … not gossip … — one doesn’t have to be an alien, to make a film about aliens … as Einstein said “ Imagination is more powerful than intelligence “ — anyway he said something like that.
Just as the art of film is in her infancy …. the MUCH NEEDED embrace of true Gender Freedoms/ Gender Equality, Racial Equality and understanding about every individuals’ freedom to express their “freedom to love,” in the context of various cultures and societies … — is also in its infancy … my work is connected to all of these struggles … we really have to get a grip on the level of ignorance that breeds hate.
You mention [Bob] Dylan as a major musical influence? What do you take from his work that is so inspiring?
Cali Lili :
“ Yes — but ALSO:… Rap … “Street” Music … World Music — I am ultra eclectic in taste …
I write everything as a lyricist.
I was always told that I “should” listen to Dylan … by older friends who had read my plays/songs … I didn’t get around to it — until I got around to it …. and when I did — he really hit me like a ton of bricks … — I was in Paris living with my great great uncle for a while … — I had included some Dylan in my playlist … One day I got around to listening to it … — and I spent the rest of the trip just listening to it over and over …i walked all over Paris listening ….. and all over London … listening …. it seemed so familiar to me …
I had written a version of my song “Election Train” way before I recorded it … and before I ever heard Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” … people mentioned that it reminded them of Dylan and that I “really should listen to him” lol …. in fact, I wrote that song as a teenager on the subway in NYC and I remember thinking that I could never figure out how to get the music on it … so it was like a miracle to me a few years later … — boom — it’s even got a music video … I revised it slightly before recording … but it was pretty similar to the original… what’s great is we also discovered this crazy unexpected musical partnership — that was truly random —
Aside from the poetry, I heard a kind of Biblical / Righteous RAGE in Dylan’s songs … it was familiar to me as my own anger as expressed in my own poetry …. I hear it in rap + global music …. the rage uses language as a weapon, I related to that … then it’s also a celebration/party — as in Brazilian+African music –
…. I aspire to timelessness + quality …. I resonate with that in others’ works …
Early on, I was very into drumming sounds, rhythm … anything I could DANCE to … I still am hooked by any drumming … My multi-cultural background informs all of it of course … — I’m a bit of a percussionist but not an expert …
I wrote lyrics … as poems, but they were always written to be songs …i was always interested in using words rhythmically … percussively. So, words, like my body … — could be my instruments … — along with my voice … which I was very shy about … and … I wrote some versions of “rap” before I knew that I was even doing that …
This film is very “Rock N’ Roll” … but also “Urban” with some “Rap” and some “World” music influences … especially the many variations of music from Africa — from traditional to contemporary ….
The music team + I are so pumped to see that song previews are getting thousands of likes all over the world … ironically especially from Africa…
…. my album gets MUCH edgier than the previews … I’m chomping at the bit to put it out…but we want to put it out with the film …
– I ADORE the musicians that played on this album — each one of them is a total pro — I am so grateful for every single one of them! They were also just incredibly supportive of me as a new recording artist.
One musician, “Edi Roque” — came here all the way from BRAZIL … we met on Facebook when he reached out to me about my music video “ Election Train “ … — we corresponded after I heard his Epic Rock Guitar … and voila, a couple of years later, this guy is playing his insanely brilliant guitar on every one of my tracks. Paul Tokarz ( “Headless Robot” ) plays the other killer guitar tracks on the album, Mark Cassidy ( the “HillBenders” ) does sublime Banjo and Mandolin, Donna Schwartz is the outrageous Sax and Horn genius, Sean Nelson plays keys like you have not heard in while on anybody’s album, and Kristen Gleeson Prata ( BORNS Band ) is such a talented Drummer and Percussionist who worked closely with me to get my outrageous requests for very unique percussions. I am in love with rhythm + I study percussion — so — Kristen was so willing to entertain my crazy percussion ideas — we got some REALLY cool results from those experiments I put her through… she and I had a lot of fun …. Some of the rhythm experiments I wanted to try were things she said she had done in high-school — so it really was all about “play…” — so in keeping with what I am about.
Of course, Wings’s melodies perfectly complement my lyrics + percussions … — it really a “wedding” of music, lyrics, beats … as I was producing the album — I leaned heavily on his musicianship especially in acoustic guitar + piano … –
I wouldn’t have dared to do so much on the album, had it not been for Wings’s confidence in me — I produced the sessions, the album, arranged + orchestrated, then I took an extra special hand in producing all the drums / various alternative percussions as well as electric guitars … Wings nudged me + the musicians whenever we needed guidance — especially on melodies, acoustic guitars, and piano … but I couldn’t believe how much he trusted me to just run the project — and I was SOOO nervous + worked my ass off — praying I could deliver for everybody’s work + their love for these songs! It’s a one-of-a-kind partnership … this is really rare.
Sound is HUGE for me. It’s CRUCIAL! I don’t take it for granted in filmmaking either. Our AMAZING Album Engineer, Reid Rice, also did the sound design, foley, etc … for the movie … he is just awesome, I can’t say enough about him.
I love how music and lyrics can transcend … EVERYTHING …. Again — as with film — … in music — I’m rooted in Classics but eclectic — I mean I really don’t know how “awards” don’t provide more categories — I’m in love with : Hendrix , Robert Plant , Kurt Cobain , Foo Fighters, Ray Charles, Richie Havens , Brandi Carlile, Melissa Etheridge, Indigo Girls, Paul Simon, David Crosby , Bruce Springsteen, Tracy Chapman , Aretha Franklin THE QUEEN, Whitney Houston — fairy godmother …
Deep in my heart are Rap Classics: Tupac, Dre, Nelly, Azalea Banks, Mary J. Blige — the “old school” stuff gets my heart a bit more deeply because these people were “breaking boundaries” … — that energy surges forward into the future.
I ADORE + weep at “spirituals” … Mahalia Jackson omg … The seeds of “gospel” music … like “Wayfarin’ Stranger” … “Wade In The Water” … — i sing those as part of my warmup, along with “Ave Maria” … I put a few of those in my background vocals on the album …. right now I am focused on producing my next albums — … I feel like I’m “channeling” … almost being a “bridge” between the past + future.
The “spirituals” I mentioned are at the core of “American Culture.”
They are “remnants” from slavery … — they were “born” from pain … and they are “pleas” and “warnings” to us … so I am very inspired, “instructed,” by my respect for global “culture” …
My debut album soundtrack is intentionally eclectic –
themes from the film were born together with the album
so while it’s not like grandma’s musical — it is … what we’ve referred to as perhaps the first 21st century musical ?
Our story explores pretty much EVERYTHING going on these days + while shot BEFORE the pandemic, two of the main characters are never in the same room, communicating via zoom throughout the entire movie
the soundtrack explores all the movies themes and more … Pointing the way towards my next projects …
hope you check it out
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