SXSW Film section is broken down into 19 sections and only one doesn’t have a film that is directed by a woman. The film festival circuit, compared to major studios or even the Oscars, seems to have clued in to the fact that having an unbiased viewpoint (whether on Race, Sex, or Origin) is the best mentality. I wanted to highlight three up and coming female directors in three very different sections. Click thru to meet Annie Silverstein, Eliza Kinkz & Lindsey Dryden.
Up first we’ll check in with a former Dallas-ite!! Here is our chat with Director/Animator Eliza Kinkz and her SXSW Bound Animated Short, Chocolate Milk (above).
1. Where in Texas did you grow up and how long were you here? When did you get hit by the art bug? Favorite artists growing up?
I grew up all over the Dallas Area the first 18 years of my life. Born in Arlington, lived in Richardson and then my high school years were spent in Plano. I got hit by the art bug pretty early in life, but abandoned the idea during high school. Felt like that was no way to make a living haha. Especially with an accountant and nurse for parents. So I didn’t really do art again until I entered Austin Community College and then BOOM. I couldn’t stop and I haven’t stopped a single day since then.
I don’t remember having a favorite artist growing up….But I do remember being very affected by alternative animation. By alternative, I just mean not the usual Disney, Hanna-Barbara, Warner Brothers… Like seeing “Unico” or “Asterix” on The Disney Channel in the 80s or sneaking out of bed to watch “Duckman” Yikes! The boobs on the women in that show still give me nightmares. So I think as an artist I’ve always been attracted to the underground.
2. When did you first get into animation? UCLA experience? What all did you study?
I took my first animation course at Austin Community College and it was instantaneous. Animation and me became like Queso and chips. Can’t have one without the other. So I looked on Pixar’s website and found a list of animation schools they recommended. Applied to Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio of all places (Was too much of a change to go to NYC or Cali, had to start slow. I’m 5th generation Texan for gawd’s sake) Was accepted with scholarship and graduated from there. Immediately following, I attended UCLA’s Animation Workshop for graduate school. My time spent at UCLA has been finding my style as a filmmaker and a artist. Plus, working crazy hard on my storytelling skills. Because I believe without a tight story, you might as well toss your pretty animation out the window.
3. How did you get connected to Jeffery Brown and what was it like working on the Death Cab for Cutie Animated video?
Amy Winfrey (the creator of Making Fiends and Muffin Films) recommended me to Atlantic Records to animate for Jeffrey Brown’s music video for Death Cab for Cutie. It was a pretty intense turnaround time. In addition, I was working a part time job, full class load and had an internship at Robot Chicken. So I didn’t get to spend as much time as I would of liked on the music video. But still, Jeffrey Brown’s style shines through and he was a pleasure to work with.
4. How would you explain your animation style?
My animation style is chaos with rules if that makes any sense. I love scribbly lines, imperfections, accidental blotches and bold strokes. But there is a way it all comes together and theres a way it doesn’t. I have certain guidelines I follow when I paint or draw out these scenes that gets them to work. At least, they work for me….they might look like utter nonsense to others lol.
5. What do you like most about being in the beautiful Bay area?
The Bay area has amazing farmers market, unbelievable weather(never felt the burn of a seat belt a la Texas Summer) and some of the most beautiful nature around. But there is no queso or good bbq(yeah, I said it) , so I do suffer being away from Texas.
This is a story that’s been itching to get out of me since I was a teenager in a Texas Rehab. BUT, I didn’t know what medium to express it in. And a few years later when I realized the medium was Animation, making it all come together was an even bigger problem. There were so many notes, drawings and various ideas that it was an extremely daunting task. I spent many sleepless nights trying to figure out how exactly to make this animation work. But, once I figured out one item for the film, another would soon follow, until I was working like a well oiled animatin’ machine.
I love how my film “Chocolate Milk” came out and sometimes I can’t believe I actually made it!
The target audience is adolescent to adult. Definitely no young children haha. Even though a dinosaur makes a guest appearance….
7. How do you and Phi work together? What do you think makes you to click so well?
Phi is my super awesome support system. Whenever I hit a technical stonewall, wanted help putting together a sequence in After Effects, or just needed someone to yell at me to keep going, he was there. Plus Phi is my husband, so that helps a lot with clicking.
8. Gotta ask how you 1st met Fishboy and what do you think of his final score for the film?
Fishboy was friends with Phi’s brother Thanh(TinyMC of BrokenTeethCrew) and knew I had worked on music videos before. I told him when we met I’d love to do a music video for him someday and he said “when, please” From then on, we both have worked together on a series of projects. His music is always amazing and I feel like he pushes my animation pieces to a whole new level whenever we work together. I think he is a kindred spirit in the way there is a hilarious sadness in his work as well.
9. What was the SXSW phone call like? What are you most excited about your upcoming ATX time?
Actually, I received an email from SXSW but it was still super exciting. Especially since it was my goal all along to premiere at SXSW! Lots of jumping up and down for me & Mr.Phi I’m most excited about meeting other filmmakers, reconnecting with old friends and just celebrate this being the first film festival of many to come.
10. What is next for you?
I’m about to do a kickstarter to raise funding for printing a children’s book I’m writing and illustrating. Also, I owe Fishboy another music video for his hard work on the soundtrack for my film. So lots of stuff coming out later this year.
FOR MORE ON CHOCOLATE MILK CLICK, HERE.
Up next is Austin’s Annie Silverstein.
1. Annie where did you grow up and what made you go to Macalester College? I noticed you got your BA in History, any particular concentration?
I grew up in Oakland California and went to Berkeley High School. I was in a folk/country band with a friend and after high school we spent a year writing music and recording an album. We both got into Macalester College and we thought the Twin cities would be a good place to keep playing music and get a degree. I can’t remember how I ended up majoring in History. I honestly think it came down to the fact that I liked the professors in the department. My concentration was race in the media, and I wrote my thesis on representations of Muhammad Ali during his refusal to fight in Vietnam. I actually recently found the paper while unpacking some boxes and I could barely understand my own writing. I think I was much smarter then than I am now.
2. Your move to Seattle in the early 2000s seems to have been a major step in your work in film, can you talk about the significance of moving out to Washington? Also this is where you started up Native Lens program, can you talk about what’s driven you to expand the coverage of Native communities? What sparked your want to create Longhouse Media and what is the main focus of the organization?
I loved the Twin Cities, but the winters were ruthless so I moved out to Seattle with the same band in 2002. It was then that film projects started to dominate my time. I had already started working in the field of youth media and I was hired by 911 Media Arts Center to direct The Young Producers Project. It was my job to develop and facilitate media literacy and filmmaking workshops for kids from disadvantaged communities. The work combined many of my interests and it felt natural to pursue.
I had the opportunity to launch the Native Lens program in 2003 in partnership with the Swinomish Tribe. The purpose of the program was to counter the dismal portrayal of Natives in the media, through giving Native youth the tools they need to make their own representations. We were awarded grant money from Time Warner to launch the program and I was wary at first. I’m not Native and I didn’t want to be “that White person” that goes onto a reservation knowing nothing about the community and thinking they know how to make a difference. It made me really uncomfortable. But it was one of those situations—the grant money was there, I was in the right position at the time to help facilitate it, and it felt like it needed to be done. I also had the support of the Swinomish tribe and the encouragement of founding board member author/filmmaker Sherman Alexie. The years I spent working with Swinomish and other tribes greatly affected me as a human being and filmmaker. Tracy Rector (Seminole) and I co-founded the non-profit organization Longhouse Media in 2005 to expand upon Native Lens, and work with tribes across Washington. I served as Artistic Director for 5 years, before returning to school to get an MFA.
3. As a Jew, I gotta ask about your PBS documentary short, A Jew’s Guide to Christmas. What was that project like and can you talk about your earlier work in the documentary field?
A Jew’s Guide to Christmas was a short I made when I was part of a program called “New Voices,” which unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore. Fiona Otway (editor of Hell and Back Again, and Iraq In Fragments) was also in the program along with other folks who have gone on to make really good work. We created short documentaries for the local public television station and I made Jew’s Guide in a light-hearted attempt to deal with years of relentless holiday envy.
4. How was your time in Rio and what most did you take from the time spent there? From all your travels do you have any elements of Brazil that stick with you today (love of food, soccer, love of the language)?
I spent a year in Rio de Janeiro in 2007 working on social media projects similar to Native Lens. I was intoxicated with it all-I love Brazil. I intentionally started a documentary project just as I was leaving so I would be forced to keep going back. I think that is the doc equivalent of leaving your jacket at the apartment of a one-night stand.
5. Can you talk about the experience of being awarded the National Association for Media Literacy award?
Receiving the National Association for Media Literacy award was a huge honor. I didn’t even know Tracy Rector and I had been nominated for our work at Longhouse Media. I remember googling the award once we had received it and seeing that it had previously been awarded to Jon Stewart and Bill Moyers, I was like wtf?! So yeah, it was wonderful to see our work acknowledged alongside some really brilliant and prestigious folks and I was thankful to NAML for acknowledging the efforts of a very grassroots community media organization.
6. Night of The Dance, what made you want to film these polka loving folks? How was your time out at SXSW with the film? Can you give an updated from the folks covered in the doc short?
I made Noc na Tanečku (Night at the Dance) shortly after moving to Austin. I wanted to make something that would require me to get out of the city and explore. I read an article in the Texas Monthly about Czech dance halls, and attended a Dance Hall seminar at the Round Top Festival where I met Steve Dean, founder of the non-profit Texas Dance Hall Preservation. We drove around visiting rural dance halls and when I arrived at Sefcik Hall, I knew that is where I wanted to shoot a project. Sefcik Hall is located in Seaton (population 40) and was built in 1923 by Tom Sefcik. His daughter Alice Sefcik Sulak, in her mid-70’s, now runs the place. What I found most intriguing about Sefcik Hall were the dancers inside. Each Sunday, its patrons (between the ages of 70 and 105) gather together to wax the floor and dance the polka. Most of them have been dancing at Sefcik their entire lives. Several folks met their spouses at Sefcik Hall, and after a life spent together dancing, buried them in the graveyard next door. Others have fallen in love again with someone they met on the dance floor and remarried. But everyone will tell you, that they will keep dancing as long as they can get up the stairs. Not many places like that exist in America anymore, and it was inspiring to see these folks celebrating life and continuing to dance while facing their mortality. The film premiered at SXSW, but we were shooting Spark and missed most of it. Alice is still running the dance hall, but unfortunately since shooting a couple of the main subjects have fallen ill.
7. Why the switch to narrative for this project? What was the initial “spark”(ha) for the film?
I’ve always been interested in trying out narrative filmmaking. I started experimenting with fiction while working with youth on the Swinomish reservation. While the majority of our projects were documentaries, we also collaborated on short fiction films in which they would fictionalize scenes from their private lives that were often too personal and culturally taboo to discuss openly. Fictionalizing these stories made it possible for us to tell them. I found this process to be really compelling. Up until then I had felt that truth is generally more powerful than fiction. But it suddenly occurred to me that sometimes fiction is a better way of telling the truth.
Since then I have been interested in using my background in documentary filmmaking to work collaboratively within communities to shape fiction films. The idea for Spark is based on some kids I know and the visual I had one day of them setting off fireworks outside their home when no parents were around.
8. 3 day shoot, what were (if any) the issues with such a short time frame to capture the story? Working with kids is always bold, what did you most gain from shooting the youngsters?
I made Spark for my first year project in the MFA program at UT-Austin. We were only given 3 days to shoot our projects and were required to shoot on super 16mm. It was stressful, but also kind of fun to have those parameters. By far the biggest challenge was that the majority of the short takes place during magic hour. This meant during the day we waited around for the light to change, and then between 5 and 7pm sprinted around trying to film most of the movie. Other challenges included–intense wind, intense sun, a herd of cows continually interrupting our shots, a burn ban, and a very small crew. Speaking of the crew—the core was Nathan Duncan, Déjà Bernhardt, Jordan Kerfeld, Catherine Licata, and Moeko Crider and they all worked their tails off. I’m so thankful to them and the cast. It was one of the most physically uncomfortable shoots I’ve ever been on, but we slugged through it and are happy with the results. Varun and Elise-the youth actors were great to work with and down for anything. I was like, “okay, we are losing light and only have one take for you to run across the field and stomp out the fire over there, cool?” And off they went. I’m probably making it sound unsafe-we had practiced at a stunt ranch with their parents present, and had a specialist on site, for the record.
9. Working with 16mm what were you and your DP Nathan most forward to capturing? Do you have a camera preference? How do you like to approach working with your cinematographer?
Working with Nathan Duncan as DP was totally great. We knew we had very little time to shoot, and since I wanted it to be handheld and would be unable to watch what we were shooting in a monitor we spent a lot of time in pre-production, taking stills and shooting certain scenes on an SLR camera to solidify our visual style. I’m really happy with how it turned out. I’m a shooter myself and had a strong idea of how I wanted it to look, but collaborating on it with Nathan was even better. Ultimately I could let go and focus on directing, knowing he would make it beautiful. I should add that Nathan was the ultimate warrior, running around with that super heavy camera on his shoulder. We still laugh and shudder at the memory.
10. Can you tell me about the day when SXSW called to let you know the film had made it?
I was so excited when Claudette Godfrey called to say Spark was accepted into SXSW. Spark is my first fiction film and I was hesitant to submit it at all and put it out in the world—it’s such a vulnerable process. So I felt really encouraged and incredibly happy for the crew and cast who made it happen. I was probably most excited to tell Varun and Elise.
11. There are a few of you UT folks in this year’s competition, can you talk about having fella Longhorns along for the ride?
It’s so great to be screening Spark alongside Hellion by Kat Candler, and Magpie by Russell Bush. They’re really talented filmmakers and also my friends, so it’s a joy to screen together. There are a bunch of other UT folks showing their work at SX including PJ Raval, and Andy Garrison. Plus there are several films that came out of UT in the past year that didn’t make it into the festival this round, but are really great. So it’s a strong filmmaking community and I’m happy to be a part of it and get the chance to collaborate with people.
12. What’s next?
I’m currently editing the documentary I started in Rio called Eu, Selarón. It’s a portrait of the artist Jorge Selarón, who has spent over 20 years turning a dilapidated staircase in Rio de Janeiro into a world-famous work of art—the Escadaria Selarón. In addition I’m developing/writing two short fiction films that we will hopefully shoot this year, and collaborating with filmmaker Evan Roberts (33 Teeth) on a number of projects we are hoping to bring to light.
FOR MORE ON SPARK CLICK, HERE!
Director Lindsey Dryden:
- Where in England did you grow up and where is home right now?
I was born in Gloucestershire, grew up in South Wales and Sussex, and now live in East London.
- What first attracted you to film? How did you break into the business?
I’ve always been obsessed with stories and making things so, after I graduated from Goldsmiths College, I decided to explore working in documentaries. I did some work experience on a history series, and they took me on as a result, and after that I worked with various independent production companies (like the wonderful Lambent Productions) as a Researcher, AP, Shooting AP and Associate Producer. Then I began directing/producing short documentaries independently . . . and the idea of making a film about music and deafness started to materialise in my mind . . .
- I was able to watch Making Sense of My Senses? How did you meet Paul? What was the filming like and how did you get Paul to be so at ease on camera? What draws you to the documentary world?
Great! I’m glad you saw it. I was really happy to make that film. I met Paul because the Media Trust asked me to make a film about the work of Twinkle House, an amazing charity that supports children and adults with disabilities and learning difficulties. They suggested Paul might make a good subject for the film – and he did! The filming was a pleasure – calm, relaxed, and impossible without my brilliant Director of Photography Peter Emery, who generously gave his time and equipment for free.
Paul is a real character, and he and his family were generous and relaxed about the filming, which I think is why he comes across so well. He really had something to say, and did so beautifully, in my opinion. When I’m filming I try to be clear with my subjects about what I’d like to do and why, and create a calm environment where people can feel at ease on-camera, so hopefully that helps, but ultimately I think subjects come across well when they’re interesting, engaging people. Also, Paul was incredibly well-supported by the lovely staff at Twinkle House, and that warm and caring environment can only help.
What draws me to the documentary world? Hmm. Well, I’m naturally a very curious person and, more than anything, I love finding out people’s stories and perspectives, discovering unusual things, and in an intimate way. Documentaries are an incredible way to leap into personal worlds that are new and different to your own, so that’s what I value most about them. That and the generosity of people who are prepared to be filmed, and to trust you with their stories – that’s a brave thing to do!
- What was your experience like on Close Your Eyes and Look At Me? How did you meet Shabana? Was it different shooting in Scotland?
Shabana is an interesting and intelligent woman with strong ideas and a perspective that I really admire, so it was a simple process to make a film with her – she told me her story, and I filmed and edited a simple short doc around that. I learnt a lot from her and her husband. I met her as I was looking for women with strong views about self-expression, identity and body image for a series of films I was working on at the time, and if I remember rightly she responded to a call-out I’d made via a women’s network. It wasn’t really different shooting in Scotland! Only a few hours away on the train, and I’ve spent a lot of time in Edinburgh over the years. I worked with a Scottish camera operator, Glenda Rome, and then had a brilliant editor back in England to cut the film: Laura Seymour of Open Book (she also cut Making Sense of My Senses, also generously giving her time for free because it was for a charity).
- What made you want to tackle such a personal sounding film? You choose to showcase characters that have different deafness: someone who has never heard, someone who lost their hearing at an early age, and someone who is losing their hearing in older age. Did you set out with the three POVs or did one start off the story?
I wouldn’t ordinarily have chosen to make a film quite so close to home – I’m not generally interested in being in my films, or being on-camera. But I do like to tackle topics that challenge and fascinate me. I started developing a short doc about deafness and music in general, and gradually found as I pitched it to people (at markets like Sheffield Doc/Fest’s Mini Meet Market) that there was lot of interest in the topic – because music is so important to so many of us, and the idea of losing your hearing and thus potentially losing music is an affecting one (it’s certainly something that’s on my mind a lot). So gradually the film grew into a feature length doc, and producer Kat Mansoor at Animal Monday and I worked together to fund its development, and then its production (we were funded by Wellcome Trust).
With the three subjects and their different kinds of deafness – I wanted to find different perspectives on the same topic, to bring a range of insights to the film. I was also hoping to find people who didn’t use cochlear implants, as I’m aware that they can be controversial in the Deaf community, and I did want to explore this world. But ultimately those people didn’t materialise during our research, and in the end I was very happy to film with Holly, Nick and Emily – I think their perspectives complement each other.
- Can you talk about your own love of music and how that impacts this film? What music do you like and did you get to showcase that in the film?
What to say… Well, I’m a pretty obsessed music lover – constantly attached to speakers / headphones, and liable to frustrate loved ones by fanatically repeating songs or records I love (until they’re replaced by new ones). Some of the best experiences of my life have been around music – whether amazing gigs and festivals, or mix tapes and CDs that friends and lovers have given me over the years – so the idea of losing music along with my hearing played on my mind a lot when it emerged as a possibility. I’m sure there are many very difficult things to adapt to when you lose a sense as an adult, but I thought music would be what I’d miss the most.
I’ve been partially deaf since childhood (for some unknown reason), and always had a really satisfying experience of music. But a few years ago I was offered a medical explanation for that early hearing loss, and it suggested that I might lose more hearing one day. One evening shortly afterwards, I was curled up in front of the fire and suddenly heard a strange sound in my head – as if my hearing was folding up somehow, compressing and flattening, with a crackling, hissing sound. I immediately thought that this was it, the end of my hearing.
Thankfully, the next day, things had gone back to normal, but the music question became more and more important to me. So I started to research how people might enjoy music after hearing loss, and eventually Lost and Sound was born.
The film isn’t about me in any way, but it approaches deafness and music from the perspective of someone in the hearing world who is interested in that transition from hearing to deaf, and what impact that might have on connection to music. I hope this comes across to viewers, and I hope people in the Deaf community are comfortable with the film.
I know that for lots of hearing people, hearing loss can be very challenging and potentially frightening – and 1 in 7 of us will have that experience in our lifetime. But I also believe deafness can be like a super-power – it can allow a person incredible and enriching new ways into music, and a deaf perspective on music can be something to celebrate. Certainly most of the deaf music lovers I’ve met and spoken with would say so! If you combine a brain and a body with hard work and a bit of something inexplicable, some kind of magic, then incredible things can happen – deafness doesn’t have to be the end of music.
Hmm. What music do I like? That’s a tough question, I think, for everyone. Some of my favourites are Do Make Say Think, The National, Portico Quartet, Bjork, Bon Iver, Radiohead, The Middle East, Nick Drake, Jaymay, Beach House, Tiny Ruins, Ismael Lo, Fleetwood Mac, Nirvana, Au Revour Simone, Fourtet, the Velvet Underground, Aphex Twin, Tom Waits, Sam Cooke, Simon & Garfunkel, very old Suede, and Almodovar’s soundtracks by Alberto Iglesias. And Beethoven, always. And I’m obsessively playing a song called Batata Dia Bwanga by Chanteurs A La Croix De Cuivre at the moment – it’s incredible. I first heard it on Tom Ravenscroft’s radio show on BBC 6Music – he can always be relied on for brilliant choices.
The film wasn’t really the place to showcase my favourite music, though I’m pleased we’ve got a bit of Beethoven in there, and my excellent composer Nikky French was inspired, I think, by artists like Fourtet and Aphex Twin. Nick (the music critic in the film) has a serious record collection, so thanks to him we discovered some brilliant artists, like Nic Jones, a British folk pioneer. His album Penguin Eggs is wonderful, and he kindly let us use some of his music in the film, a song called Canadee-I-O, which never fails to set me smiling.
I know music does incredible things to me and most other humans, so the science behind that was something I wanted to explore – the goosebumps, the chills and shivers, being moved to tears or moved to dance, the crazy explosion of activity in the brain when we
listen to this mysterious pattern of sound waves that is music . . .
- What was the SXSW phone call like? Have you travelled to Texas? What are you most excited to experience while in Austin?
My producer Kat Mansoor and I got an email to say we’d been accepted into SXSW . . . but Kat’s email arrived ages before mine did. So she called me to discuss the news, and I wasn’t expecting it at all. I was a bit dumb-struck – then there may have been some joyous leaping at my end! We’d been working like crazy on the film, with no budget left (we only had a small fund to begin with) and reliant on the generosity of all the fantastic people who’ve been involved in making it happen, so the SXSW invitation felt like a real reward and validation of that hard work. It’s the festival we always wanted to premiere at, so we’re thrilled.
We came to Houston last summer, when we were filming at Rice University (the ‘Exploring the Mind Through Music’ symposium) and with Dr David Eagleman at Baylor College – so a part of the film takes place in Texas! But this’ll be my first trip to Austin. It’s producer Kat Mansoor’s third trip – her film Here’s Johnny world-premiered at SXSW a few years ago. I’m really looking forward to soaking up the atmosphere and exploring – it sounds like a very cool city.
- What other 24 Beats Per Second films are you most excited to see? Have you already seen any of the films?
To be honest, I have no idea yet what else is on! We’ve been so busy getting the film finished and ready that we haven’t had time to investigate. But I can’t wait to get into the cinemas – I’m sure the programme’s amazing, and I’ll be making my schedule as soon as I’m on the plane.
- What is next for you? Do you want to stick in documentary field or have you thought of the narrative side?
For now, we’d love to distribute this film widely, and get it to as large an audience as we can. Then I’d like to take a little holiday, do some writing. And beyond that, there are some documentary projects that I’m interested to develop. Documentary is where I come from and in many ways what I love, so I’d like to keep making non-fiction films and learn as much as I can about good storytelling. I’d absolutely love to make a film that LA’s Outfest might want to show. And I love narrative films, so I’m sure it’d be amazing to explore that . . . one day.
FOR MORE ON LOST AND SOUND CLICK, HERE.