Category: Artist

How To Enhance Your Directing Process

 

Every film director is different. Especially when it concerns style, experience, execution, preferences and so on. After directing my own short film, these are a few things that helped my process.

1 Block your scenes through the viewfinder

The simple way to define blocking is, the movements of characters in relation to the movement of the camera (the audience’s point of view).  Of course, there are more than a few ways to block a scene. Depending on the director, a few lines of action and dialogue in a script could translate on screen as a comedy, drama, romantic comedy or a suspense scene. By this fact, blocking also involves the performance and not just the movement. Now for the tip: always block your scenes through the viewfinder when possible. (Obviously if you’re shooting on a DSLR you’d have to turn the camera off to view your shot through the viewfinder). Doing this forces you to think more consciously about the 3 dimensional space you’re dealing with as well as gauging the distance between the camera and the performer. Whereas blocking using the flat, two dimensional monitor doesn’t give you an accurate idea of spacing.

 

2 Use prime lenses

Why? For starters they’re sharper, more affordable, more portable (all relative by the way). But using lenses with a fixed focal length allows you to think more actively about how you shoot a scene. Because there’s no quick and easy way to get a closeup on an actor or to fit more in the frame, you’re forced to physically move the camera, which in turn affects the process of the actor, for better or worse. But overall it does let you think more creatively about getting a shot as opposed to just zooming in or out.

 

3 Know every process

Terry Gilliam once told Quentin Tarantino that <paraphrased; as a director, it’s not your job to know how to operate a camera, or move lights around to get a certain effect, or how to record sound or any of that. As a director,  your job is to have a vision. And then it’s your job to be able to articulate that vision to the talented people around you who can use their skill to help you achieve that vision.” For me, this is a more than perfect description of what a film director is. BUT, put plainly, you do give yourself a huge advantage when you have a working -not perfect- knowledge of what each process in filmmaking entails. You don’t need to be a DP for 3 years to know what a DP does but it’s good to be an instant expert on all processes so that 1) you know when your crew is lying to you that something can’t be done (lol) and 2) in the case of many independent filmmakers getting started, you’ll need to teach your crew how to do their jobs effectively, so the more you know the better.

 

4 Get to know who you’re working with

This could easily be overlooked but I think it’s highly important that you actually take time to find out what kind of personality types you’ll be spending your time with on a particular project. If they’re unlikeable, or worse yet, not knowledgeable enough then what could be a simple, fun project could end up dragging on and becoming a gloom. On the other hand, persons who are just as passionate and on a similar wavelength can be more fun and make you a better filmmaker overall.

 

— END

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Choosing ‘Art’ For A Living

Theatre production; Adaptation of Elena Garro’s ‘El Encanto, Tendajon Mixto’ – Mexican Embassy’s 10th anniversary celebration.

Theatre is a gem of an artform. Anyone who has seen a staged play live knows it can be likened to magic.

Kentillia Louis is an Artistic director, lecturer, manager and curriculum officer advocating for and enriching Arts and Culture in Saint Lucia. She has worked as the Artistic Director for the Walcott School’s Festival and as Director of Requiem for a Badjohn, a play staged for the first time in Saint Lucia earlier this year. She also manages the Youth Studying Performing Arts and Culture (YouthSPAC) organization, and works as a part-time lecturer at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College and University of West Indies open campus, among several others gigs.

We were fortunate to have the opportunity in May of this year to pose a few questions to Kentillia on her experiences working as an Artist on a small, Caribbean island.

Q: Can you highlight the aspects of this profession you enjoy?

K: One of the things that I enjoy about being an artist in the Caribbean is that because of, I suppose, size there’s a camaraderie between us all. It doesn’t matter if it’s in Trinidad, Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, everybody’s always willing to lend a helping hand. Always willing to try and see how they can collaborate or assist, because as much as we think we’re different, we all have similar issues.

Another thing is we have a rich culture. We have so many cultural forms that provide for the arts. We have material to create plays, to create performance styles, to use in so many different ways as stimuli for dance, drama anything. To find inspiration for anything that I do, it’s very easy, I just have to close the books, close the laptop and go out there and just observe my people, listen to the radio, listen to the music, watch the dancing and within there, something always comes up.

The good thing about our cultural forms is that it’s participatory. I mean you can go to the La Rose festival and you are not just be a spectator on the outside. Those different groupings are always very willing to include you, listen to what you have to say. So I really have enjoyed that, his is what gives me my identity and my unique approach. I’ve been able to really make sure i’m well grounded in it, in everything that I do to use it as my base.

Q: Can you highlight the challenges?

K: Always training-training and space. There are never enough spaces for training or opportunities for training – long term training I should say. There are always persons who approach me to join the group but i’m very particular about numbers. That’s why I have not increased the size past a certain point because we have a lot of young persons in Saint Lucia who are very, very talented, but they just have the raw material. What if we invested in them and helped them with the training and the exposure. As well as training them for showcasing opportunities because you can train, but you have to be trained to perform and be showcased.

We forget that not everybody starts off at the top, nobody did. Everybody had to build their way there and we have to, as a nation support them. That’s one of the major challenges, so sensitizing our public to the importance of supporting their own, even those up and coming, support them, because they will be the next big thing and it will be nice if you could be part of that experience with them.

Space has always been a problem- performance spaces. I mean right now we only have the National Cultural Center which is extremely limited and expensive. So persons who are building should put an auditorium. That’s what a lot of organizations do, and they will rent it out at a reasonable price. We can take that into consideration here. People think there are not a lot of groups but there are a lot of groups out there. They just don’t have the opportunity to perform in a proper performance space. That’s one of the major issues that we have right now.

I think as much as people understand the performing arts and culture, there is also not a respect for it and that’s one of the things I’d like to see change. That’s where your identity comes from, that’s where your sense of you comes from. We go to all of those platforms to balance our selves out when we feel angry, sad, and so forth. They’re crucial to us and our development as a person, as a society. And the respect that art should be given,it’s not being given right now. We do it as a by the way thing, we do it only as something we can use to maybe enhance the tourism product. But it’s more than that. Every society you find persons really holding on to their arts and culture because that’s where you find a sense of pride, you find reflections of yourself, that’s one of the things that we don’t have here.

Requiem For a Badjohn was staged at the National Cultural Center, Castries Saint Lucia in April of 2017

Q: You seem to have a passion for the performing arts as do many, but people often forego theirs after leaving Secondary School. As someone who continues to do work in this field, what other options can those with similar interests consider outside of school?

K: There are a lot of opportunities. I think though, when people think of the performing arts they only think of the performance aspect of it. To go out there and really survive in the arts you need to have more than one skill, for example I direct, I teach, I do production managemnet and I do stage management. So, you do more than one thing, it’s the same way everywhere else. You have to pay your dues. There’s also the amount of work you are going to have to do for free because you have to get your practical in as well as you building your name and your reputation. I see a lot of young persons going around saying “not for exposure” (referring to the ‘exposure not currency’ local campaign) and so forth, but I think we miss the point because I see every body jumping on that band wagon, but we have to be very careful… first of all if you’re an amateur you’re an amateur let me be very clear about that. You chose to be an amateur, you chose not to go an train yourself, you chose not to certify yourself, you chose not to do that, therefore if that’s the level you are going to hold yourself at, you’re going to be treated at that level. If you want to be a professional then invest in it, invest in it and pay for your training. There are a lot of clubs and certification courses you can do here, do them, pay the money and do it. And then start to build your credit within it, so then yes you can then look at a business or someone, a client and tell them this is my worth. That’s what needs to happen and once you have that skill you will get a job.

Q: Can you tell us a little more about Youth Studying Performing Arts and Culture?

K: The first group of students were students from secondary school and they were interested in continuing to look into the field as their employment, as their profession. And so, I continued with them, to train them in the various artforms, make sure to provide them with

various opportunities. Not only do you get training but you get real life opportunities to use your training whether it be in dance, drama, music and so on. And a lot of the work that we do has a cultural heritage component to it.

It is for the youth, the age range is about 14-25. So it really is for young people and their wants and needs really pushes everything that we do within those fields. We also do stage management, production management, we teach various parts of the different artforms and how to use performance to help bring about some kind of change or awareness.

Kentillia (upper middle) addressing four young performers during ‘she.lc 2017’ rehearsals

Q: Do you and the group’s members share a vision when it comes to the future of Saint Lucia’s Art and Cultural industries? 

K: Yes, it’s about producing the next set of artists and producers, stage management and so forth. We want to make sure we have a world class arts and cultural industry in Saint Lucia that someone won’t come and say “well that’s how they do it in Saint Lucia apart from the rest of the world”. No it has to be on par – whether it is you’re in Trinidad, Jamaica, New York, London, everything must be on par, that is what we are working towards, so that that way too, you have more opportunities, more changes, more chances of persons getting big not only here but going international and being able to make their name and to develop.

And, What kind of work do we plan to do in the future? Same like we’ve always done. Right now we just came from two major projects so  we’re on a break because one of the things I encourage is that my group members also do their individual projects and have their individual activities, because I also want to train them to have leadership qualities and take the initiative. A lot of them do individual work at carnival time, so usually we don’t do anything as a group during this time. But as soon as that’s done we do social events, we start training again and then we get ready for activities later on in the year and next year. So we are hoping to do a play or a short film towards the end of the year.

Q: Are there any current or upcoming projects from yourself or the organizations you work with that you would like people to know about?

K: At this point in time, I think we have found the fruits of our labour, it’s actually starting to show right now. There are lots of performance based youth groups around the island. From Youth on Fire in Anse La Raye, to Kiddie crew. So I’m just happy that all of those organizations are working. And what people fail to realize is that we are not in competition with each other. There’s this misconception that we are, but we all work together, we help each other because we realize that we are trying for the same thing and there’s not going to be a situation where there is too many of us. It’s all of us coming together to help to build Culture and Arts in Saint Lucia as well as to provide a medium for young persons.

There’s a lot going on when you look at carnival bands, when you look at Kiddie’s carnival bands coming on, a lot of people who have created the bands are persons who went through some sort of training as performers, in Theatre Arts, music stage management, stage production and so forth. A lot of those persons who have bands now will tell you its in those kind of groupings they got their start. I think a lot of those young persons are becoming their own entrepreneurs, I’m very happy to see that.

In terms of me personally, I’ll be working with CVS to ensure that their summer youth platform program comes off and is as educational and entertaining as possible for the participants. And I’m working towards Nobel Laureate week, that’s my next big thing.

 –END

 

‘I Am Here’: An Interview with Keisha Scarville

Keisha Scarville, I Am Here, Salt. 2011. Image courtesy of the artist.

Keisha Scarville is a photo and multimedia artist who alters and reforms the perception of regular items through themes of transformation, migration and displacement. Raised by Guyanese parents, the Brooklyn based artist uses her unconventional art work as a means to express her nationality and homeland, which has allowed her to be exhibited in a wide number of locations, for example, The Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Studio Museum of Harlem. In this brief interview, Scarville discusses her intuitive direction in both art and photography as well the artistic process surrounding them.

There is a lot of depth in you artwork. Do you find yourself using a form of critical theory to express your work? Does it affect your creative process and thinking?

There is no particular critical theory that completely informs my work. My work is influenced by various writers and philosophies. I love the writing of Gaston Bachelard. His book, ‘The Poetics of Space’, has changed the way I approached photographing spaces and landscapes.

Keisha Scarville, Passport Series, 2013. Image courtesy of the artist.

In the Passport series, you have touched on the issues of immigration through the eyes of two generations and through the art of mixed media. How has using this type of medium helped justify your artistic vision?

The series, “Passports” is an ongoing project where I repeatedly reinterpret my father’s earliest passport photo. I am interested in the aesthetics of a passport photo as a signifier but also the guidelines that inform how one positions and presents oneself within the frame. Through an interrogative process, I re-imagine the image of my father as a subject of a nation to forge a dialogue with the image. I use collage, paint, and other materials to transfigure and dislodge the unmoving stoicism of the printed image and create an alternate spatial narrative. In each piece, I respond to the shape shifting effects of immigration and my own personal history. I treat the photograph as a platform on which all these embedded and intertwined histories can be explored and layered.

Keisha Scarville, Passport Series, 2014 and 2015. Image courtesy of the artist.

In the I am Here Series, I see that passport photo being represented again along with images of a second person. Can you tell us what this series is all about?

I am interested in the notion of home – how it is conceived, transformed, and lost. As a first generation Guyanese American, I often find myself occupying this hyphenated space where I don’t fully identify with being American nor am I considered Guyanese. I wonder what it means to create a space of belonging. What does it mean to designate a place/space as home? The “I am here” series is a personal journey towards claiming and understanding the conception of a home. In the project I explore how rituals, objects, spaces and the body can be visually excavated as primary sites of belonging. This series preceded the “Passports” project and was the impetus for developing that body of work.

Keisha Scarville, I Am Here, Dad’s passport, 2013. Image courtesy of the artist.

It seems that you are no stranger to photography either. How did you come about learning and developing your skills in photography?

I first learned photography while in high school. It was a transformative experience — holding a camera for the first time and looking at the world around me, deciding what to capture, and then holding those moments in my hands forever. I have been completely obsessed and fascinated by photography from that time. I went on to study photography in undergrad, as well as, focusing on photography and art therapy through graduate level classes.

Keisha Scarville, I Am Here, Bones, 2014. Image courtesy of the artist.

Do you see photography as a way to establish a new perspective in the art of storytelling and capturing moments?

I don’t think of it as new, but an alternative way of conveying narrative. I think people have always used photography to visually communicate stories. Now, more people have access to image-making devices. With the abundance and overwhelming speed at which we can produce images, my concern becomes how we read these images. Like all forms of communication, we need to be able to develop a method to take careful consideration of what images do, how they operate, and how to deconstruct/interpret the narrative.

Keisha Scarville, Mama’s ClothesSeries, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist.

In an article for Vice Magazine, you spoke about the search of identity through imagery in a collection of photographs called Mama’s Clothes. How did you feel about this art piece and what would you like viewers to take from it?

In the series, “Mama’s Clothes,” I explore the experience of absence and the camera’s role in visualizing what cannot be seen, but felt. I explore the paradox of abundance within absence and the phenomenology of space. In the photographs, I present my body cloaked in my deceased mother’s clothes. I am interested in how the clothing can be transformed into residual, surrogate skin. In the series, I am looking at ways I can facilitate and construct a visual place where I can conjure her presence while using my body as a medium.

Keisha Scarville, Mama’s Clothes Series, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist.

Also in this same series, the usage of clothing had a strong symbolic meaning. Most of your work weighs heavily on the contextualized meaning placed on everyday objects, which is not as subtle in most cases. Do you think this unique feature differentiates you as an artist?

A great deal of my work focuses on the biological, historical, and symbolic references of objects. I did a two-person exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) entitled, ‘Surrogate Skin: The Biology of Objects’. This project and exhibition allowed me to showcase the elements that inform my art practice.

Keisha Scarville, Mama’s Clothes Series, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist.

What final thoughts would you like to leave for young artists and photographers alike?

Break the rules, read as much as possible, and remain curious. 

 

 

 

Scarville is currently hosting an exhibition at the Contact Photo Gallery, Toronto, ‘An unassailable and monumental dignity from September 21st– November 18th.

For more information on Keisha Scarville, kindly visit her website www.keishascarville.com

Why I Can’t Get Enough Of Princess Nokia

Up – Princess Nokia in Tomboy video, Bottom – Princess Nokia in Brujas video

With my lil’ titties and my fat belly (x10)” – actual lyrics from Princess Nokia’s single “Tomboy”. The song opens up with a baggy shirt and trouser clad Princess Nokia walking across the screen, flanked by two women.

When I first watched the video and heard that cool voice ejecting itself from my speakers, I knew this discovery would be a problem; I would be obsessing over another Artist yet again for an unforeseeable amount of time.

This was not the beginning however. It started where it remains; with her self awareness, self love and spirituality. It was infact these things that led me to her heterogeneous body of music.

I had stumbled onto a video she had done with Genius; “Princess “Nokia “G.O.A.T.” Official Lyrics & Meaning | Verified”, where she explains the lyrics of the first verse from her song “G.O.A.T”. At that time, she was decked in floral print sitting against Genius’ distinctive pineapple yellow background.

The video begins, a composed, smooth, raspy voice says “I am a gorgeous woman. That’s not me being egotistical or narcissistic, it’s just a fact. I’m a knockout. I have confidence and je ne sais quoi that is, you know, unmistakable and my pheromones and my chemistry and the way I walk, I am divine feminine energy.” My attention is now grabbed and gripped tight. About fifteen more seconds into the video, to debunk the implication that she is the “greatest of all time” she says “in no way am I the best… I ain’t shit…” To her, “G.O.A.T” was simply a double entrendre that she “decided to run with”, as the analogy of a being “eating off the land, using [its] resources” to become “great” is something she identifies with.

I was enamored. “Who is this woman speaking of herself so brashly?” I thought. “Why is she doing it?” Knowing well the repression societies have inflicted on blossoming women, I wondered, “how did she become this?”

She continues. As she raps the lyrics, I notice that her voice crouches in a corner of her throat, a pur turned into an enticing gnarr. When the video ends, my journey through a hypnotic world of roses, mermaids, passion and weed begins.

Interview after Interview I fall deeper in awe as I witness a dancing, uninhibited spirit and I can’t seem to get enough.

Princess Nokia is a woman who has found her voice. She does not push politics but rather, principles. Having had feminism as a major recurring theme in her life, she speaks to everyone, including the neglected female; the excluded, unjustly demonized black and brown women (and men) who often go unheard and unrepresented in feminist movements. Her work and her world act as compassionate spaces for everyone.

She has acquainted herself with purpose and has leaped into action; Once a journalist and photographer, she also hosted the Smart Girl Club podcast where she echoed the importance and fundamental components of self love and self care – encouraging listeners to connect with their spiritual selves.

She has learned of her roots and of her history. A woman who associates herself with the borough of Manhattan, A woman of Harlem. Her inspiration comes from both the lightness and darkness of that world. A girl familiar with the uncensored night scene of an urban neighbourhood. A girl who walked on its streets alone. A woman of Afro Latinx, Afro Caribbean ancestry living in a society dirtied by color-ism, she is in complete love with her Puerto Rican heritage; “I am an Afro-Indegenous woman, I’m Puerto Rican which means I’m triple raced, I’m black, I’m white and I’m native American” she says in one of her interviews, before going on to explain how these roots have shaped her spirituality and her identity.

She has fortified herself away from the possessive grasps of men who want to be held accountable for her success. She produces her music independently and tours the world performing at sold out venues, a rare thing for underground artists.

She has blossomed in her solitude. Outcasted for her frank queerness, her rugged way of existing and her outright eccentricity at a young age, she spent lots of time alone. Now, as a twenty five year old woman, alongside her healthy relationship with nature, (and its generosity towards providing us with life and beauty hacks) retreat is a chief component of her spirituality.

She has stepped into herself as a woman and embraces who she is so audaciously it is delicious to even watch and listen. A woman who was not bred under a glorifying gaze towards her beauty but was stripped of it, having her crown mutilated at a young age for no reason, then to grow into a body that is not conventionally lauded, she now declares her own beauty.

In the span of a few days I have watched and re-watched several of Princess Nokia’s interviews as well as her Fader documentary “Princess Nokia – Destiny”. I cannot cover all that she is in an article but I did want to show my love and appreciation for who she is.

Her confidence, her magic, her full acceptance of self is damn near tangible – it’s contagious. I have felt more beautiful, more a woman, more intelligent more confident in my struggles, triumphs, spirituality and perspectives because of the bravery of this woman. My wish is that girls and women everywhere can hear, see, feel Destiny Nicole Frasqueri, aka Princess Nokia and be moved by her in the same way that I am.

 

PS I watched this interview and revisited it about 5 times in one weekend:
Princess Nokia at Brown University (click the photo)