Dark jazz in a dark sociopolitical climate and a vision of a brighter, transformed future.
Hi Carolyn, thanks for talking to TNC, how is everything going?
Great, thanks. I’m enjoying the mellow weather right now here in LA before it gets too hot!
Hailstorm is part of the American Pavilion selection. What does it mean to be bringing your film to Cannes?
It means a lot to be able to share my work at such a beautiful, international event. Especially because I work alone a lot and have limited social ties, it’s especially hard to know how and where to connect with new audiences. I’m happy the American Pavilion has been receptive and resonates with this piece.
Will there be any nerves ahead of the festival or are you just taking it all in your stride?
Unfortunately, I won’t be able to be there but yes, I definitely do get nervous in large groups and big places!
What do you hope to take away from your time at Cannes?
I will be there in spirit and will see how things go from here!
Can you tell me a little bit about Hailstorm, how did this film come about?
Hailstorm is a social action theme song I wrote and then made into a music video short for teaching purposes. I was music teaching and playing in a jazz trio at the time, so the style of jazz suited its theme well and I went from there with it. It’s one of three pieces in my “Time Signatures” project. These are music-driven shorts made to teach about cultural issues and current events.
What was the inspiration behind this film?
I’ve had these ideas in progress for a long time by observing how things have been developing socially and politically. It’s the overarching and underlying cultural dynamic that has been coming to the fore over many years that I wanted to record. On an aesthetic and conceptual level, I was thinking along the lines of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” and the original Twilight Zone show which I love.
"Give yourself the benefit of the doubt because after you learn the rules, you can break ‘em."
What was the most challenging part of bringing Hailstorm to life?
The most challenging part of making this piece and my work, in general, has been having very limited resources with health issues in play too. But as the Zen saying goes, “the obstacle is the Way”. Sometimes working with such obstacles and challenges help move things forward in a way that works out best.
As well as directing and doing the music you also appear in Hailstorm, how did you manage all your roles on a project like this?
I just take one thing at a time. I write and record music first. Then I move onto the video direction and collaborate with others like my wonderful friend Neels Britz who did the animation. I wrap it all up with music post-production. And then I take a long break if I can!
What have been the important lessons you've taken from making Hailstorm?
Writing music is always a learning process which is the best part for me. For Hailstorm, I’ve learned to work at the pace that life and the piece dictate, not trying to force anything too much or too soon. Everything has its time.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
I always wanted to do film scoring but life’s obstacles presented a different way. Now with my music video shorts, I can do my own thing and it’s turned out to be more fulfilling to work ‘scoring’ the picture along with the music rather than if I had worked with music only.
How much has your approach to your films changed since your debut film?
Things have changed as the available tools of technology have evolved. At first it was all very piecemeal. I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing and was trying to do a lot with so little. But now, a little can go a long way and I’ve learned to become very resourceful. Sometimes I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m ok with that. Being content with not knowing and working with my limitations has helped ease up my approach.
Is there any advice you've been given that's stuck with you?
Not sure this is advice, but I like the idea that you can be and do all the so-called ‘wrong’ things in the ‘wrong’ way and things turn out right if you are right-minded and heart with the intent of your work.
Do you have any advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?
Be discerning with others’ advice on ‘how it’s done’. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt because after you learn the rules, you can break ‘em.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Hailstorm?
Think for yourself. And allow others to do the same. Let’s bridge the divide. We can get through this!