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19th ÉCU Film Festival, Paris

"I learned to always reach out to friends and other filmmakers for input and to be really open to suggestions."

Festival Screening:


April 14, 2024  
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“Won’t Figure It Out Tonight” explores the continuous journey of an artist to turn the lonely and sometimes dark moments of life into flashpoints for growth and creation. The Hauntingly beautiful yet dangerous Alaskan Winter wilderness conveys the juxtaposition of beauty and loneliness within the artist’s soul. It explores the beautiful fear we experience once we take off our masks and explore the unknown in ourselves and our world through art. Filmmaker Emily takes us on a journey as she explores her passion in music and simultaneously conveying these themes in words song and cinematography.


Hi Emily, thank you for taking the time to talk with The New Current. Are you looking forward to screening Won't Figure it Out Tonight at ÉCU this year?


Absolutely!! I lived in Europe for three years so not only am I thrilled to attend this festival, but it is personally a special moment for me to be able to share my Alaskan films in Europe. Not only am I thrilled that I will have a chance to share my film, but the quality and diversity of the films is impressive and I cannot wait to be in a theatre seat!


You’ve had a great reaction to your previous films with Alaskan Smoke screening at the Switzerland International Film Festival, what has it meant to you to be able to share you films on such an international stage?


It is quite humbling to be able to share part of the Alaskan story with the rest of the world-to share the immense beauty but also wild danger of the wilderness. The arctic is already suffering under climate change and we are seeing our glaciers melt into the sea and more fires burning our tundra. It has never been more important to capture the uniqueness and power of Alaskan landscapes and to share with the rest of the world that this is worth protecting and fighting for. 


Will there be any nerves ahead of your screening in Paris? 


I think anytime I have the privilege of sharing art I have nerves! I think as an artist one hopes to challenge and inspire an audience and it can be a bit nerve wracking to see if one has achieved that goal. It is also exciting to think of all of the talented filmmakers who will be present and am excited to meet and learn from them.


How important are festivals like ÉCU in continuing to champion and supporting independent films and filmmakers?


Festivals such as ÉCU are absolutely vital in propelling independent films and helping to push the art of filmmaking forward. Not only does it help filmmakers across the world to meet and exchange ideas and stoke inspiration, but it provides a special goalpost that filmmakers can work towards while developing their films.


Can you tell me a little bit about how Won't Figure it Out Tonight came about, what inspired you to make this film?


I had just completed a different music video and decided that I really wanted to push my filmmaking forward by diving into the Alaska wilderness. I wanted the wilderness to be as much of a character as the wanderer in the film and so oftentimes I would arrive in a wild place and try to listen to what the landscape was telling me in the moment. Weather changes drastically in Alaska so each time I visit a location the wilderness and landscape has a different story to tell. 


Has music always been a passion for you? 


Absolutely! I first started tinkering on a piano when I was 4 years old and since then I’ve always loved to write music. When I was a kid I used to imagine I was writing film scores for movies with sweeping landscapes. When I picked up the guitar as a teenager I started to write songs with words. Its very exciting that I am able to combine my two passions into one artistic product.


What where the biggest challenges you faced bringing this film to life?


In Alaska the greatest challenge is always the weather. I use a drone for many of my shots and a lot of the most beautiful scenes occurred when it was -10. So I had to plan out every scene to make sure the battery did not freeze. I would also ski before many scenes so that my hands stayed warm enough to control the drone.


When working on a project like this how much flexibility do you allow yourself?


The best part about filming in Alaska is that it forces a filmmaker to be flexible. Frequently I would drive to a location with an idea but the local weather conditions would drive a different shot. 


Looking back is there anything you would have done differently on this film?


I think in general looking back I wish I could film everyday and capture more of Alaskan beauty.


What would you say has been the most valuable lesson you’ve taken from making Won't Figure it Out Tonight?


I think I learned to never give up on a film. I had to go through several versions of the film and even rewrote the song to better express the feeling of a wandering artist. I learned to always reach out to friends and other filmmakers for input and to be really open to suggestions. I also learned I have some amazing friends who told me I had an important story to tell and to keep working through some of the challenges. 


Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?


I have always loved to tell stories. I am an avid hiker in Alaska and realised that Alaska has amazing stories to tell so I just started to carry my camera and drone on any day trips or backpacking trips. I think the wilderness is a powerful story telling partner because you can’t script it -you just embrace it. 


Was there any one film that you saw growing up that sparked the filmmaker inside you?


I grew up absolutely in love with any films related to nature and the wilderness. I think I really realised cinematography was a real passion of mine when I saw the Lord of The Rings movies as a kid. So it is a special moment to realise that I have the opportunity to film sweeping mountains every day- if the weather cooperates!


What have been the biggest changes to you style and approach of filmmaking since your debut film?


I think I definitely take more risks both physically and with the drone. One time I skied 10 miles each way for just one shot- but it was worth it! I think I have also grown to really embrace challenges and to see unexpected weather conditions as an opportunity to capture something new instead of perhaps a frustration to my original idea.


Is there any advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?


Persist and embrace the unexpected! 


And finally, what is the message you would like your audiences to take from Won't Figure it Out Tonight?


That it is ok to be lost and to wander as an artist. I think our society, especially in the US, is obsessed with planning and reaching specific goals. But the real journey and real growth is when you follow your heart into a wilderness. That is when we find both true beauty and danger - like the Alaskan wilderness.

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