Luca Werner

Embracing Lightness: A Dialogue With Luca Werner

Sharing one’s history is a challenging task. Yet, German photographer and filmmaker Luca Werner has skillfully and sensitively unveiled fragments of his past, capturing fleeting moments of youth, delving into the intricacies of relationships, and exploring the depths of his inner being. Transitioning seamlessly between photography and video, he showcases his expertise in both technical precision and narrative storytelling. With his recent project, “Pools,” garnering widespread attention, we were curious to interview him, not only to delve into the details of this latest endeavour but also to trace the roots and progression of his career.

I’d like to begin from the genesis, what sparked your interest in photography and filmmaking initially?

At the beginning, I wanted to become a professional snowboarder. However, my journey was cut short at the age of 16 after breaking my collarbone five times in a row. My doctor advised me to stop snowboarding for at least two years. Everyone made such a fast progress that I knew I will not keep up with a two year long break so I felt like my world collapsed and that my dream just faded away.

Somehow during my recovery, my interest in extreme sports continued. I watched a lot of GoPro and Red Bull films and I felt very connected to them. Their films embodied this feeling of being alive, they created this impression in their five-minute videos of “flying“ or being able to do whatever you want.

So after my recovery I convinced my parents to let me travel to Hong Kong with a roofer I met on Instagram. I think this ten day trip was basically the moment I understood I really loved photography and filmmaking. Being so young in a city that felt like a different world, climbing on rooftops, escaping from police, there were so many feelings coming up for the first time that I felt I needed to document everything to not forget it. On top of this, I had a very ill mother at that time, which made me reflect a lot, so I felt like after my snowboarding dream ended, I now had found something to hold onto again.

This is actually a link to the film I did in Hong Kong 9 years ago. 

Which project holds the most significance for you, and what makes it particularly meaningful?

I think it is probably one that I have not released yet. This February I have directed a film for a Japanese art collective called ME that will be shown in Tokyo this autumn, in the form of a three channel installation. It includes three different human stories of everyday life in Paris.

It was a project that is really close to my heart as it includes a message that is very important for me and to the art collective. I felt that for the first time in form of an actual installation we will hopefully tell something to an audience who will take the time to listen.

What does Italo Calvino’s quote, “Take life lightly, because lightness is not superficial, but it is gliding over things, not having burdens on your heart,” mean to you personally?

I am always coming back to this quote because somehow our western society is so good in making you believe that certain things and values are important and those are actually so incredibly unimportant. Everyone is so good in creating stress and making you rush. I am always surprised how easily cars start honking in Paris.

I like the idea of being light in life and not taking everything so damn serious, at least not things that are superficial and don’t mean anything to our world or life around. 

To what extent have the experiences you had in your youth influenced the approach you take in your current projects?

I am surprised that the moment I sit down, listen to music and try to catch a next glimpse of an idea, it so often leads back to my youth. I think when I am “fishing“ for ideas, I try with music to bring myself in an emotional state, where sometimes just for a few seconds a certain feeling comes up. Most of the time it is related to some kind of memory I had in my teenage days. As I mentioned before I believe it is because it was a period where we felt so many things for the first time, we were less rational and that somehow made these feelings so much clearer. That’s why I take a lot inspiration from this period of my life, it feels the purest to me.

When discussing youth, one of your recent projects, “Pools,” inevitably comes to mind. Could you share more details about this project?

The project was shot last year at the Barcelona olympic pool. We casted two swimmers and group of friends with whom we spend one full day at the location.

The idea was to rebuild Bel’s feelings and mine towards the ritual of jumping and swimming. We built a script but on location mostly followed our own feeling of what is essential to shoot. None of the cast had to play a role, everyone was just him or herself. The way we wanted to shoot was to recreate a real life situation at the pools so that Bel and I can observe and then pick the pieces that are the closest to our memory and feelings.

Could you share with us how your collaboration with Beltran Gonzalez came about and how you both embarked on creating the film together?

Beltran once assisted me on shoot in Greece 4 years ago. We had a lot of fun and became friends from this time on. Beltran started to make more and more films and as we both are in love with cliff jumping which again comes back to this feeling of being alive, we decided to make a film together at Bels home pool in Barcelona. At first the jumping part should play more of a significant role but during the process somehow the swimming part became an image that carried the strongest feelings for us. As it was all self funded, it gave us the freedom to do whatever we want. 

Same way jumping and swimming works, no rules and a lot of improvisation.

In one of your recent posts, you mentioned the “Pools” project and described swimming as something that now has become valuable. Could you elaborate on the significance behind these words?

I think swimming was always valuable but I feel when you were younger you were not so aware of it yet. I believe the older you get the more you need to plan your day etc. meaning you now understand more and more what gives you joy throughout the day and what not. Back in your childhood I feel a lot of things just happened to you, like swimming to me, you obviously didn’t overthink it as you often lived from hour to hour anyways and not like most of us now from week to week. 

I was in a swimming club for a few years and I never really liked it so much at least the pressure of it, but I still remember after I finished the class I always felt very good. Like you are in balance. I came home, I was allowed to have frozen pizza and watch my favorite films. The class became kind of a ritual.

I now also understand that breathing rhythmically which you are forced to do in swimming just calms you down so much. 

When you swim for an hour surprisingly your head often just goes blank and follows the rhythm. 

You are more likely to live from hour to hour again at least while swimming.

When discussing the ‘Pools’ project, I’m intrigued to understand the significance of water in your life.

I think there are two components to the meaning of water for me: one is completely personal which is again connected to my swimming practice in my childhood as well as the cliff jumping in my adolescence and I believe the feeling of holiday and leisure time in general. The other one is a visual aspect.

I was always in love with images of Herbert list, Olivier Kervern and Sergio Purtell, who in my opinion, all captured so well how it feels to spend a day at the ocean. There is this image connected to water which most of the times only comes with a positive connotation. When you see these images, it sometimes gives me the feeling that everyone can be themselves in water. The beach or the grass in front of the lake becomes a big living room. It’s the only time were people comfortably lay half naked next to strangers. Most of us know how it feels to completely submerge in water; even in a bathtub when you float, it becomes reminiscent to the start of it all.

I appreciate your time today, and as we conclude our conversation, I’m curious: Where do you see yourself and what are you doing in the year 2034?

I would love to create more “art films“ and installation works, I feel that it’s a kind of medium unfortunately not really often reachable as you are always limited by space and huge costs for video projectors or screens. In my eyes watching a video installation can really transform the way you look at things or can create a certain feeling in a way that poetry works, something that you cant explain but only feel.

This is the type of filmmaking I love and I will try to pursue.


‘Silt’ a 35 minute documentary film produced by Iida Jonsson, Ssi Saarinen and Ona Julija Lukas Steponaityte, is an exploration into the post-soviet landscape following the formation of rapidly occurring lakes in Lithuania, one of which, rests on Lukas’ family land in Likanciai. The newfound body of water is a by-product of a failed multi-decade soviet drainage project, aimed at making wetlands more suitable for agriculture. Following the collapse of the regime, the Lithuanian municipality gained responsibility of such drainage systems, but high maintenance costs resulted in the prioritisation of farmland and infrastructure. As time passed, the drainage systems started to clog and what was once a drainage pipe, became a vessel for a lake to emerge on the family’s backyard.

The documentary demonstrates the group’s interests in the rendering of landscapes and is a response to the embedded narratives within it that influence our understanding of ecological emergencies, and the relationship between the landscape and systems of maintenance. The visuals are accompanied by a sculptural sonic landscape produced by composer Alexander Iezzi, referencing the historical interrelationship between landscape and sound. The dissonant harmonies, polyrhythms and metallic growls, coupled with foley and field recordings are almost reminiscent of musique concrete styles of music, providing the perfect soundtrack to the unnamed, unmapped lake.

Following their most recent exhibition ‘November’ at Inter Public and the screening of ‘Silt’ at the Danish Film Institute in Copenhagen, I had the pleasure to talk to them about how their collaborations and inspirations inform their approach to the creative process and their relationship to the entangled landscape.

I noticed you all completed your MFA degrees at the Sandberg Instituut in Amsterdam, is this where you first met as collaborators? How did this shared experience help you grow in your individual creative practice’s and come together with a shared artistic vision?

SSI: Iida and I were already collaborating, so we are used to sharing a project and practice. But yes, all three of us were studying the Master of Fine Art programmes at the Sandberg Instituut and this was the starting point for our collaborations. We had shared interests, and we just admired each other’s work. We were all interested in this idea of an accumulation of knowledges and bringing in our own experiences to our collaborative practice and approach. We were already working with similar topics, so for us, working together, was a way of making the work more rich, opening up shared discussions and accumulating these pools of knowledges.

LUKAS: We know each other’s aesthetics well and we know what we are interested in. There is definitely a process of building a shared library of references and a vocabulary of shared aesthetics that has a big impact on the work. We also have similar tastes and sensibilities, so we have a lot in common which creates a good basis to develop a shared language together.

S: We are also coming from similar professional backgrounds, but we still have different perspectives and skills we can bring into the work. For example, Lukas was working as a professional colourist, and Iida and I used to run a production studio, and I have also worked as an editor and cinematographer before. So when we talk about collaboration, we are bringing in our different skills and knowledges to our practice.

I’ve noticed that you don’t work under a collective name, but instead, you use your own individual names to credit the work. Why do you feel this is important to you and how does this impact your collaborative processes?

I: I think there is a certain openness and honesty to it which is interesting. Maybe there is a fourth or fifth name added to the collaboration in the future? So I think it allows us to expand and change shape to become different things.

S: I think to a certain degree, there is still a sense of separation within the work as I can recognise myself in the work and see the parts that have been touched by Lukas or Iida. Additionally, there is an entanglement in this; where our individual expressions are also informing each other, and we are benefiting from one another. So, there’s this intersection of aesthetics and ideas which becomes how the group work is ultimately presented.

I: We are also not crediting our individual roles within the work. It is still a shared process where we are all involved in the conversations and the various tasks that need to be executed. As Ssi mentioned before, it is really useful to bring together our individual, extensive research and knowledge that has been accumulated over several years.

You have worked together before to create the works ‘Terranium / Greywater’ and ‘June’. What do you enjoy about working together and what is important to you when collaborating? How has this facilitated the creative process for your recent exhibition ‘November’ and the production of ‘Silt’?

I: Being a fan of the people you work with is really important. You can really encourage and support people to invest in their work and their ideas by being a true fan of your collaborators.

L: A big part of our work as a collective, naturally comes down to talking. We need to find common ground on an idea or a vision which happens through communication. We spend a lot of time talking, understanding and approaching the shared vision in various ways. This also always comes with challenges, because communication is often one of the most challenging things when it comes to people.

It is also interesting, when working in a collective to see how your own individual expectations towards your production, expands. For me, collaboration allows me to do things that I would not necessarily be able to do alone. So maybe it is also about feeling more brave when you are working with people.

I: Yes I agree, because ‘Terrarium’ was a film using found footage and ‘Greywater’ was an installation, so ‘Silt’ finally gave us the opportunity to create something from start to finish, using all of our interests and skills in a complete way, giving us the opportunity to do everything we had talked about.

I’ve noticed your works are often inspired by the environment, exploring sites of environmental or urban decay. What is it about ‘landscapes in depression’ that inspires you artistically and what draws you to these kinds of landscapes?

S: I think this idea of the landscape and landscape depiction is very essential to our collective practice. Our research expands way back into landscape depiction in the 16th century, looking at the political intentions in mappings and topographies. We are especially interested in the use of landscape depiction to exercise power, focusing on how embedded ideas of nature dictates the way we should experience and interact with the landscape, creating this very essentialist view of an unchanged or static image of the environment. So I think we are working with complexifying this image and contributing to the discourse around it.

L: We aren’t looking for places where urban meets nature. For us the relationship is so entangled, there is no point in finding where one starts and the other ends. We want to talk about this crazy entanglement between the two, and the messy consequences of it.

I: What is also interesting, is, when you constitute the landscape, you also sign up to a variety of infrastructural injections such as, building bridges, maintaining trenches and constructing hiking trails. So there is an enormous number of resources and effort going into maintaining the static image of the landscape. This is specifically interesting for us, the landscape always comes with intention.

Often times, the landscape is undergoing constant change; people throw trash in the street, they create new footpaths in a field, but the government often intervenes to counteract these events, creating an interesting dynamic and tension between the ever-changing landscape and systems of maintenance.

How have your experiences, growing up, studying and living in different cities, shaped your relationship and understanding of the entangled landscape and how has this influenced your artistic process as a result?

L: We tend to work with stories and images that are accessible to us, so naturally this leads to working with images and ideas that we are surrounded by. ‘Silt’ is the most literal example of that, the film is about the sudden formation of a body of water in my family land, where I grew up. The land has been with my family for generations and naturally because of that, there is a story to tell about the soviet occupation in Lithuania and its impact on the nation and the landscape.

I: It wouldn’t have been possible to make ‘Silt’ without Lukas having this really personal relationship to the land. It is important to have a person in the process that has a strong cultural relationship to the site at hand because only they can see the various nuances that you can only understand through spending a lot of time with this culture and space.

S: Iida and I come from rural Finland, so we have a tendency to relate to those types of spaces and images. I think aesthetically this is the language that feels relatable to us because we understand it. The subjects of our films are about the entanglement of environments, and I think we are more asking the questions; what is shaping our experience and what are the signs that are given to us to navigate? We are interested in understanding and complexifying these signs.

In ‘Silt’ we were influenced by a landscape painter called Petras Kalpokas, who made a series of paintings depicting Lithuanian rivers defrosting after winter as a symbol of resistance against the soviet occupation. We were also looking at painters from the Finnish Golden Age spanning from the late 19th Century to the early 20th Century.

I: What is interesting about these artists, is that they both existed in a time of resistance, through the independence movements of Finland and Lithuania. So there is a clear inspiration for us in these two examples of how you can use art as a political mediator.

For your most recent exhibition titled, ‘November’ and the production of ‘Silt’, I have noticed that you have worked with the found materials within the landscape and incorporated these into your pieces. There’s a certain level of transparency and honesty between the subject and its representation within the art. What role do these materials play in the meanings of the pieces?

L: In ‘November’, we used disused solar panels and silt from the water, a found material that is like dust of the water. We were interested in thinking about the landscape as an event and the solar panels as ambassadors of such event, almost like how photography film is the ambassador of its subject when it is exposed to light. So, the found objects are almost like canvases, we develop them into something new as we respond to the found materials.

I: There is a honesty to it but there is also a dishonesty to it. The ways the objects are re- arranged and dealt with always becomes an interpretation of the space and the material itself. Any kind of documentary, painting or photograph is always altered and dramatised by the author. For us, there is sense of liberty in this; When we start to acknowledge the individual’s interpretation of a subject, we can start to critically analyse the tools used, start to construct narratives and create art that might have seemed untouchable before.

You often use film within your works. Why did you feel film was the most appropriate artistic medium for ‘Silt’, do you feel that film can portray something else that other mediums cannot? What is it about film you enjoy working with?

L: There is something beautiful about film being a container of many different skills and tools that can be used to tell a story. It has a duration and demands time of attention, more time than a still expression and it is important to sometimes ask for time from the viewer.

I: There is also a sense of accountability in this because you are taking someone’s time. I like the duality in this, you demand time from your own practice as well as the viewer’s.

S: We also all have previous experience making films. So it is a medium we all feel we can be very precise with and it is a medium we know how to use to our advantage. It is a craft we have invested a lot of time into learning, and we enjoy it because it creates an experience for the viewer.

I: I think it is important to embrace the crafts and the skills that you have. I don’t want to be an interdisciplinary artist, I want to be a disciplinary artist. It’s like when playing an instrument, you play the instruments that you can play. I think this is when you have the potential to say something really sharp, in a precise way that resonates with people. With film, we all have that close at hand.

Do you feel film, offers you a sense of freedom through creating limitations as it provides you with a framework to work within?

I: I think working together is a lot about this, establishing various frameworks that you can collaborate within and film has been one of those frameworks for us, like a playground.

L: There is also something very nice in letting the tools and materials you have dictate the content of the work. It creates a sense of openness which is developed through practicing the skill.

S: There is a text that compares the control over an artistic medium to weaving a basket. The shape and form of the practice is coming from the precise application and strength that you put behind each knot being weaved. It takes multiple attempts to know how much pressure to apply to a certain part and where you should be more careful. It takes time to be able to understand how to emphasise parts and how to portray a narrative through the work. When making a film, I enjoy how you can direct the way you narrate the story and you know how to guide the viewer through the narrative, when you want to do that.

What was your thought process behind the composition, script writing and assembly of the scenes within ‘Silt’ and how did this serve the narrative you were wanting to tell?

S: The film is basically divided into three different parts, and they all come from the videography styles of television broadcasting and documentation of sudden events. The first part of the film is filmed from the point of view of the cameraman. When we were devising those scenes, we were looking a lot at how sudden events are filmed by the by-standers, we were inspired by the sense of intimacy and immediacy portrayed in handy-cam footage of real-time events.

I: There is something beautiful about the ‘vlog’ video format because often, the cameraman and the cinematographer have discovered something simultaneously, so the encounter captured is very immediate.

L: In ‘Silt’ we are portraying this new body of water that has suddenly appeared as a result of a failed drainage system. Through borrowing languages from broadcasting videography, we are able to visually translate the speed at which this new lake has emerged. As a child I could run on this land, but now I can only swim there. So there is something also quite sci-fi-esque about the speed of this event occurring.

S: For the second part of the film, we approached the lake with more of a forensic lens. Focusing on what is happening under the water through the leeches and floating algae. During this part, we wanted to draw attention to the bottom of the lake, which was once part of the land. You can see the trees that were once emerging from the ground and growing on the field as if it were only yesterday. We are creating these clear images of a field that has been flooded and showing the new life that has started to emerge in this new lake. When we were writing these scenes, we were drawing inspiration from forensic discoveries of shipwrecks.

The last part of the film uses visual languages displayed in television broadcasting footage, taken from a helicopter view. We imitated a lot of camera movements from footages of volcanic eruptions, and we used these tools to portray the vastness and the scale of the lake, giving the viewer another perspective of the event.

I: A question we were exploring in our process and method was, ‘how can we capture something so serene and still while also showing the violence and rapidness of the emerging lake?’

The aesthetics of the film are cold and dark referencing the decay of the soviet infrastructure in the ‘depressed landscape’. What were you aesthetically inspired by and how did this influence the production process in ‘Silt’ and help you communicate the narrative you wanted to tell?

L: Digital colour grading possibilities are endless but at the same time the image is often dictating its own rules, so you are always adapting to the rules of the existing image. Sometimes it offers its own solutions and so, it is about attuning your eye to what the shot already has and then interpreting it further.

I: We have also talked about the false pretence of the documentary as a style, discussing this false idea of the neutral documentation of an event. Many people ask for neutral colour grading for a film, but there is no such thing, the footage and the image is always reinterpreted.

There’s also this element of horror in the film, I was reading about gothic literature at the time and I was inspired by the separation of terror and horror. Terror being something you anticipate and horror being something that’s already happened. I think the film holds a little bit of both; with horror being in the emergence of the lake and terror in the potential scale of this lake. I think the colours also help reflect this tension and emphasise the depressive state of the land.

The film music is composed by artist, Alexander Iezzi who releases music under the alias ‘33’. What was it about their work that inspired the collaboration? How did you feel their work and sound design complimented the aesthetics in ‘Silt’?

S: We work very sculpturally when we make film, drawing inspiration from a variety of sources such as 16th century cartographies, romanticist and modernist landscape paintings referencing different parts of art history and political ideologies that have dictated how spaces have been perceived. In a similar way, Alex’s work draws inspiration from a variety of genres, from metal punk to baroque music and is also assembled in a very sculptural way as these inspirations are collaged together creating both abstractions and figurations of the music. So, we could definitely see ourselves in their way of working, we could resonate and relate to their musical productions.

The textures and sounds used in the soundtrack of ‘Silt’ are also very sculptural. Do you think this style of sound design lends itself to the themes of horror and terror Ida described? How does the sound design help deliver the narrative you wanted to tell in ‘Silt’?

I: Creating a composition that embodied the history of the lake was important to us. This is a new lake, very few people know about its existence, and it is also a tragedy for the people that live with it. We worked with alarm sounds and bended them into violins and used the helicopter sound from the television broadcast footages we had used for visual inspiration for the film. So I think the textural layering of these different sounds and the sculpturing process behind the composition helped us narrate the story of the lake.

S: As with landscape depiction in painting, there is also a long history of landscape depiction in music. In Finland one of our most famous composers, Jean Sibelius, is known for having created this piece called ‘The Spruce’ about the Finnish forest. So it is interesting to relate the making of music to the portrayal of the landscape and understand how music can also feel like a painting or a portrait.

Do you think the piece almost challenges the traditional way music has interpreted the landscape in the past?

S: I think it is a response to it. Our work is also speculative, and it is a subjective interpretation of the landscape. We are interested in the traditional methods, but we also want to inject our own perspectives into the discourse. I think the landscape and our urban environments are so much more entangled and dynamic than they once were, so it feels natural that they are interpreted and represented differently.

Yes, I felt that through the dissonance of the music which seemed to reimagine the harmonious romantic way landscapes were portrayed traditionally.

I: Yeah, I think this is what is interesting about Alex’s practice. He works a lot with dissonant sounds and polyrhythms which, in the context of landscape depiction, challenges the rules and orders the classical representation of landscapes present. Especially as many landscapes we know today have been established through classical painting and music.


Silt Stills. Courtesy of the artists.
Order ‘silt ost’ here

Chloe Cherry

One Life To Live

Every few years, an ‘it-girl’ arises and claims her throne, crowned as such by loyal fans and social media enthusiasts alike. The contemporary it-girl is not only defined by her looks, but possesses the intelligence and self-assertiveness to back it up. Chloe Cherry is all of these things. After leaving her rural hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania to pursue the adult film industry, she shed her inhibitions and opened herself up to the world. But it wasn’t until a few years down the line that Chloe would realise just how much that fortitude would pay off. 

Before she knew it, Chloe had landed the role of a lifetime, debuting for the first time in the mainstream entertainment industry as the beloved Faye in the viral hit sensation Euphoria. But prior to morphing into her aloof alter-ego behind the camera, Chloe lived a quintessential life — her down-to-earth, authentic disposition is undeniable. Like many of us, she grew up sourcing fashion inspiration from YouTube and discovered her favourite beauty looks by experimenting with technicolor eyeliners and iridescent glitter. Her small-town upbringing left her constantly yearning for something bigger. After speaking to her, it’s really no surprise that she struck gold — in every meaning of the sense, Chloe is a true star. 

Even as a young child, Chloe knew she was destined to be seen, but her insular surroundings didn’t often yield big-screen stars. She reflects on growing up, remarking that Lancaster was a small-town environment, that she was different. She dreamt of bursting that bubble and making a name for herself, but she knew early on that she’d face some hurdles along the way. Luckily for Chloe, she managed to topple those hurdles through a rock-solid confidence in herself.

You were born and raised in Lancaster, PA before playing Faye and your life changing forever. I’m also from Pennsylvania and I’m very familiar with the restrictions that can come along with the lifestyle many lead in that area. How did your hometown shape you as a person and dictate your path?

It was definitely a small town with a lot of small-town values. People were very gender divided — where I live in LA there’s so much gender fluidity and we didn’t have anything like that. People generally weren’t as open-minded about things and I feel like even I wasn’t as open-minded about life and people when I lived there. They also don’t really think that much bigger outside of what they were born into. It was a very close-minded community that thought religion, specifically the Christian religion, was the correct way to live, and that you were just supposed to follow a certain amount of correctness. That changed me, because it made me really want to break out and do whatever I want. I very stifled by the judgment that people had there. 

I feel like it yielded this person that is truly not afraid to show her different sides.

I’m not afraid to do anything, pretty much, if I want to. I think growing up there kind of told me that it’s okay to break a mould, do you know what I mean? It’s okay to do something outside of what is ‘normal.’

Before Euphoria, you were in the adult film industry. This is an experience that you have described as liberating. Have you always been in tune with your sexuality? What gave you the personal fortitude to shed your inhibitions and show that side of yourself to the world?

My comfort in my sexuality basically just came from really wanting to put myself out there. Being from Pennsylvania, in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania, you don’t really have any connections, especially to Hollywood. I think that just made me want to try literally anything just to get out of that. Even though it’s totally fine to live this way, so many of the people I grew up around kind of live the same way that their parents did. I’m really grateful that I took a huge chance in life and that it got me somewhere. Where I’m from, people don’t really take chances. 

What is the most valuable lesson you learned from the adult industry that you brought with you into mainstream television? 

One of the most valuable lessons I learned is how to act, how to be on set, and how to follow directions — that’s where I learned to be an actor and a good performer in general.

What I feel radiates from you is an unbridled sense of self-assuredness. What is your advice to others who may not be as comfortable in their own skin? 

We only get one life to live. We’re all born and we all didn’t choose to be born, but we definitely didn’t choose to have to work to live. So I just really think that we really shouldn’t judge ourselves on what we do for work in order to live, because it’s all about what kind of day you can get through. You can’t really live your life based on the people around you because those people might be out of your life one day. And then what matters? At the end of your life, it’s only gonna be you, so you need to make sure that you’re happy with your choices.

I’m sure that being on a TV show and all of the amazing things you’ve experienced lately have been a big 180 for you. When you were younger, did you always aspire to have an audience-facing role? What was your dream back then?

Growing up, I always thought I would be some kind of performer or that I would be on camera. At first, I never really knew that I was that good of an actor because when I was acting as a kid, in school plays and stuff, I never really got the big roles. But I was a good enough actor for the adult industry. So it’s been actually a pretty crazy surprise to me that all this has happened, but it’s taught me that sometimes people just have natural skills. I think that’s what I have more than anything — natural skill. A lot of it, especially playing Faye, just kind of comes easily to me. It didn’t really take a ton of training or anything.

Faye became such a likeable character because I think many of us saw ourselves in her. She said the things that we were all thinking and she also acknowledged her own flaws and shortcomings — she was real. In what ways do you relate to Faye, and on the flip side, were there any qualities of the character that were difficult for you to channel? 

One quality that was hard for me to channel in Faye was just not caring about anything, but I feel like part of that is also being on drugs. So I’ve done a lot of research about being on drugs. The way that she doesn’t care what people think and will talk back to people — I feel like I don’t really relate to that. But I do relate to the way that she really likes to find a sense of community and a sense of home. I feel like that’s what she’s searching for by staying with Fez; she wants to belong. 

Your life outside of Faye underwent such a drastic transition. Have you found that sense of community yet?

I feel like I have a decent amount of community here. I’ve met a lot of people, but it’s funny — I find myself so easily becoming friends with a gaffer or a makeup artist. But I don’t as easily become friends with people that are the other actors. I know a lot of them, but I feel like a lot of my friends are people that are behind the scenes and are just really fun and easygoing. 

In some ways that makes sense because you can probably relate to those people more, given how quickly all of this picked up for you. After falling in love with your character, many fell in love with you for your genuine personality, your quirky, colourful style and infectious charisma. You’ve become a Gen Z ‘it-girl’ in your own right. So, I want to know about the ‘it-girls’ or individuals that paved the way for you — who were your icons growing up?

I loved Chloe Sevigny’s and Alexa Chung’s style for a really long time. I always loved Ryan Murphy’s shows and was inspired by the fashion on his shows. Miley Cyrus is somebody that I’ve looked up to and I also really love Claudia Sulewski’s style — I watched her videos for a while.

I can see all of those coming together to inform your style, and even Faye’s personal style in the show. I wanted to revisit your experience playing that role. I really appreciated the point where you mentioned that playing Faye feels natural — I think that’s why you and the character mesh so well and we all took a liking to her.

I don’t know if I’ve said this in an interview before, but there’s this one moment of my audition for Faye that I’ll never forget. I came in and I said the lines and I had this whole act that I would put on of being like, fucked up. I was doing the lines like that and then Sam goes, ‘No, stop. Just say it how you would say it.’ And then I just said the lines to how I would say it and then I got the role.

Which is amazing. It was effortless.

The only thing about being related to Faye — I think it’s so good. I just hope it’s not the McLovin effect where I’m typecast for the rest of my life. But I mean, I feel like it’s perfect. It comes so naturally to me. Faye is almost like a side of me. If I had kept going at my craziest and just kept going on drug and party binges, I might have ended up like Faye.

Faye is like you in another dimension. 


You brought up a really important point about wanting to avoid being boxed in. You’re at such a pivotal moment now; it’s only the beginning. I listened to you on Emily Ratajkowski’s podcast, where you reiterated that as a young girl, you always yearned to have a flashy persona. You wanted to be the ‘hot bimbo’ that everyone knew. It reminded me of a recent article that The Cut published titled, ‘The Reclamation of Bimbohood‘. Basically, it was about how our contemporary understanding of ‘bimbohood’ encompasses attractive and socially-engaged women — they are self-proclaimed bimbos who ooze confidence. Do you resonate with that at all? Especially coming from the realm of adult film, how have you managed to reclaim your own sexuality and identity?

When it comes to Faye, I feel like she’s a bimbo, but in a way that you wouldn’t always imagine. She’s kind of a low-end bimbo, you know what I mean? The trashiest version of a bimbo. But with adult films, being a bimbo was very empowering because so many people would like you when you looked like that. Part of me sometimes misses being a part of such a sex-positive environment where instead of people constantly making threads on Reddit saying my lips are so terrible, people were like, ‘Oh my God, you look so amazing.’ I kind of miss that different view. Even if it was a more perverted view, I kind of thought it was almost more positive than such a perfectionist perspective. Doing adult films actually made me a lot more confident in my looks and just everything about me. I feel very physically confident about things since doing that. I think Faye is also the same in that way. Faye is also somebody who uses her sexuality and looks to get things in life and she’s very confident. 

Totally — and there’s a profound power behind that. How has it been navigating the scrutiny now that you have opened yourself up to a whole other world?

Dude, it’s so weird now. What I don’t miss in porn, is people would call me fat all the time because I was showing my body, but now I don’t really get people calling me fat anymore because I don’t show my body as much. People now scrutinise my looks in such an interesting way. They’ll say, ‘Oh my gosh, she’s so fake. Look at her lips.’ Whereas people used to not really say that. 

It’s very intriguing to hear the difference between the two types of entertainment from your perspective. Part of what makes your character and your true persona so endearing is your affinity for making people laugh. You don’t seem to take yourself too seriously and have cited shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm and It’s Always Sunny as your go-tos. If you could be a character in any comedy, who would you choose and why? 

I personally consider Succession a comedy. I think I would make myself one of Cousin Greg’s mean girlfriends — that would be funny. I do really like Curb Your Enthusiasm. I would love to be a part of that. I feel like I could be a waiter that Larry David fucks with or something like that. 

Not only are you a multi-faceted actress, but you have modelled for Laquan Smith, GCDS, Blumarine and more. You’ve gotten to live out the experiences of any fashion enthusiast’s dreams. Have you always been into fashion?

I’ve always been really into fashion. I love looking at fashion online and it’s something that I’ve always followed on social media. It was really surreal for me to be able to walk in those shows and I really hope I get to walk in more one day.

I would describe your style as effervescent, frisky and engaging. I’ve seen you take a liking to graphic tees and Y2K-era silhouettes. How would you describe your own style and what types of pieces do you usually gravitate towards? 

I usually gravitate towards stuff that — this sounds kind of weird — but I like stuff that looks like something that I personally would’ve worn as a kid. It’s basically just because I have the same taste that I did as a kid, so I dressed very Y2K because I grew up in that time period. I’m really attracted to stuff that was ‘in’ back then; it’s just ingrained in my brain. I also like really weird stuff, stuff that looks really unique. But for the most part, I constantly wear clothes that are reminiscent of the 2000s. 

You were also the face of Urban Decay’s Bond Liquid Lipstick. Urban Decay is one of the first makeup brands that I fell in love with as a tween getting into beauty regimens. What are some of your earliest makeup memories? 

Actually, one of my earliest makeup memories involves Urban Decay. The first time I started wearing makeup, I was in sixth grade and I didn’t really wear real makeup. I would just take this glitter eyeliner and put sparkles on my eyelids every day. Then eventually I got this Urban Decay blue eyeliner and then I started doing that.

I had the exact same blue eyeliner and I loved it. How has that routine evolved as you’ve matured?

I’ve never told this to anybody, but when I was 15 years old I discovered Lily-Rose Depp; I found her Instagram and I loved her aesthetic and the way she did her makeup. It was so simple. She would literally just do a little bit of blush, mascara, and nice eyebrows and I was just obsessed with it. So I completely dropped all my crazy makeup, started doing really simple makeup and I’ve just done it like that ever since. 

You’re just getting started showing the world who Chloe Cherry really is — you’re an esteemed actress, a model, a style icon for many, and even a SoundCloud rapper. How do you hope people remember you decades from now? What’s the legacy you’d like to leave behind and what are you working on right now that you’re excited about?

A few years down the line, we’re on Euphoria season seven. I maybe have my own fashion line, maybe my own skincare line, I’m doing more beauty campaigns and just doing all sorts of high fashion campaigns. I love being on Euphoria, but if that ended, I’d love to be a regular on something else. I just want to keep continuing to do what I do because I love it.


Talent · Chloe Cherry
Creative Direction · Jade Removille 
Photography · Ricky Alvarez
Styling · Kathryn Typaldos at Forward Artists
Hair · Ericka Verrett at A-Frame
Makeup · Rob Rumsey at A-Frame
Styling Assistant· Nicole Grasty
Location · FD Photo Studio Los Angeles
Interview · Kayla Curtis-Evans
Special thanks to Lucy Greene at Anti Agency, Amanda Horton at ALH PR, Hannah Hardison at A-Frame


  1. Top and skirt RICK OWENS
  2. Tank TNA
  3. Tights GRETA GARMEL and shoes RICK OWENS
  4. Top from Archive Vintage, shirt and skirt ECKHAUS LATTA, socks COMME SI and shoes ARIELLE BARON from conti comm
  5.  Top and skirt ELENA VELEZ and earrings MEJURI
  6.  Hair clip SARAH APHRODITE, top PRADA from Archive Vintage, skirt POLLUX, shoes VALENTINO, bracelet MEJURI and leg warmers vintage
  7. Dress JEAN-PAUL GAULTIER from Archive Vintage

Georgina Starr

“I rebought forty of my favourite destroyed singles and had them played simultaneously on forty record players.”

It’s difficult to summarise the art of Georgina Starr. Since the early 1990s, the artist has made use of the array of tools (video, sound, written word and live performance) at her disposal to create a rich and varied body of work. In early works, Starr engaged a cast of miniature paper figures as stand-ins for real life conversations the artist would covertly record in public spaces. Later, Starr appears in her work – though the extent to which she was performing as herself is itself part of her practice. In The Party (1995), a 25-minute video installation, Starr takes on the role of Liz (a character whose advances are rejected by another character in a previous film). As Starr tells NR below, though the role was fictional, the process of making the film instils it with autobiographic elements. Characters, motifs and themes recur throughout Starr’s work, which enable the artist to rework and reimagine earlier ideas. But it isn’t just Starr’s own oeuvre that she recreates, with much of her work taking inspiration from existing film and literature. The breadth of reference points throughout Starr’s work are demonstrative of the extent to which the artist employs a process of meticulous researching to inform her practice. 

Aspects of Starr’s work recall a childhood spent watching tv; the object in the corner of the living room which, she explains in The Voices of Quarantaine (2021), became her “gateway to another world”. Indeed, the blurring of reality and imagination, autobiography and fiction are common features of her work. Starr’s film, Quarantaine (2020), is not, as you might think, a response to the pandemic. Rather, the artist began working on Quarantaine before COVID; the film’s title referring to the French word for forty, historically also the term for a period of enforced isolation over forty days. The film tells the story of strangers who are transported to an alternative universe which the two women must navigate their way through. Across the breadth of Starr’s work, the body – the female body and feminine identity in particular – are (re)investigated. In her later works, including Quarantaine, Starr is no longer in front of the camera, with a cast of performers enabling the artist to realise her practice on a larger scale. Most recently, the artist orchestrated a live performance in collaboration with French fashion house, Hermès, which in true Starr style, is a dazzling display of colour – flawlessly synchronised and splendidly surreal. 

NR: What have you been working on recently?

GS: I have been working on a new performance artwork in collaboration with Hermès to showcase their SS22 collection designed by the brilliant Nadège Vanhée-Cybulski. We performed it on 3rd February at a one-off special event titled ‘Gelato!’ at Old Sessions House in Clerkenwell. It incorporates a large set—a huge pastel coloured mountain sculpture, a new musical score for percussion which I developed together with composer, Thomas Haines, and is performed by four female percussionists, nine dancers and eight models all wearing Nadège’s designs. It was quite epic—a cross between a theatre play, a sculptural installation, opera, dance and fashion show. The collection is really joyful and screams summer, so I began by thinking about what ‘gelato’ would sound like. I imagined metallic sounds and warmer sounds of fabric on wood—glockenspiels, triangles, drums, wooden percussion, vibraphones, and I had a vision of a magic mountain which the performers, wearing these amazing clothes, would emerge from moving in synchronization with the sounds—this was my starting point.

NR: What does the process of rehearsing or being in workshops involve? 

GS: With live performance works, the rehearsal period is more intense. I always script and storyboard, and it was the same for Gelato! There are spoken word poems in this piece as well as the music and choreography. By the time we went into workshopping in mid-December we were at a really good stage with the musical composition, and I had choreography ready to show to the dancers. We were working with four incredible percussionists who were able to immediately play the working score so that the dancers could start to interpret the live instrumentation and we could adjust the score as went, which was a brilliant way to work. The music starts out very minimally and gradually builds up as the percussive mallets are handed to the musicians. Some instructional elements were built into the score, so everyone’s movement was highly choreographed, and I had constructed my own mallets using coloured threads from the collection – so these were woven into the piece. The workshopping days were crucial to figure out if the movement and vocals I had imagined alone in my studio could even work on a grander scale! I had props too, as I wanted the performers to all begin from inside a ‘mountain’ and emerge with large circles like musical notes transforming the whole picture into a giant score. There were twenty performers to direct, so it was pretty intense. We went into full-on rehearsals for six days at the end of January and had the first dress rehearsals at the venue the day before the show. I loved this collaboration with Hermès, it was wild.

NR: How does working with performers compare to playing the role of other performers (alongside) yourself? 

GS: The casting process is always really complex as I have a very clear idea of how I want the performers to look and what voices they bring. For both the Hermès piece and my last film Quarantaine (2020), it took a long time to find the right people, months of searching and meeting people. When I perform inside my work it’s a very insular and personal process, often just me and the camera. For my film THEDA (2007), I built all the sets in my studio and worked for a year filming myself in the various Theda Bara inspired roles, so became totally absorbed into the character. The way I work with a bigger cast definitely has some connection to this, I feel the need to demonstrate rather than just describe, it’s quite mediumistic, transferring my movement and voice into them. I like to work with a mix of professional and non-professional performers as the non-pros bring something magical and otherworldly. It often feels like the less experienced person is a stand-in for me in some way—I relate to them more strongly as they are working things out on their feet and negotiating this strange environment they find themselves in. 

NR: There are characters, themes and motifs – the brain, the bubble – that reoccur in your work; did you always attend to develop your practice in this way? Or did it just occur over time? 

GS: All the pieces I’ve made from the very beginning are completely interlinked. It happens naturally that one work leads to the next, so the themes and motifs overlap and merge. Sometimes an element in a work I made twenty-five years ago might suddenly appear in something new. A performance work I made at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam in 1995 called The Hungry Brain suddenly started to inform a work I was developing in 2013 which eventually became Before Le Cerveau Affamé a new performance and installation piece. In this work I created an illustrated set of predictive cards (Le Cerveau Affamé), the suits were the bubble, the hand, the brain and the cat. These cards found their way into my film Quarantaine. The cards appear in a critical scene in ‘The Grey Room’ where a group of waiting women are chosen for a card reading—the cards selected guide them to the next level of the journey in the film’s narrative. Sometimes it seems like one big Gesamtkunstwerk!

NR: As an extension of that, in The Voices of Quarantaine you make reference to De Quincey’s The Palimpsest of the Human Brain which seemed to be an apt description of your work. Would you say that your work is palimpsestic?

GS: I think my last answer definitely describes a very palimpsestic way of working. I enjoyed making the performance lecture, The Voices of Quarantaine (2021), as I got to reveal some hidden details at the heart of my film Quarantaine. There are so many layers of meaning in my work it can baffle some people, so it’s useful to be able to unpeel these for the viewer. Although the lecture itself was something of a palimpsest too. While I was reading De Quincey, I realised that his essays had directly inspired Dario Argento’s 1977 masterwork Suspiria which in turn had inspired the forest wall-mural I had painted in a scene in Quarantaine. At the very beginning of Quarantaine we follow two women through an arboreal portal in a city park which leads them into a school of instruction—the first room they encounter has the eerie wall painting. The mural in Suspiria had always haunted me so it became an ominous character within my film—it holds another portal to take the initiates onto the next stage of the voyage.

NR: How much of your work is grounded in the idea of autobiography, and to what extent does the notion of autobiography become a way to introduce (fictional) narrative?

GS: There is quite an even mix of the fictional and factual, but it’s so integrated that I often lose track of which is which. I made fictional works in the past which I performed in and people presumed they were autobiographical. An early video The Party (1995), for example, was a piece about a lonely female character who throws the perfect party for one. It began as a fictional narrative, but I did spend two days alone having a party in my studio—constructing a bar, making food, dancing, drinking elaborate cocktails. When I look back at this work it’s part of my history and feels almost autobiographical, it’s a perfect merging of the two. There are personal stories within Quarantaine, which I discuss in the lecture, these stories begin from a ‘real’ place or at least a memory of something real and gradually become so entwinned within the world I’m creating that they drift away from reality and become something totally new. 

NR: How do different mediums lend themselves to a particular work? What informs whether you use audio, film or a live performance?

GS: The idea usually informs what the piece will be.

“A memory I had about my parents burning all my records when I left home for example ended up transforming into a live sound performance piece called Top 40 on Fire (2010).”

I rebought forty of my favourite destroyed singles and had them played simultaneously on forty record players. It created a cacophonous sound at first that sounded like fire, but as each track petered out you started to hear the voices of the singers coming through and the final vocal lyric was quite profound. If I’m commissioned to make a work then it’s slightly different, although sound always plays a huge part of every work. Live works are the most difficult for me as it’s impossible to control exactly what will happen on the night. I’m pretty controlling about all the details so this can drive me insane; the uncertainty—at some point you have to let a performance live without you. When I made Androgynous Egg (2017), a live piece for Frieze a few years ago, it took me ages to let the performers just own the piece. It was performed four times a day for the whole of Frieze and it was only on day two when I realized that I didn’t need to sit in all the performances—they had it, it belonged to them now and I had to set it free, like releasing a child into the world. Quarantaine was really borne out of Androgynous Egg. I knew that I wasn’t finished with some of the subjects—the eggs, the Pink Ursula Material, the instructional poetry, even the choreography, and that I needed to make a film. Writing and making the film was my way of taking back the control I had relinquished with the performance. It meant I could close-in on the action and focus on the important details. Filmmaking is more my natural medium. I love editing with image and sound, it’s where the magic happens.

NR: In relationship to the magazine’s theme – celebration – how does your work celebrate, and explore, womanhood?

GS: I would say that it does this in every sense. I began in the early ‘90s by working with my own body and voice to create video and sound works. These works gave me an actual voice. I was suddenly able to articulate something within the work in a way that I felt I couldn’t in real life. It was a celebration of my inner world. Over the years I’ve gained the experience and confidence to transfer this and to share the ideas with performers, musicians, singers and composers so that the world becomes bigger, more complex and intense. THEDA was the last work I performed in front of the camera. It was a very physical work where I was on screen the whole time for forty minutes. Each time I screened the work at a cinema I invited different musicians to accompany it and perform a live soundtrack. I had done it a few times in London and New York when I realised that it was predominantly men that were playing the music; by some strange fluke it had worked out this way. I was invited to screen it in Berlin at an old silent movie theatre and decided that this time it should be a woman accompanying it. I tracked down this amazing soprano Sigune von Osten—diva der neuen musik, who had worked with John Cage and Luigi Nono, and she agreed to compose a new soundtrack and perform live to the film. There was something incredible about the combination of a woman (me) attempting to dissect and enact the lost films of another woman (silent movie star Theda Bara) while being interpreted and accompanied by the extraordinary vocals of a third woman (Sigune von Osten), it was a metaphysical experience—a total celebration and exploration of the female body and voice.


Images · Georgina Starr

Fabrizio Narcisi

Present Tense


Cinematographer · ALESSIO PANZETTA


Original Music & Sound Design · GIUSEPPE MAFFEI
Recording Engineer · NICOLA RECCHIA

Make-Up and Prosthetics · GRETA GIANNONE
Make-Up Assistant · CAMILLA OLDANI
Casting · Director POLLY PAOLA RUTA



Neels Castillon

Film director and photographer Neels Castillon on cinematic visuals

For Neels Castillon, authenticity is integral to his role as a film director and photographer, especially, as he explains on the phone from Paris, in an age of fake news. The dissemination of falsified and fabricated news reportage may not have a direct connection to Castillon, whose clients include Lacoste, Hermès and the French singer, Angèle, but his contention lies with the prevalence of artifice. He sees his role as navigating a balance between capturing the feeling that cinematic visuals can provoke, whilst simultaneously resisting the artificiality those same visuals can carry. There is perhaps no better example of how Castillon meets this feat than in his production company, Motion Palace’s, advertising campaign for kitchen manufacturer, Schmidt. The premise of the advertisement was to have one of Schmidt’s kitchens appearing on a cliff face, demonstrating the brand’s functionality and adaptability. On seeing that the brief was to shoot in a studio with a green screen, Castillon responded that it should be shot for real in the Alps. The ensuing advertisement, and supplementary documentary about the process, are jaw-dropping to watch, as mountaineer Kenton Cool makes himself breakfast in a fully-working kitchen, 6500ft above ground. Castillon refers to the experience as a ‘cool adventure’; the team involved stayed in tents for fifteen days, hiking their way up to the cliffside, and creating an entirely new structure to support the camera from above.

It is through commercial work, like the advertisement for Schmidt, that Motion Palace is able to pursue its more artistic endeavours; ‘It’s in the DNA of my company to produce art stuff with the money we make,’ Castillon explains. As a result, Castillon was able to realise the F Major music video for the neo-classical pianist, Hania Rani, in Iceland earlier this year. 

Filmed in a remote location, Hania is seen playing an open-front upright piano – an approach which visually encapsulates the artist’s fascination with the mechanical, organic possibilities that the instrument affords. For the video, Castillon worked with the choreographer, Fanny Sage, and the dancers Mellina Boubetra and Janina Sarantšina, whose interpretations of Hania’s ethereal performance is captured in a single sequence shot. The camera work signals Castillon’s commitment to striving for authenticity; ‘The concept was, how can we translate music that never stops, and keep up this pace?’ So, the camera doesn’t stop either. It was important, too, to translate the sensation of freedom that comes both with Hania’s music and the dancers’ movements – something that the film’s location allowed for. ‘I want to celebrate nature,’ Castillon explains, adding that he strives to capture how a landscape can be inspirational, whilst resisting the urge to just create picture postcards of the scenery. The backdrop of mountains and black sand in F Major have the potential to be just that; awe-inspiring and spectacular in itself. But, as the chilling wind that entraps Hania and the dancers in the video confirms, the logistics of F Major were anything but straightforward. ‘As you can see, there was an ice storm,’ Castillon points out; ‘It was very cold, like minus seven degrees. We rehearsed a lot before but, on set on the beach we only had three takes because of the light and the weather.’ Not only was the filming testament to Castillon’s approach to taking on a challenge, but also his dedication to fully realising the potential of the performers he works with. 

Castillon discovered Hania Rani through her record label, Gondwana Records: ‘I like pretty much all the artists they have in their roster, so when I listened to her first album (2019’s Esja) I was totally in love.’ At the time Castillon reached out to Hania, she was writing her second album, Home, but she had seen Castillon’s 2017 film, Isola with the dancer Léo Walk, and wanted to work together. Their collaboration was postponed to allow time for Castillon to raise money and for Hania to complete the album. This time also gave Castillon the chance to work out the concept for their work; ‘I listened to [F Major] maybe 200 times before coming up with the idea.’ He was also keen to ensure he attended every rehearsal and discuss the concept with the dancers; the process is ‘almost a co-creation,’ Castillon explains, like ‘ping-pong.’ It’s a constructive and collaborative process of back-and-forths to find a way that Castillon can capture the performance in the best possible way. His work with Hania may have been a while in the making, but that seems to be the case with a lot of Castillon’s collaborations. 

Stills from Hania Rani’s F Major music video

There is a sense, talking to Castillon, that he uses his films to capture the creative endeavours of those he knows and admires – and in turn, to introduce them to one another in the name of collaboration. That was the case for last year’s short film, Parce Que, featuring the painter, Inès Longevial, and Léo Walk. Inès, like Hania after her, had seen Isola and was keen to work with Léo who, similarly, loved the painter’s work. Castillon had known Inès for a number of years previously and was waiting for the perfect opportunity to work together, which Parce Que would be – but it took ‘almost a year to find a time when [Léo and Inès] were both available.’ The idea was to combine painting and dance together, but Castillon was wary of avoiding the pitfalls of an ‘arty cliché’. With Serge Gainsbourg’s song Parce Que as the film’s soundtrack, the dangers of doing something cliché could be high, but Castillon managed to pull it off. That success is demonstrative of the director’s integrity when it comes to understanding the performers he works with. It was important that the location choice for Parce Que would be able to accommodate Léo’s dancing, which, as he explains in reference to Isola, requires a smooth enough surface to allow for some of the breakdancing moves. As the film, which tells the story of love and, eventually heartbreak, progresses, Léo dances on a six by four metre painting that Inès is depicted as working on; Castillon’s way of combining the creative skill of both collaborators, and avoiding the cliché of something ‘that has already been seen before’. 

Léo Walk on the set of Parce Que

Inès Longevial on the set of Parce Que

As with the Schimdt advertisement and the F Major video, Parce Que shows that Castillon is a master at pulling of impressive operations. ‘It’s what I love,’ he enthuses, ‘sometimes you have a crazy idea like, “What if Léo dances on a big painting?” And one year later, you are shooting it. Like, okay – it’s worth it.’ A special frame was made for Inès’s painting, which was kept in four parts in a friend’s shop in Paris because, as Castillon explains, ‘the apartments are very tiny’, before being transported to a secret location in the South of France for filming. A delipidated castle near Biarritz was chosen in part because the location reminded Inès of her childhood and also because Castillon liked its uniqueness. It had been designed by a woman at the turn of the twentieth century, who had taken inspiration from far and wide including, amongst other references, Versailles. Castillon is careful not to disclose the exact location of the castle because of the fragile state that the building is now in; the team spent two days clearing the site of detritus before filming and filmed quickly to cause as little damage as possible. There is, then, a sense of nostalgia that infuses Parce Que – a longing for lost love, a reminder of childhood and memory of times gone by. 

Personal connections prove important to Castillon, perhaps another explanation for how he avoids clichés. During the location scouts for Isola, it occurred to Castillon that he knew exactly the place to film. Castillon grew up in Sardinia; he remembers a deserted building near a beach he used to frequent with his grandmother, which would become the ‘perfect place’ to film. He describes the place as surreal, the light there reminding him of an Edward Hopper painting. The experience of watching Isola feels similar to viewing a painting by Edward Hopper, too. To see Léo perform, at first refracting the haze of the summer sun and, later, his movements lit up by the warm glow of sundown, it is possible to feel connected to him in his solitude. Isola grants the opportunity to be close to Léo precisely because Castillon is conscientiously aware of the viewer. One of the director’s earlier videos, La République du Skateboard, came from the desire to capture a scene close to Castillon’s heart. As a skateboarder from the age of ten, Castillon started making skate videos using filming techniques common to the scene, ‘fisheyes, long lens – pretty dirty stuff.’ But, he decided to make a film that was more cinematic, taking influence from the classic movies that helped him learn the filming techniques he employs today. The film, about skateboarding and, skateboarding in Paris in particular, was envisioned as something that anyone could watch. The result is an ode to the scene and the city, beautifully shot, as would be expected from Castillon’s work, and accessible too. ‘I didn’t want to make something that only speaks to experts,’ the director explains. ‘I wanted to translate it in a way that is universal so that everyone can watch and understand why it’s beautiful.’ That same philosophy is applied to dance; ‘I’m not interested in making dance videos that only a few people can understand’, Castillon says of his approach. Rather, he wants to ‘find a perfect balance between the popular and the artistic.’  

At its core, Castillon’s role as a director could be understood as transforming his fascination for performers into nuanced films that combine a highly cinematic approach with a deep respect for artistic craft. He says that he is fascinated by artists like Léo Walk and Fanny Sage, and this fascination inspires him to tell their stories. It’s somewhat telling that Castillon describes himself as someone who ‘cannot create a whole universe from nothing’. Rather, he thrives on the collaborative process that comes with the way he instinctively works. Just as he brings up fakes news as the anthesis of his search for authenticity, Castillon describes a ‘kind of boredom’ that comes with the saturation of content on platforms like Instagram and Netflix. He is resolutely not interested in making films that have been done before. That said, Castillon’s upcoming release sees the director return to Iceland with Fanny Sage for a second film; the music is by the French artist, Awir Leon, who, not surprisingly, Castillon claims to love. He describes the short film, called 間 (Ma), as ‘mind-blowing’ – and it’s a project that he seems immensely proud of. When it premieres on June 29th on Nowness, it’s more than likely worth watching.  

Félix Maritaud

“you just have to give it a space, a medium, the body”

Félix Maritaud has catapulted to success in French Cinema with his breakthrough role in Sauvage; solidifying him as one to watch. The Camille Vidal-Naquet directed film, depicted Maritaud as a male sex worker in the streets of Strasbourg in search for love. Maritaud’s ability to play emotionally complex characters has proved to be a reason why he is helping to change the landscape of French cinema and challenge Queer roles within. 

NR speaks with the actor about some of his most prevalent roles and the preparation behind the characters and where we can expect him in the future. For the 28-year old Saint Laurent muse, 2021 will be a fruitful year with projects such as L’énnemi de Stephan Strekker, and in Tom by Fabienne Berthaud.

Felix, It is great to speak to you. First of all, growing up, was there a significant role that inspired you to get into acting?

I won’t lie, I never thought about acting before some people asked for it, it just happened, and for good because i really do love this way to explore life through my body.

Before that I was more inspired by art history, artists, paintings, I’m not watching a lot of films, I don’t have many references about movies and cinema, I just participate sometimes.

One of your first roles was in ‘120 Beats Per Minute’ (2017) directed by Robin Campillo. It is a unifying movie between the personal and the political, tracing back the story Act Up Paris and the lobbying of their activists for adequate legislation, proper research and treatment for those with HIV/Aids. It also centers on the romantic lives of the characters in the movie. Why did you decide to pick this role?

First i always had been really moved and inspired by the history of the creation and actions of ACT UP, even when I was in fine art school at 19 with friends we did « anti-patriarchy » actions creating a group called ACT HOLE as a tribute to ACT UP activists, so when they called me to do a casting ( my first one) for the film i though i already belong to it. 

A standout performance for us was your role in ‘Sauvage’ (2018) in which you play the role of a young sex worker. Could you tell us about the preparation you had done prior to filming?

The casting process was quite long, the idea was really to create a body to the character, a way to move, to stand, to walk, to be naked etc. Camille hadn’t in mind a body like mine writing, he was thinking of a more fragile body type, even if i’m not strong btw, my body was imposing something that we had to adjust and adapt using dance workshops and lots of talks, practicing the body movement of the character on Paris streets,

“trying, trying things to find this strength into vulnerability that is what makes to me the beauty of this young sex worker.”

How was it working with Camille Vidal-Naquet, the film director of ‘Sauvage’?

It was really great, he really knew what he wanted about the film and the character, and we had a really friendly relationship, with all the team actually, so it created a space of strong artistic expression based on truth, empathy and love, because that’s what the movie is about. Camille is a really precise director, and on the other hand he is really open to what the team had to say, or propose.

You have mentioned previously that the character you played in ‘Sauvage’, stepped into your shoes rather than the other way around especially because of how specific the script was. Could you expand on this?

I don’t think of characters as persons you’re building entirely consciously, I don’t want to either. I think that what’s interesting to catch on camera is more an energy, something more fluid than a definition of codified, psychological things that people used to think as the way to define or describe characters.

I think that at a moment of commitment to a character, you can’t ‘control’ it anymore, you just have to give it a space, a medium, the body. So as it was a really intense role, and a really intense shooting too and as I trusted the script and Camille I just let the characters vibration the use of my body, it was really intense, but I did learn a lot from it.

So I’m giving space to my characters, I let myself be pure energy just to let them in, creating their own narratives with my body,

“I think of this job as a relationship, and I try not to impose things on relationships.”

You have also worked with Gaspar Noé in his medium-length movie ‘Lux AEterna’ (2019) produced by Saint Laurent’s creative director, Anthony Vaccarello. Could you tell us more about the movie and how it was working with Gaspar Noé?

I don’t know if I would say ‘movie’ to talk about this work of Genius Gaspar Noé, to me Lux Aeterna is a kind of a narrative manifest about creation of chaos with many levels of understanding. The movie makes me feel like a parallel to what movies are doing to life, changing perceptions of realness, creating a form of chaos as a distortion of an equilibrium between senses and the ‘ways it goes’.  

I like working with Gaspar, it’s really something. As Saint Laurent produced the movie, he had the opportunity to do what he wanted and express it really freely,

“I never saw a script, or texts to learn, pure genius energy.”

You have a strong affiliation with Parisian fashion houses such as Lanvin and Saint Laurent. How does fashion inspire you and your work?

I feel fashion is like a place in society where desire is key and expression of the self is at the center of purposes, style is a way to express people’s self. I met Anthony Vacarello during a radio show we were both invited by Beatrice Dalle, then he invites me to some shows and we get to know each other better, i really like his vision about desire, this provocative chic sexiness with beautiful fabrics and materials, I think he’s making women really powerful and sexy, I really do like what he does, I like wearing SAINT LAURENT leather jackets, its makes me feel so much strength. For Lanvin, I knew Bruno Sialleli from a long time maybe 10 years from common friends, I like his poetry, it’s soft, colors and shapes are soft and sometimes belongs to dreams, joyful ones, and as we have almost the same age we have lots of references in common, he’s a really nice guy.

Your latest role was in ‘L’Ennemi’ directed by Stephan Streker (2020), a movie encapsulating the idea that as human beings we are our own worst enemies in the end. The character you play, Pablo, was written with you in mind. Can you tell us a bit about Pablo and how you played him?

Pablo is jailed with the main character of the movie, they share the cell, it’s a really close relationship into space at first and then into minds, their relationship show a form of class warfare between them, an average politician jailed in front of a young guy, it’s a beautiful relationship and working with Jeremie Renier was a real pleasure, he’s a great guy and always ready to play what I do like a lot.

You have had a lot of success French cinema with these independent movies. Do you have any desire to break into international mainstream cinema?

I wouldn’t say mainstream as to me this word belongs to something I try to escape most of the time in my own life, but yes, I will do every project where i feel like it can reach a level of emotions and sensations i would enjoy, I have many projects to come outside of French films, I love to discover new horizons and way to create so I stay really open to new experiences.

What’s next for you?

You’ll see me soon in L’énnemi de Stephan Strekker, and in Tom by Fabienne Berthaud where I play a guy coming out of prison and finding out he’s a father with the great actress Nadia Teresckevitch, and in You Won’t be Alone, an Australian/American/Serbian horror movie by Goran Stolevski that is  gonna be legendary. At the same time I’m focusing on self stuff like artworks langage to understand more of life, creating pictures, poetry and having fun with DATAs.


Photography · MICHELE YONG
Creative Direction and Interview · NIMA HABIBZADEH and JADE REMOVILLE

Sigurdur Gudjonsson

“Too much analyzation can kill the work, there has to be some mystique and some danger or risk you take along the way”

An old glasshouse stands but continues to shatter as the wind runs through it. From its corroding rafters hang hair-like strands of organic matter, draped in entangled troughs that no longer grow but choose to speak in muffled rustles, envious of the birds that idle overhead, they are filled with longing. They are like exposed roots, barefaced and all out of tears, they sway in the breeze and pretend that they are flying. Gravity hums, its vibrations oscillate between remembering and forgetting what it is to be defied.

The Glasshouse sits at the edge of each of our individual ideals. Sometimes waves crash beneath it and within its walls we are surrounded but not safe. Others remark at its fragility but when I reach out to touch it and slide my palms down the old wood, I say that it is strong. I wrap my arms around myself and say that it will hold me like you used to, pulling at my shoulders for a tighter embrace. Defiance doesn’t always look like a lie. I learned to protect myself from within these walls, I tell you that I trust you but speak through them. I want to build a home with you but I don’t know how to leave this house without burning it down.

These sentiments are presumed, coaxed out of my subconscious as I press “Play” on a video that displays the work, 

Glasshouse created a decade ago by the Icelandic artist, Sigurdur Gudjonsson. I was watching a screen, from my computer screen, with no tangible distance between perception and reality. This is Sigurdur’s strength. As the recipient of the 2018 Icelandic Art Prize as Visual Artist of the Year for his 2017 exhibition, Inlight, and the selected artist who will represent Iceland at the 59th Venice Biennale to be held in 2022, Sigurdur is a master of the senses. Utilizing moving imagery, synchronized soundscapes and installation, the viewer is dropped into an emotional fragment, engineered through layers and loops that create an immersive world numbed by specificity where feeling is not a derivative of direct experience. Having installed his projections in locations like morgues and churches, Sigurdur first sets the scene by taking the viewer out of his or her respectively normal settings and then transports them into his projections where the metaphysical becomes an invitation to surrender. Whether it is the innards of the Glasshouse, a lone pillar erect in the sea, or an electron-microscope’s magnification of carbon, the contours of these incongruous visuals become hyper-narratives that the viewer projects meaning onto as if reaching to reclaim a shard of something broken and without genesis, like a memory evading recall. 

The footnotes of our innermost psyche are lured to the fore as viewers ascribe meaning to Sigurdur’s often poetically abstract works.

You’ve said about yourself that you’re often “quick to come home” when you find yourself abroad, what does home mean to you and how has it shaped your work?

I have been lucky enough to both travel, live, study, and work abroad and that has been very important for me. I currently live in Iceland so you could say that it is my home now, although I might choose to live elsewhere temporarily later. There has always been fascinating energy in the Icelandic art scene which has always fascinated and inspired me, both in visual arts and music and I think I can say that it has shaped my works in many ways. However, I think it’s incredibly healthy for every artist to stay abroad for some time and broaden their perspective and build new relationships. This is something I try to do every year, whether it be in connection to working or exhibiting.

What does Iceland provide that has made it a place that you have decided to stay and find success in your work?

Reykjavík is a small city when it comes to population and you are quite close to the sea with a view over to the mountains, it’s also only a short drive into the wilderness which I count as a blessing. I guess you always take some inspiration from the environment and the people you meet on the way and all of it somehow weasels its way into the subconscious, which I guess must be reflected in the works I make. At the moment, Iceland suits me well as I am focusing on a large-scale project for the Venice Bienniale in 2022. I work with a great gallery here in Reykjavík named BERG Contemporary and I have a nice studio close to where I live with my family.

How were you and your community in Iceland affected by COVID19? In a place like New York for instance I think it really altered the ways in which we were actually connecting with people. We’re always moving at lightspeed, often with a set of priorities that aren’t our own and it was a way to be forced into introspection.

COVID19 has been handled quite well over here. In March almost everyone stayed mainly at home for a few weeks and then we managed to get rid of COVID19 during a large part of the summer so people could enjoy each other’s company without worrying too much for a while. But now we are facing the third outbreak over here and I really hope for an international solution soon. If we look at Iceland specifically it has been affected by so many things, apart from the obvious and most serious effect on those that became ill. Iceland has been a popular destination for travelers over the past few years, so the travel industry is struggling. Theatres just opened again for the first time since March, but there are only half or one-third of the usual numbers allowed into the auditorium. Musicians haven’t been performing and of course, art exhibitions have been postponed as well. But I am lucky as I’m working in my studio all day at the moment so it doesn’t affect my everyday life too much at the time being.

The perceptive experience is an anchor in your work where emotional fragments can be strung together to mirror something whole in its potential for universality. What do you want people to experience when they come across your work? Is the desired result always a certain emotional response and do you want that response to be singular?

I’m interested in creating a surrounding experience for people, multiple layers of perception, a world you can immerse yourself in, not only an emotional one; it can also be strong visually or physically and hopefully it moves something within the audience.

It’s interesting because we all experience life as individuals, but when you put us in this context where the individual is surrounded, their perception is controlled in a way that almost forces them to confront something more subconscious. Are the frames you build mirrors for humanity almost?

I hope so. That would be amazing. I guess it’s easier for an outside viewer or audience to answer these questions, it’s rather difficult to know what impact one’s work has on others.

For me, it’s created from within but often also it’s a way to express what my eyes have caught when I walk through life.

So my work stems from an inner drive and sometimes a need to put focus on things that have caught my attention, which can be anything from machinery, man-made construction, or technical relics for instance. I hope that the audience experiences their read of the different layers of the narrative within each piece and that the whole space comes together simultaneously, combining different elements

You use the word narrative, do you consider yourself a storyteller?

No, I think I’m always trying to hide the story.

In what way?

I like it when a narrative becomes more of an undercurrent.

You mean it’s something that you want your viewers to bring out of themselves to fill the piece?

Exactly. It’s always a pleasure when that happens. Perhaps we could say hyper-narrative.

The creation of a narrative through perception is interesting. You often work with musical composers and sometimes there are inherent narratives present within sound, especially when things are instrumental and there are no lyrics to guide you in terms of emotionality. Where do you find those nuances?

When I’m in the process of doing work, it’s sometimes a very unspoken process because it’s not a specific path that I’m following. It’s almost like wandering around until I feel that I have reached an area of interest. Then I start to make different implementations and play around with it. This process is sometimes like tuning an old radio back and forth until you catch the frequency you like.

Normally I think we assume that the ways of working are like, okay here’s a video and we need to engineer a sound for it, but how is it working in the inverse, like making videos for sound? What is the dialogue that you’re having, not only with yourself, but with the other artists that you’re collaborating with?

It’s a different process with different artists. 

Like with Anna Thorvaldsdottir, a composer I worked with on my latest work, Enigma, it’s a very intuitive process. We almost don’t have to speak. I know her quite well and she knows my aesthetic, and vice versa and the outcome is somehow always interesting. We throw ideas back and forth for a while and then they start to take form.

A lot of your work is time-based and in tandem, it seems that the relationships you’re cultivating with your collaborators also work on this scale. Do you feel like the collaborations themselves are also like time-based projects?

In a way, yes. Some of these projects are unique and created in the moment, while others have evolved further and manifested themselves into longer partnerships. But it can be said that the works themselves take care of how they develop, whether they grow or not. If that happens, it’s always a pleasure.

Right and inherently there is a level of intuition that comes with relationships that allows for a deeper level of empathy and perceptiveness that becomes activated through collaboration. What do you think is the connection between creativity and intuition and to what extent are both tools for society?

I think the process of all artists is a combination of intuition and knowledge and it is important to trust it and follow it.

When I look at a piece, the experience engendered seems quite universal and that’s a rare thing because it signifies that you as the artist, have been able to trigger someone’s emotional response without knowing anything about their experiences or their personal narrative. It’s like the work is looking outwards somehow and sees us individually, is this your intent?

Thank you. Those are big words. My answer is maybe.

How do you know when a work is completed per se? Is it because you feel a certain way after you look at it or how do you know?

You never know. It’s usually defined by the moment when the piece goes away, you have to stop at one point. I like when the piece gains its own life somehow and starts to grow inside a space; when it becomes possible to play with the video in a performative way where its surroundings activate the video somehow and the reading of the work becomes completely different due to its placement.

Locations are so interesting for you. You’ve done exhibitions in a morgue and church and when you take your pieces out of these settings and into a museum for instance, how do you think that changes the piece? Is its intent or means of communication ever impacted in a negative way?

I am very inspired by the space I work in each time. So very often the environment influences my work.

Fuser was deeply influenced by the old chapel in Hafnarfjörður which I found when I worked a project for ASÍ Art Museum in Iceland and later the work was also screened in an old barn in a farm in the North of Iceland. Even though it was created in a chapel it works well within a gallery, so that’s not to say that even if a work can be created and inspired from a house or a raw space, there’s always a new layer that is added to it when it enters a gallery or even a museum.

Do you think you lose anything though when you take it into the museum space or a space other than what you created a piece in?

It can happen, but at the same time the focus on the work can become clearer, which sometimes makes it better.

Do you think a work should always be malleable? You’re actively having to change a piece that you thought was “complete” so is that exciting for you as an artist to have to rethink something that you thought was finished?

No, I don’t really change pieces after they ́ve been performed unless it ́s another score that I write for it. It can be interesting to reflect on an exhibition in two different locations and reshape it.

Do you consider your work to be accessible? Is this something that is important to you?

It’s hard for me to say. I’m rather in search of nuance or something that clicks rather than thinking too much about what happens when the work is ready. I guess it would be risky to think too much about how people receive the work. For me, it’s about taking on the journey of creating the piece and challenging myself in the process. It has to be risky somehow otherwise it would be boring. You have to take a risk and make the most of the ride, the rest is up to the receiver.

We think that people exist outside of their work as if it could be separated, but for you, do you think your work is a reflection of your inner psyche?

I guess it’s influenced by what I see and explore and what I choose to show to others and in that way, it’s very much so related to who I am. Some videos I create from images that I have imagined or an idea that comes from within but in other cases, I choose to show to others what has caught my attention. I guess art can have its own soul or psyche as well. It becomes its own character. My work is fuelled by my inner psyche without me being able to explain that further or analyze it. I’m not aware of how. Too much analyzation can kill the work, there has to be some mystique and some danger or risk you take along the way.

How does your work make you feel? How has it changed who you are?

I ́ve never thought about that. It’s more about expressing an idea in my mind and finding the right form for it. I tend to be thinking and focusing on the next project rather than dwelling on the ones that have already been produced.

The names of your pieces are rather poetic. Ranging from the idea of a veil, connection, even a deathbed, are your titles meant to guide the viewer?

For me, the title is always a kind of trigger that possibly poetically expands the work.

Sigurður Guðjónsson is an Icelandic visual artist based in Reykjavík. Working with moving imagery and installations, his works carry carefully constructed synchronized soundscapes, and provide organic synergy between sound, vision, and space. His works often investigate man-made construction, machinery and the infrastructure of technical relics, in conjunction with natural elements, set within the form of complex loops and rhythmic schemes. His all-immersive multi-faceted compositions allow for the viewer to be engaged in a synaesthetic experience, that seems to extend one’s perceptual experience beyond new measures. Sigurður has often collaborated with musical composers, resulting in intricate work, allowing the visual compositions, to enchantingly merge with the musical ones in a single rhythmic and tonal whole. His newest work, Enigma (2019), is produced in partnership with Anna Thorvaldsdottir (composer) and comprises of a string quartet and video. Created for an immersive, full-dome theatre experience, Guðjonsson broadens a fragment seen through an electron microscope into an extensive 360-degree video, exploring scale, perception and the poetic notions of the-in-between. Recently on tour with four-time Grammy nominees, TheSpektralQuartet, it is due to be presented at The Adler Planetarium, IL, Carnegie Hall, NY, Kennedy Center, DC, The Reykjavík Arts Festival and among other exhibition places in 2020. In 2019, it was announced that Guðjónsson had been selected to represent Iceland at the 59th Venice Bienniale, to be held in 2022. The artist was awarded the 2018 Icelandic Art Prize as Visual Artist of the Year for his 2017 exhibition Inlight, which featured video installations set within the defunct St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hafnarfjörður, Iceland and commissioned by Listasafn ASÍ. His work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions around the world, in such institutions as the National Gallery ofIceland, Reykjavik Art Museum, Scandinavia House, New York, BERG Contemporary, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Germany, Arario Gallery, Beijing, Liverpool Biennial, Tromsø Center for Contemporary Art, Norway, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, and Bergen Kunsthall Norway.



  1. Enigma, 2019 4k video, 27 minutes 49 secondsImage courtesy of the artist and BERG Contemporary
  2. Lightroom, 2018 HD video, stereo sound, 9 minutes 27 second Image courtesy of the artist and BERG Contemporary
  3. Mirror Projector, 2017 HD video, stereo sound, 16 minutes 10 secondsImage courtesy of the artist and BERG Contemporary
  4. Scanner, 2017 HD video, stereo sound, 40 minutesInstallation view: ASI Art Museum, exhibition in the outbuildings of Kleifar farm, Iceland Image courtesy of the artist and BERG Contemporary
  5. Fuser, 2017HD video, stereo sound, 38 minutes 45 seconds Installation view: ASI Art Museum, exhibition in the chapel and morgue of the former St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hafnarfjörður Image courtesy of the artist and BERG Contemporary

C. Fitz

“sometimes, it’s really not reinventing yourself, it’s just finally coming into what you’ve always been”

As a filmmaker, director and producer, C. Fitz has built up a wealth of experience working within the industry. Starting out working on the commercial side, Fitz worked on the pilot of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy back in 2003 – a gig that introduced her to TV work. Yet, documentaries and short films have always been a passion for Fitz, something that is clearly apparent in the way that ShowGirls, Provincetown, MA (2009) and Jewel’s Catch One (2016) are shot. Whilst ShowGirls, a documentary about the showgirls of Provincetown’s legendary talent show, has become something of a cult hit, Jewel’s Catch One was picked up for release by Ava DuVernay’s distribution company, ARRAY, in 2018. The documentary tells the story of Jewel Thais-Williams, whose nightclub, the Catch One in LA, provided a safe space for LGBTQ, Black and Aids-affected communities over the four decades it was open. During its tenure, the Catch became a haven from the outside world for many, as rare footage of Madonna at the club in Fitz’s film demonstrates. With interviews from Thelma Houston, who heard her hit song Don’t Leave Me This Way for the first time at the Catch, Sharon Stone and Evelyn “Champagne” King, Jewel’s Catch One is a loyal and endearing tribute to the legacy of Thais-Williams. In the time since the documentary’s release, Fitz has been working on other projects; a few days prior to our phone call, Fitz enjoyed her TV scripted directorial debut for an episode of the fourth series of Ava DuVernay’s TV show, Queen Sugar. Speaking to Fitz, it is clear that the opportunity to watch this debut alongside Ava at Array’s Amanda Theatre, LA, is as valuable as the opportunity to tell important stories and create thought-provoking content.

NR MAGAZINE: Something that is striking about Jewel’s Catch One is the need to preserve the memories of the space as the club was being wound up. Did you anticipate this change when you started out filming to documentary?

C. Fitz: When I started making the film, I did not think of Catch One without Jewel as the owner because, at that time, it was all that that building and its stories had known for a little over three and a half decades. I did feel strongly about recording the history so that her story and the stories of our community’s perseverance were not lost. To me, the film was like a huge unwritten textbook that needed to be made.

NR: Would you agree that some aspects of Jewel’s Catch One, in the short time since filming, now feel bittersweet, as the political mood seems to be operating in reverse?

C.F: The political climate today; it seems like we’ve got so far to go to reach equality….one step forward, two back, three back…..I don’t think we ever imagined that we could feel like we are going in reverse. I think there is a lesson there too. Is it reverse, or do we just need to keep on fighting and not get distracted from making change happen? We need to dig in like Jewel, the patrons, and supporters of Catch One did for years to fight for our rights and our community’s rights. Change, real change, takes time and tenacity to believe it will, and can happen. This is one of the takeaways from making this film. During the four decades the Catch One operated there were many times the police tried to tear down communities  – whether it was raiding and targeting the Black and Gay clubs at hours that would hurt their businesses the most, or arresting patrons for false acquisitions. The film sheds some light on what that felt like, and what not giving up looks like…

NR: As a filmmaker, what compels you to tell someone’s story for an audience that may have little connection to, or knowledge of, their circumstances?  

C.F: Jewel’s Catch One has a very important history that I wanted to preserve in a format that would carry its message for a broader audience in, for, and outside of Los Angeles. I felt this film contained so many different histories and lessons for everyone, and everyone should know this story so they can reflect on how we got here as a country, and how we can persevere in the future towards equality.

NR: In Jewel’s Catch One and ShowGirls, there’s a real sense of community forged around the shared enjoyment and appreciation for the spaces and entertainment involved. How do you achieve the warmth in these films that can be felt as a viewer? 

C.F: I feel you need to spend as much time as you can as a filmmaker, recording what you can document, and then reflecting back on the footage in the edit room to tell the best story to your audience. With each film, I spent a lot of time with my subjects – and did whatever I could to learn about them, their environments and basically submerse myself in their worlds. In both instances, I was already a part of some of the ‘world’ but needed to learn more, to find out why they are doing what they are doing.

NR: Do you think you can tell stories if you’re not really part of that world, or do you have to have a connection to it to be able to tell it well?

C.F: I think, as a filmmaker, especially in terms of documentary, you have to have some connection to it. That doesn’t mean you have to be of that community, but you have to have that passion to tell that story. How you tell it is what you have to figure out next, and hopefully you figure out so you can tell it the right way. You have to immerse yourself, talk to people, find out all the different stories you need, and then find the ones that are the best to support the story you want to tell.

NR: Being around Jewel and the spaces she’s involved with, was there a sense of community that struck you as unique to that space? How did people react to Jewel, and respond to what she was doing?

C.F: It was amazing, it really, really was. Whether it be at the Catch or the Village Health Foundation, I got a little sense of what the soup kitchens that were held in the parking lot back in the ‘80s-‘90s would have been like. In the documentary, there are scenes from the 2016 Pride Parade in LA, which Jewel was a part of, and people were thanking her for all the work she’s done. That’s the community she built and supported – and supported when nobody else would. So the sense of community was incredible, and the sense of her being the mother of it all was incredible to watch and really feel.

NR: How did the relationship with Ava [DuVernay] come about? 

C.F: We met her at Urbanworld Film Festival, our New York debut. She was speaking there, and was our top choice of distributor. How we were going to get there, we weren’t sure. It’s a great story – how we actually, physically, met. She was leaving after giving a speech on the last day of the festival, and Jewel and I were behind trying to catch up with her. We weren’t doing so hot, but we were close. And then it was kismet and she was pushed back into me by the crowd  and I helped her back up;(It was so crowded and every one wanted to talk to her) and she turns right around and says, ‘good catch’, which was so funny considering the film’s called Jewel’s Catch One. Anyway, then she was off again, but when I had the chance, I grabbed her and said, ‘Hi! My name is Fitz, I have Jewel’s Catch One which is my documentary and this is Jewel’; she turns to Jewel and she says, ‘you’re Jewel? I’ve heard so much great stuff about you’. She told me that she definitely wanted to review my film, that she’d heard great stuff about it. These things are never instant; it took two years to distribute the film. But, Array is where the film was supposed to be. They take such great care of their filmmakers and are celebratory of their filmmakers, and that was really important to me, And it was such a gift. It was such an interesting meeting the first time, but it was meant to be.

NR: Have there been any major obstacles that you’ve had to confront over the course of your career?

C.F: In general, I think, as a filmmaker, you really hope you’re picking the right projects and the right subjects, especially when it’s a passion project. You know, Jewel’s Catch One took me six years to make, and another two to distribute. That requires perseverance, and you’re also praying that you’re choosing the right things. You also have to be connected to what you’re doing and feel strongly about it – like I felt so strongly in my bones that I wanted to tell Jewel’s story. Again, with Queer Eye, I helped develop and create the pilot, and I wanted for that to be a masterpiece and make a difference in the world. It’s the same with being assigned as a director on Queen Sugar by Ava; I wanted it to be perfect and, I don’t know if that’s an obstacle, but you’re hoping that you’re choosing the right projects.

You’re talking about reinvention, and I think that that’s also about choosing what you’re going to be passionate about and what you’re going to really have that crazy tenacity for, in order to make content in the right way. Like Jewel’s Catch One, that could have been done a million different ways; it certainly could have been done in a shorter amount of time, without the music in it, without Thelma Houston, Evelyn Champagne King, and Sharon Stone… But, all those things matter to that story around Jewel being the central figure around them all, you know? So, yeah, time is always the hardest obstacle. But you know that; that’s part of the job. If you’re going to reinvent yourself, I think you really need to know what your passions are to have the perseverance that you’re going to need to get there. And sometimes, it’s really not reinventing yourself, it’s just finally coming into what you’ve always been and people seeing it finally.

Tara Olayeye

“when I’m actually there, I’ll naturally feel aligned, because I’m not thinking myself into oblivion”

For Tara Olayeye, whose relationship with her work mirrors her relationship with herself, the practice of film-making has turned into an experience as meditative as it is creative. Her latest short film, So Natural, proves as profound in aesthetic as it is in prose & composition. The visual aspect is only a portion of the young Atlanta-based director’s crafts, as the poem she recites over the film is an adaptation of a song she wrote when she was 18 years old, which she re-appropriated from her archives for the purpose of the film. Her experience with music– singing and playing the piano– reflects in the care she has for the rhythm and pace of a narrative.

The production of this short film was a tough tango between Olayeye and the vintage 16mm camera she swears by. The texture and character of the footage shot on film is true to the attitude of the device. The level of attention and awareness required to shoot with it turned being on set into an undertaking of mindfulness.

Being drawn away from her initial inspiration and expectations, she picked up on the resonance of her own creativity. As So Natural emerged, she found her expectations exceeded by what it turned into, despite coming inches away from moving on from it. Olayeye’s latest project was the fruit of months of internal tides of inspiration which intersected between motion picture, poetry, spoken-word, and music. Patience, with herself and with her work, was of the essence. As she learns to trust her processes, she has been reminding herself not to give into doubt and fear.

Fear forms the roots of many of our expectations, as they manifest a need for security into the future. Figuring out how to let go of them becomes essential to tapping into one’s uninhibited creativity. Our apprehensions are often an architecture of our own mind, and moving forward and beyond them is the only way to embrace reality and discover the multitude of possibilities that may be, both in our work and our lives.

In constant creative expansion, the latest craft she has picked up on is knitting. Amidst the present circumstances, the therapeutic elements of art consist in much more than a practice: it becomes a philosophy and a way of life that nurtures and carries over into everything else.

Olayeye granted NR an introspective insight into her work, distilled below.

Between the visual, the musical and the poetic dimensions of your last film, So Natural, and over the course of the year during which it was shot, what was your creative process like?

I started brainstorming it in January of 2019, I had a concept that I wanted to do – I had a script and everything written out – and actually the final result of that project is not even close to what the original concept was supposed to be. Getting things set up and put together didn’t end up working out the way that I thought it was supposed to. Whenever we were shooting, there were so many mishaps and things going wrong because we shot on 16mm, and the camera that I was using, and still use, is a really old film camera, it’s – it has an attitude, so it was a little temperamental, and there were a bunch of hiccups that ended up happening. As I was trying to piece everything together, when I got the first rolls of footage back in the summer, in the way that I thought that it was supposed to go, it wasn’t working and

“I was almost about to scrap the entire thing, because I thought ‘This is not how I wanted it to be, this is a failure’.”

I walked away from it for a few months and realized “Okay, maybe this project isn’t working in the way that I initially thought, but that doesn’t mean I have to completely dispose of it, I can just re-imagine a storyline, re-imagine how I want this project to feel”. So I picked it back up again around September or October last year, I started re-shooting and I had these lyrics to a song that I wrote years and years ago, I don’t know how or why it came into my head while I was looking at this project, but as I was reciting the lyrics, I thought “wait, this could actually work really well as a poem”. It worked really well with the footage that we had shot over the past few months, so instead of the original script I had, I decided to use the words of that song that I wrote, when I was maybe 18 years old, and that’s where the poem is from. The music is one of my favourite songs of all time, and I emailed the record label that owns the rights to the song to see if I could have the permission to use the song in my project, because I just felt like it fit so perfectly. So that’s the story of the project. It was definitely a very unique experience, that’s not really how I’ve gone about making a lot of my film projects, typically I have a script, I have a very clear vision of what I’m gonna do, and even though things change and evolve, it still holds that same essence of the original concept.

“This project was literally writing itself and I was just there to be as open with it, and accepting of the path that it was taking.”

How did you feel about the way it turned out as opposed to what you initially had in mind?

I’m even more happy with what it turned into. It’s funny because as artists or creatives, whatever you wanna call it, we have– or, I’ll just speak for myself– I tend to have preconceived notions of what I want a project to look like, I’ll think “it’s going to be like this and like that” and the way the project moves, circumstances change, and the project just naturally evolves and what you thought the project was going to be– it just becomes better than you ever expected it to. So that’s always amazing to witness and experience.

It seems like you had a dynamic relationship with this project; how did that reflect with your relationship with yourself?

Last year was really interesting for me, it was a year where I really began to learn more about myself, and I began to realize a lot of negative patterns I had developed throughout my entire life. Patterns of perfectionism, feeling like I needed to control everything, feeling like I needed to know everything, and if I didn’t, I would feel like I was just missing something. It makes perfect sense that this project was my main focus last year, because I did a lot of self-reflection and flowing with myself and, like you said, surrendering a little, and not feeling like I had to control everything and I think that reflected a lot in this particular project because I went into it thinking I knew what was going to happen but then it just flowed into something completely different. It really showed me the importance of being open and not being rigid with my creativity, and understanding that art can in different ways teach a lesson and teach you about yourself, and teach you about life, so

“that project was definitely a reflection of my inner-growth and of being open.”

What made you inclined to shoot this project on film?

I really wanted to learn how to shoot film for the longest time, just from watching other people’s work, watching films that were shot on film, I loved the look of it and I wanted to try it out. I was fortunate enough to know someone who had a film camera sitting in their basement and they sold it to me. It’s definitely a learning curve– shooting on film when we have such instant gratification with shooting digitally– there’s so much we don’t have to think about, whether its just taking a picture on your phone or shooting with a cinema camera. Shooting on film is a humbling experience and it forces you to be very attentive and be really intentional about every shot that you make; you have to be really alert when shooting on film, which I think is a really good practice just in general

What nurture your creativity, and what inhibits it?

For me, patience is the most important thing. I tend to feel restless at times when working through a creative project because it’s easy to care more about the end result than the process. But every step you take while creating something counts for something. So staying with it and reminding myself that the pace that things are going is the pace that is meant to be helps me a lot.

I realize that fear blocks my creativity, I don’t believe [those two states can co-exist]: true creation and fear. You can’t [be fearful] when creating because what makes creating so magical is that you’re letting go of the need to know, you have to trust the process, so it’s interesting how I am a creator but at the same time I deal with a lot of fear. Wanting to create, and Create wholeheartedly, while having these underlying feelings of fears: fear of judgement, fear of failure, fear that things won’t work out, fear that you are wasting your time… It’s an interesting back and forth between creating and fearing.

The main thing is just going with it and within, not thinking too much, feeling my way around. Each creative flow is different but I guess

“the common denominator with each endeavour is being fully committed because I really do believe that as long as I Commit, I really can’t fail.”

When do you feel aligned the most?

I think I feel the most aligned when I’m not in my head. Over-thinking is so exhausting and it’s something that I have a lot of experience with. I feel like even when I’m doing something that I love, if I’m in my head about it, I don’t feel aligned. It’s really important to live outside of my head as often as possible. [While doing] anything like just walking down the street, talking to a friend or eating a meal, as long as I’m present, when I’m actually there, I’ll naturally feel aligned, because I’m not thinking myself into oblivion or panicking about something that holds no real weight. I feel the most aligned with my true nature, who I actually am, my power, all of that; I feel alive and connected to all that when I am actually within my body, doing something with full attention.


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