Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Interview with Emily Van Loan | Experimental Filmmaker!!

Today's interview is quite different, but i am very excited to bring it to you all!! Emily and I have been friends for...oh my goodness, fifteen years, at least?? Emily is an experimental filmmaker, which I find fascinating!! As I've said, it isn't only books I love, it's storytelling, which can be done in many different forms. Which is why I knew that interviewing Emily would be perfect for this blog!! So read on!!

Amanda: When did you know that you wanted to make films? 
Emily: I started making films in Binghamton NY during my undergraduate education. Originally, I had been taking classes in the Cinema Department as part of a cinema minor I had picked up under the intention of boosting my GPA in the Integrative Neuroscience major I was pursuing.

I got serious about making films when I took a 16mm film production course during my time at Binghamton. My first film, why to hook hurt ends, a portrait of a billowing white curtain off my apartment porch, was very well-received by my professor Monteith McCollum. Monte encouraged me to continue making films and pushing myself. He wrote his comments about that first film on a post-it note that I have kept, it now hangs on my bedroom wall.
Amanda: Oh, that's amazing! I love that you keep that post-it on your bedroom wall!!

Amanda: Did you know from the start that you wanted to make experimental films or did you think that you would go the more traditional route? 
Emily: My education at Binghamton really prepared me to make experimental films specifically. I have always been interested in solo creating, and when I first saw experimental films and realized that they were the sole vision of the artist, and that they could be so personal in nature, I knew that I could only make experimental/experimental-leaning films.

Amanda: What was your favorite film as a child? What about today?  
Emily: I recently found a copy of Spice World on DVD at a thrift store and remembered the countless times my sister and I watched that film on VHS during our family’s road trips. Spice World was definitely one of my favorites. These days, my favorite film is hard to pin down. I saw a really beautiful film last week by Nina Fonoroff called The Accursed Mazurka. I had the pleasure to see the film on 16mm, and the quality of light in the first shot made me choke up. It’s a film about mental health and the filmmaker’s personal struggles but utilizing found footage and found sound to tell her story.
Amanda: Oh, wow, I'd completely forgotten about Spice World! We used to watch that, too

Amanda: Do you think your background in neuroscience influences your films and art today? If yes, how so?  
Emily: Most of the time I see very little influence from my neuroscience background on my films. But I have begun to think more about neuroscience in thinking about my potential thesis project for next year, which centers around mine and my twin sister’s relationship, and the biology involved when two people with theoretically identical DNA grow to be individuals.

Amanda: What other mediums influence your films? (For example: music, literature/poetry, etc.?) 
Emily: I often voice my desire to “get more into poetry”, but I must admit I know very very little about that craft. I sometimes consider my films poetic, but I have not quite been able to articulate what that means.
Amanda: I've watched a couple of your films and I can definitely see how they could be considered poetic. It is a difficult thing to articulate why, though. Poetry itself, to me is often sort of ethereal? If that makes sense. Hard to think of the right word. Anyway, as for getting into poetry, give me a call!! Or send me a message. I love poetry, I can give you some recommendations!!

Amanda: Do you see any repeating motifs or symbols in your films? (Courtesy of my fellow author friend, Jessica VanderWerff.) 
Emily: A major motif in my films is the use of text. This is perhaps why I often consider poetry in relation to my work, because many of my films include text I have written, usually originating from journal writing. My films are highly autobiographical, so diary is a quite dominant motif in my work as well. 

Amanda: I ask every author I interview about their favorite writing craft book, so I thought I’d ask you what your favorite book on film and/or film making is?  
Emily: I must confess I do not often read the entirety of a filmmaking book. Most recently I read the majority of a book of essays on experimental films created by women entitled Women and Experimental Filmmaking which was edited by Jean Petrolle and Virginia Wright Wexman. It includes an essay on the filmmaker Su Friedrich, who is a big influence of mine.

This or that:
Strawberry vs. Chocolate
Poetry vs. Fiction
T. V. Show vs. Movie
Hero vs. Villain
Villain vs. Anti-Hero
Witch vs. Vampire
E-book vs. Physical Book
Tea vs. Coffee

Amanda: What camera do you use to make your films? Other equipment? Editing software? Etc.?   
Emily: Most of the films I make are analog, so I work with Super 8mm and 16mm film primarily. When I shoot Super 8mm I use a Braun Nizo camera that I borrow from CU Boulder, where I am pursuing an MFA in Art. When editing Super 8mm, I use what is called a viewer that allows me to see my images, then cut and tape the sequences of film in the order that I want. When I shoot 16mm film, I use a Bolex camera that I own. When editing 16mm film, I edit on a flatbed editing machine, specifically a Steenbeck that my university has. As I do with with super 8mm, I cut, rearrange, and tape together the film into a cohesive sequence to be projected. Often, I will digitize my analog films using what is called a tele-cine machine. I do this so that I can submit my works to festivals and other exhibition opportunities. Whenever possible, I prefer to screen my films in their analog form as opposed to the digitized version.
Amanda: I think that is amazing. The cutting, rearranging and taping the film together. I absolutely love that you do that.

Amanda: I know there is a lot of fancy equipment out there, but in your opinion, what is the bare minimum anyone needs to get started making films? 
Emily: I do not believe that fancy equipment is at all necessary to make a film! You can make a film with your phone camera! You can make a film with your parents’ old video camera! You can make a film with scraps of 16mm you find in the garbage! What matters is the exploration and experimentation with the medium of moving images, which you can do in any number of different ways, for as much or as little money as you want. I do feel wary though of folks who make films with the fancy equipment, I think it can be easy to get stuck relying on the sheen of the materials and not produce anything challenging or interesting.

Amanda: Words of encouragement to aspiring filmmakers? Encouragement to artists of any medium? 
Emily: For artists of any kind, there is a time and a place to have both overconfidence and a sharp critical eye on yourself. When you are just starting out, it is important to try anything and everything you can conceive of. Do not worry about conventions, about reception, about the quality of what you are making, just make something! But it is important to know that stage of your creative life has to end, at some point you need to shift to pointing a critical eye at your work in order to continuing growing and challenging yourself to make better work.

Amanda: Do you have a favorite part of the process of making a film?  
Emily: One of my favorite parts of making a film is right before it is done. When I am making a film, I cut and (temporarily) tape strips of film together to create my sequences. My favorite part is when I realize that all the shots are in the correct place, are of the correct length, and it is time to permanently tape them into place. During this phase of production, I turn on my favorite music of the moment and go through and splice together each shot. Splicing is a repetitive, meditative act for me, I get into a flow and lose myself. It is one of the best feelings in the world.
Amanda: Hmm, that sort of reminds me of what I call my "story boarding process" for my books. It is a wonderful moment when I realize all the scenes are in the right order. So I think I can understand what you mean there.

Amanda: If you had to pick one film you’ve made so far as your favorite, which would it be? 
Emily: Right now, my favorite of my films is Who Wants to Fall in Love?, a super 8mm film with a soundtrack that I perform live, improvised, on a toy xylophone. The film incorporates writings I adapted from my journals, posed to the audience, and images of the natural world and my own domestic life. You can find it at with a password: WWtFiL

Amanda: Any films or directors, etc., that have particularly influenced your or your style? 
Emily: Su Friedrich, Stan Brakhage, Carolee Schneemann, Gunvor Nelson, Sadie Benning, and others.

Amanda: How would you describe your style?
Emily: I consider myself a diaristic experimental filmmaker. I create autobiographical films often acting as an artistic rendition of a diary. I consider them to be experimental in that they often challenge the conventions of the moving image medium, lack a comprehensive narrative or characters, and follow historical threads in filmmaking, started in the 1950s, of personal filmmaking.

Amanda: Where do you draw inspiration from?  
Emily: My life! Just about every time I have a feeling, I try to make art about it…

Amanda: What is your process like, from start to finish? 
Emily: My films usually come from an existing concept I have in mind. I then shoot film, usually outdoors, then hand-process my film with the beautiful darkroom provided by my school, edit on film, then digitize and add a soundtrack that I mix with the software Ableton, and send the film off to as many low-cost festival open calls I can find!

Amanda: Thank you so much for being here!! Any last comments you want to share? 
Emily: Thank you for having me! I feel very lucky to be interviewed by one of my oldest friends, and that we have both become accomplished creators in our own right!
Amanda:  I'm so happy that you did this interview. It was such an interesting one!! I learned a lot. And I feel very luck to interview one of my oldest friends. Can't wait to see what you do next!! <3


 Emily Van Loan is an experimental filmmaker and artist. She creates diaristic, autobiographical works with the intention of fostering connections between audience and maker or perhaps within an audience.

Emily holds a B.S. in Neuroscience as well as a B.A. in Cinema from Binghamton University (SUNY). Emily is currently pursuing an MFA at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Check out some of Emily's films below!! And of course, her website above.
Who Wants to Fall in Love? Password: WWtFiL
In Collaboration Password: DWTJMMS
Fool(ed) (no password)
Fool(ed) (reprise) Password: reprise 

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