As a playwright, screenwriter, and journalist, what consistent message or feeling do you want your work to convey to people?
Maybe I can say that my work over the years, in gross summation, has been more a celebratory act than anything else. I spend time writing about things I delight in, is what it boils down to. Which doesn’t mean that, if I’m writing about a nuclear bomb, I somehow think the end of world is sexy. But I do kind of revel in the sense that “there’s something to be said,” or just worthwhile to appreciatively consider, at the heart of every little thing relating to the human experience. And no matter it’s the story of love triumphant or of cultish mass suicide, it’s the internalization of those little something-to-be-said’s that I aspire to, try to synthesize, and celebrate. I guess if there’s any consistent feeling that I want my work to convey, it’s that sense of pervasive, emphatic curiosity. If a person can watch a film I’ve made about a professional acorn gatherer called Muckety Cornsmith, and Muckety’s quiet relationship to the imagined realities of daily acorn quotas, and still walk away from it thinking, “There’s something to be said about that!”, then I’ll know I’ll have finally gotten good at what I do.
Your entire family, from your highly revered and multi-talented father to your musician brother and then your sister and mom, are all so artistic and supremely creative. How was it like growing up in such an inspirational and artistic environment? Was there lots of healthy competition or any pressure to consistently create?
I can honestly say that my family’s the best thing about me. Growing up under the tutelage and love and indefatigable support of these people, I mean, you feel greedy asking anything else of life. And yeah, we definitely push each other, not by anything competition locomoted, but definitely with a kind of proficient toward keeping productive. It’s more like, “Wait, you just completed what project? Well gee, what the fuck have I been doing these past three months?” And for all of us I think that’s a totally helpful thing. Specifically with this newest project, it’s the first time my brother Tyondai and I have had the chance to collaborate, which we’ve been talking about doing since, well, forever. So, in that alone, this project is extraordinarily meaningful to me.
The couple of times I’ve seen you in person, you always have a visual appearance that immediately conveys the message that you’re an artist. Do you put any time into your dress style, choice of attire, etc. to create congruence with your art – or is something that comes naturally (the popular image of Basquiat working in a paint-smeared Armani suit comes to mind)?
I’ll certainly take it as a compliment, coming from a fashion editor, so thank you! I mean, it’s funny. It’s admittedly true that people who’ve just met me and know nothing about me do often ask, “So, what kind of artist are you?” Pooh-poohish cynicism, depending on who’s asking, veiled sometimes only so thinly… Or, “So, what instrument do you play?” It’s sometimes hard not to just super-super over enthusiastically answer, “The saxophone!!”—or something equally non sequitur. But, you know, my sense of humor doesn’t always translate. The honest truth is, if there is something sartorially rubber stamped about me, I don’t know what it is. Any sense of style I have is certainly not aimed to proclaim, “I am artist, roar,” but I guess I have my sensibilities, and again, either way, I take it as a compliment. I do have big hair.
What is the theme and concept behind your new short movie “Themes from a Rosary?”
Themes from a Rosary’s a couple of things. The premise is, a man decides to build the world’s first homemade nuclear bomb. But, the hope is that, for the viewer, this premise quickly becomes just a distant context-of-use for the film’s real take-up. And that is, what’s a gal to do? Does she love this guy so much and thus “believe in him” enough to think he can actually do it—and therefore should take action to stop him? Or does she not love him enough, and therefore not “hold stock enough in him,” to think he can do it, and therefore need take no particular action at all. Either way, implicitly, at loss. It’s a film driven by question marks, and belief is a central theme of the story. Belief in one’s partner, and too in one’s own motivations. As well as belief in speculative unknowns, like the future, and in supernatural unknowns, like a nuclear bomb. There is, after all, something incredibly supernatural about the idea of nuclear bombs—because strictly-speaking, they are just ideas; none of us ever actually get to see them. Like god, or like god’s idea in prevailing majority, they’re invisible, faith-exacting, ever-present, apocalyptic of means, and intrinsically linked to our common prosperity. And so, that same fulcrum of mysticism about which our predominantly religious world turns is, I hope, the representational environment in which these two lovers try to make sense of their own world. So, that’s the film’s front most thematic talking-point. Beyond all that, I just want it to be an interesting, fun, and a pretty picture for people to enjoy.
How long did it take to write, develop and shoot , and where did you find the actors for it? When I saw the trailer, I immediately thought that the casting was excellent.
This film took me over a year to write, and will have taken the better part of two years, with my phenomenal and foremost collaborator Takeshi Fukunaga, to complete. A challenging, but very rewarding adventure. And thank you—we too are thrilled by our two incredibly talented leads, as well as the film’s supporting actors. The part of Moise, the bomb-maker, was from the outset written with actor Armando Suárez Cobián in mind, who was cast before the script was even finished. He’s just a phenomenal artist, inventive, extraordinarily sensitive to the nuances, and he naturally exudes the emotionality and complexity of the character. For his lover, Andie, we went through a casting process considering hundreds of actresses, and meeting Joanne Colan was like one of those bell-tolls moments. Her subtle range is just artful as an actress, and as a person, she’s just brilliant.
What area are you planning to focus more in your career going forward – film, theater, writing, directing?
In a perfect world, I’d manage to keep both fiction and film coextensive efforts, with theater being something I hope to get back to sometime in the future. Publishing these days subsists inside such a weird transitory bubble, kind of holding its breath until someone tells it just where the hell it fits into the 21st century. But then, film too is drastically changing, as a medium and an industry. Figure I’ll just do my best to keep it, and to embrace and develop with, not against, the evolutions. To put it stupidly, though truthfully, a rule of thumb for me in life is to love how things change.