“The Wolf” (short film)
What was your first professionally directed work and when was it?
Earlier this year, I directed an experimental short film entitled North South Eve that was commissioned by an international luxury chocolate brand. The film was recently invited to have its world premiere this November at the BAFTA-qualifying Aesthetica Short Film Festival in the UK.
How did you get into directing?
My background is in performing, directing, and producing theatre. My pivotal years were spent working in Russian avant-garde theatre, creating highly stylized physical theatre performances with collaborative theatre companies. It was in the first few months of lockdown during the pandemic that I was inspired to create my first film, The Wolf. Listening to the news each day, I was fascinated at how history seemed to haunt its way into our present: the stories of crushing grief, extreme isolation, and domestic abuse were so very similar to historical accounts of previous pandemics that I had read about in our history. I wanted to make a film that expressed a mother’s experience during a pandemic, only one earlier in the 20th century. I created The Wolf completely solo with minimal equipment and no crew, and I found every second utterly thrilling.
What is your most recent project?
I am currently directing a short film set in the 1950s that examines the psychological impulse of mothers with UFO paranoias and food obsessions when faced with extreme existential anxiety. I am also in pre-production on a narrative short film about a gay couple in NYC whose lives are derailed after a failed surrogacy. I was invited to direct this intimate and emotional script that examines the muddy parts of a long-term relationship between two married men—a glimpse of that experience that we often don’t get to see–and the institutionalized goals of procreation in our culture. I am also working on a short documentary series on climate change and the trailblazing women who are innovating the infrastructure for long-term sustainability and circularity in their respective industries.
What is the best part of being a director?
I love the architecture of filmmaking—how the artistries of lighting design, cinematography, wardrobe, performance all work harmoniously to deliver an entirely new world into existence. This new world has its own set of rules, rhythms, and perspectives. The creation of this singular cinematic fantasy is what interests me.
What is your current career focus: commercials and branded content, television, movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre–comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.?
I have a personal affinity for history, so my narrative work often engages the woman’s experience through a historical context. In both the narrative and commercial space, I am drawn to establishing heightened cinematic worlds rooted in the theatrical.
Have you a mentor and if so, who is that person (or persons) and what has been the lesson learned from that mentoring which resonates with you?
When I was performing in Moscow in a theatre residency with the acclaimed SounDrama theatre company, I was cast by the great Russian director Vladimir Pankov. Working with him changed the way that I viewed creating. Pankov sees the world in extreme humanistic colors and rhythmic nuance. He directs in a language of rhythm and with a poetry of sound—through breath, music, vocalizations, stylized physicality—that is extraordinary. The result of the work is something so vivid and alive, so full of humor and wit, and yet so completely devastating. Pankov has an ardent love for the human condition. I find this perspective of directing incredibly inspiring.
Who is your favorite director and why?
Some of my favorite directors are Yorgos Lanthimos (I thought about Dogtooth constantly for years after first seeing it), Celine Sciamma, Frederico Fellini, Agnes Varda, Todd Haynes, Catherine Breillat, Pawell Pawlikowski, Joanna Hogg–all who create beautifully stylized, subversive films, often about the female experience. I am especially inspired by the work of Rainer Werner Fassbinder. I adore the potent worlds he creates, meticulously framing his flawed characters in such vivid, stylized compositions that are flush with humanity. The influence of his extensive background in the theatre is evident in the elevated worlds he creates.
What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
At the moment, I am obsessed with the work of the Russian filmmaker and artist Uldus Bhaktiozina, particularly her recent feature film Fisherman’s Daughter, formerly titled Tzarevna Scaling, that premiered at the Berlinale 2021. Bhaktiozina creates visually astounding fairy-tale satires that are rooted in folklore and cultural history, while also being highly political commentaries. The tone and visuals of her work are fantastically distinctive, with wild juxtapositions within the costume design and art direction, and I am absolutely enchanted.
Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I was born and raised in the small town of Crosby, Texas, with football games, farming, Homecoming, and rodeos. But I had a life-changing theatre teacher in high school, Miff Mendoza, who introduced me to the avant-garde. She was a playwright, and instead of performing high school musicals, we were performing experimental adaptations of Medea and her own original plays. I felt like my world had exploded. I moved to New Orleans for undergrad, where I promptly fell in love with the velvety bohemia of the city and its history, and it was there that I began working professionally as an actor in theatre and film. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, I moved to NYC. I trained with the Moscow Art Theatre (MXAT), and then spent years performing in NYC theatre and internationally in Canada, Moscow, and in Eastern Europe.