We hear from multi-talented filmmaker Anna Biller, whose fabulous creation, The Love Witch screens for our special Halloween event on Sat 28 October at MacArts in Galashiels. Biller is optimistic about the power of women in cinema, and keen to seek balance in life and work.
First a few words about her practice as a filmmaker:
Anna Biller’s 35mm cult feature Viva and her 16mm art-film shorts have screened at major film festivals and art spaces around the world, and her work has been written about in academic journals. She is known for her use of classic and outdated film genres to talk about female roles within culture, coding feminist ideas within cinematic aesthetics and visual pleasure. She creates all of her own costumes and set designs, making many or the props and paintings as well as composing and scoring for her films. She has a BA in art from UCLA, and an MFA in art and film from CalArts. She continues to work on film because of her interest in emulating the look and feel of classic cinema, and her latest film, The Love Witch, was made using only traditional film processes.
1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
When I was younger I used to think in terms of happiness, but I don’t any longer; I think more now in terms of balance. Happiness is something that comes in fleeting moments, like being in love, accomplishing something meaningful, interacting with great art, spending time with friends you love, or eating something delicious, but balance is something that gives a sense of happiness at each moment. When you have balance, it’s like a love you have that radiates and touches everything around you, so every moment is a moment of perfect happiness. That’s what I try to aspire to.
2. What lies at the heart of your own desire to make films?
It’s compulsive for me. I have to create stuff; I’ve always made things, since I can remember – drawings, stories, dolls and clothes, songs, acting out skits. I think most people create a lot as children, then they grow up and stop; I just never stopped. I’m always talking to myself and trying to work my problems out, and films help me to do this. It’s how I process reality, and it’s my therapy, but it’s also how I connect with the world. I think that if I didn’t make films I would be very isolated. I have long stretches between projects in which I hardly interact with anyone, but production is very collaborative and social, and interacting with actors, colleagues, and fans has been very rewarding. Making my films also teaches me a lot about myself and about other people, since I do so much research into human psychology when I’m creating my characters.
3. What are the first things you do in developing a film idea in response to a subject?
I start creating characters in conjunction with an ideology or larger theme I want to express. For my new film (the one I haven’t shot yet), I started with a novel, so the process was to combine the characters in the novel with some of my larger thematic ideas. I work and rework the script a lot, incorporating visual and psychological ideas into it, and then I start drawing storyboards and set sketches. At this point, the script changes more as I try to fit my visual ideas into the fabric of the story, and make it all seamlessly work together.
4. What’s your favourite film and why?
I don’t really have a single favorite film; I love so many so deeply. But some films are so beautiful and moving and so much my taste that I almost can’t stand to watch them. One is THE RED SHOES by Powell and Pressburger; another is FRENCH CANCAN by Jean Renoir. And a film which is purely pleasurable for me is PEAU D’ANE by Jacques Démy.
5. Choose 1, 2 or 3 of your all-time favourite music tracks!
Boris Vian, “Je Suis Snob”
Eartha Kitt, “I Want to Be Evil”
Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, “Charleston Alley”
6. From your favourite poem – could you give us a few lines that mean something to you?
FANTOCHES, by Paul Verlaine, is one I think about often:
Scaramouche and Pulcinella
Gathered for mischief together
Gesticulate, black on the moon.
7. If you were to die and come back as a person, animal or a thing, what would it be?
A large, fluffy cat.
8. What is your final word?
It’s so fantastic to be creating films right at this moment. The world is so insane, and it feels like such an opportunity to push against it by creating new kinds of works. The studio system is dying with its rehashing of the same old tired narratives, and the world is ready for new voices to be heard. We’re in a transitional moment, where I think women will finally get the chance to come into their own.
You can see The Love Witch on Sat 28 October at MacArts. Tickets are only £5 and advance booking can be made here.