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interviews with the artists of revelation

The Green Room

On the day of this writing, with one week until “go time,” the final post production touches are being made to Revelation – the editing is complete, the score has been recorded, and the sound is being mixed.  But when Revelation premieres in Seattle on October 17, 2012, it will involve more than the official debut of “six short films about epiphany.”  Also featured in this project are newly commissioned short stories and graphical artworks based on those six films, along with a “revealing” photo gallery of the actresses involved, and even more events unique to the premiere.  In this interview set, Ziggy chats with two different groups of artists: three from the “traditional” world of cinema who have helped make movie magic behind the scenes (and long after the cameras stopped rolling), and two representing disciplines not normally associated with traditional moviemaking whose works are part of this project’s bold redefinition of the boundaries of what cinematic art can be.  What do they reveal?  That the screen really is just one part of a much greater journey.

The Interviews

From the World of Traditional Cinema | Kris Boustedt | Lindy Boustedt | Catherine Grealish |

From the World of Other Fine Arts | Ross Pruden | Siolo Thompson |

chatting with kris boustedt

consulting producer

Kris Boustedt

Ziggy:  Your official title as it relates to Revelation is “Consulting Producer.”  What exactly does that translate into in terms of what you actually did on the set and behind the scenes?  What is a Consulting Producer?

Kris Boustedt:  Essentially, I was just supporting [Director] Wonder [Russell] in any way I could.  She is the producer of record, since she actually did the work of putting the film together and putting in the cash to make it happen.  I tried to ensure everything was going smoothly, that things weren't falling through the cracks, and that her vision was being translated to the screen.  Advocate, advice and assistance, to try and be clever about it.

Ziggy:  After scrupulously staying away from the editing equipment for most of the process, you finally were able to edit the “combination piece” that became the trailer for Revelation.  Describe your process in putting that together.

Kris Boustedt:  Originally we were going to try and create another short film that would be a combination of all the shorts.  I think the closest we came to this was through Ty Migota, our fabulous Director of Photography.  He cut together some the footage from Lindy's edits into a music video for Sigur Ros, which turned out pretty cool.  I really just focused on creating a trailer for the films: something we could pimp and share online.  First, we went through Moby's amazing royalty-free database looking for a song.  Then I just went through each vignette and picked the "coolest" shots, mostly sticking to ones in slow-motion, given that the song we used is very fluid.  Then it was just a matter of finding the most interesting combinations.  

Ziggy:  It’s an interesting challenge to try to classify Revelation.  You have referred to it as an “experimental” film.  From your perspective, what is the experiment? 

Kris Boustedt:  It's not an easy thing to identify their genre.  They're kind of "dance pieces" or "movement pieces", but they're also narratives… but not in a direct way.  They're more like poems, but there are no words.  So, I guess it's the mash-up of all those ideas that I would call the experiment.  

Ziggy:  You’ve said that you came aboard for this project basically on the strength of its director, Wonder Russell, asking you to.  A member of her cast has already described her as “a force of nature.”  How would you describe working with her?  Given your own experience as a filmmaker, were you surprised that a first time director could take on a challenge of this magnitude as an inaugural project and succeed?

Kris Boustedt:  Working with Wonder is simply amazing.  In addition to Revelation, she's been an actor in three of our (Lindy’s and my) films (Perfect 10, The Summer Home, This Is Ours); I've worked as an editor on one of hers (Connect To); she's produced a film we directed (The Summer Home); and she's helping us produce our next feature (Ashland).  

Her work on Revelation is a surprise only insofar as I envy her talent.  Her ability with actors, at least from my perspective, is phenomenal.  The fact that she could simply whisper a short sentence into the ear of one of the actors and get a beautifully emotive performance as a result?  It's kind of like a magic trick.  Despite, going back to the previous question, the "experimental" nature of the pieces, she was always able to find the emotional center of each piece and focus on that, using that as the font from which all else flowed, and I think that's why they work so well.  

Ziggy:  What films inspire you, and how?

Kris Boustedt:  Oh, geeze.  So many.  So, so many.  I couldn't even begin to list them.  If I were to instead try and find a "category" of films, I would say the ones that, for better or worse, at least tried to do something outside the box.  Margaret comes to mind as a recent example. 

Ziggy:  What kind of cheese and recreational beverage would you say that you pair well with? 

Kris Boustedt:  Recreational beverage that I pair well with?  Well, that would be bourbon.  Bookers and Buffalo Trace are my current favorites.  As far as cheese goes... it's nothing fancy: Hushållsost (Swedish Farmer Cheese).

From the World of Traditional Cinema | Kris Boustedt | Lindy Boustedt | Catherine Grealish |

From the World of Other Fine Arts | Ross Pruden | Siolo Thompson |

chatting with lindy boustedt


Lindy Boustedt

Ziggy:  You took on the task of editing the six core vignettes of Revelation.  You've said that you made it a point to stay away from the set during filming and didn’t want to know the inspirations the actresses were working from, even though those were in effect the unwritten script.  Why did you choose to go that route?

Lindy Boustedt:  Since the project doesn’t have dialogue, and so much of this art form in general is what the viewers themselves bring when they interpret what they see on the screen, I wanted to have a similar form of revelation in the editing process.  I wanted to be free to interpret each vignette how I saw it, how I felt it.  Which can be a powerful tool.  Also, I know that I love, as a director, seeing the interpretation my editor or my composer has on a scene, a performance, a look.  Those ideas can sometimes be very different than what we intended, and sometimes those ideas bring the material to a whole new level.

Ziggy:  Each of the vignettes comes in at roughly two minutes long.  Based on the footage you had to start with, how long could they have been?  What goes into deciding what stays and what hits the virtual cutting room floor?  Describe your process.

Lindy Boustedt:  My feeling is that each vignette is exactly as long as it should be.  No more, no less.  Sure, we have a lot of footage unused, but I didn’t include it because I didn’t feel that it added anything further to the story.  These were designed to be short, therefore they are.

For me, my process was to watch all of the footage, get a sense of my take on the story, and walk away for a couple of days.  Think about what I saw, how I could edit it creatively to help tell that story (i.e. speed shifts, split screen, overlays, etc.), and start editing.  Sometimes my ideas would change midstream, and sometimes I knew exactly what the finished product would be from day one.  Then, I would present my edit to Wonder and see if I achieved what she saw.  If it worked, we would continue to tweak.  If it didn’t, I went back to the drawing board and started again. 

Ziggy:  Taking a step back from the editor’s chair, as a regular person seeing this footage, what was the biggest surprise for you as you watched the performers of Revelation?

Lindy Boustedt:  I think that day is still to come for me.  I have yet to watch the finished, final versions complete with score, sound design, and color. When that day comes, I think I will have an intense emotional reaction to these vignettes.  I can feel it coming.

 There were surprises I had along the way.  While all of the ladies’ stories speak to me on multiple levels, two of them spoke to the deep recesses of my soul, opening/probing deep pain.  There is one specific shot in each one that brings tears just from thinking about them.  I’m not sure how I’m going to be able to get through seeing them in the final form.  I would elaborate, but I don’t want to take that first time experience away from anyone.

What I can’t get over is how vulnerable each actress is.  There is no “performing” in any of these – just raw, powerful, brutal, honesty.  Directors strive, for years sometimes, to get that kind of trust, that rawness from their performers.  It’s a true testament to Wonder for her ability to create such a safe place for actors.

Ziggy:  The overall theme of Revelation is epiphany: the discovery of those things holding us back, and triumph over those barriers upon discovery.  As an active member of the independent film community, what do you see as the main thing that holds talented artists back from reaching the next level of their potential, and how often do you see them successfully overcome it rather than shying away or suffering defeat?

Lindy Boustedt:  Wow, this is a tough question.  I’m not sure if I know, since I feel we’re still searching for our own epiphany: having that moment of overcoming the barrier and looking back, finally understanding.  There is a reason they say “hindsight is 20/20”. 

I would say, specific to my personal experience, the biggest barrier is waiting, seeking, hoping for the traditional “gate keepers” to grant us access, when really we should band together and be the ones to pave highways to our creative dream teams, our supporters, our funders, our audience.  And we need to remember that being an indie filmmaker in this current climate is determined by talent alone; it’s in combination with your sheer will and determination to never give up.  No matter how hard it gets.

Ziggy:  What’s the scariest and/or most challenging thing you’ve ever overcome as a filmmaker?

Lindy Boustedt:  A year and a half ago, we were three weeks out from filming our second feature film – this time taking our careers up a notch and making a film at the $250k level.  We had talent secured from LA, the crew ready to go, locations locked, everything prepped – then the funding fell through.  The scariest and most challenging thing we’ve ever had to do was tell everyone production was cancelled. Honestly, it felt as though I had a miscarriage in front of everyone.  I felt like I failed everyone, including my husband.  [Kris Boustedt, interviewed above.] 

Then, after a weekend that may have included some heavy drinking, we decided we couldn’t give up.  We promised ourselves years ago that money would never decide our fate as filmmakers.  So, we re-wrote the script, cut whole plot lines, made it shorter with fewer locations, fewer crew, and completed production six months later.  This is Ours is now playing the film festival circuit and will be released on VOD later this year.

Ziggy:  What kind of cheese and recreational beverage would you say that you pair well with? 

Lindy Boustedt:  Man, how I miss cheese!  Earlier this year, due to health reasons, I began living dairy, egg, soy, and wheat free.  I feel a lot better since making the switch, but sometimes I really miss cheese! 

However, I do make a pretty mean vegan, gluten-free mac and cheese, and it pairs nicely with a cool, fruity Pinot Gris!

From the World of Traditional Cinema | Kris Boustedt | Lindy Boustedt | Catherine Grealish |

From the World of Other Fine Arts | Ross Pruden | Siolo Thompson |

chatting with catherine grealish


Catherine Grealish - Photo by Rod Huling

Ziggy:  You’re doing the score for Revelation.  When you watched the vignettes in preparation for scoring, did you listen to the rough cut temp music, as well, or did you watch them silently so as not to be influenced by the temp track?  Were you aware of the character stories developed by the actresses as you were writing the score, or did you interpret stories from your own experience of what you saw on the screen?  Describe your process.

Catherine Grealish:  I watched the vignettes without any temp score.  I was given them with no audio, which was great.  However, separately, I listened to the music that inspired them.  With some of the actresses, they had multiple pieces that they played during the filming or during the creative and developmental process.  Then Wonder described for me each of their stories and the emotions that she and the actresses wanted to be communicated through the vignettes.  

It was key for me that I would use mostly real instruments for this project, as opposed to midi instruments (computer samples of instruments).  As a result, I made sure I was writing music that both captured the direction Wonder wanted and would be playable for the musicians I was working with.  I think it is so helpful to know the kinds of musicians who will be playing your music before you write it, so when you finally make it to the studio, you are set up for success.  There are a few midi elements to this project, but all the major musical components are played and sung by fantastic Seattle-based musicians.  I think the score is a great showcase for the phenomenal musicians we have here in Seattle. 

The process of creating a score involves a lot of back and forth.  For every piece except one, I composed the score, sent it to Wonder, Kris, and Lindy, received their feedback, and then adjusted certain elements – can you add a little of this, change the feel of that a bit, etc.  The one exception was the vignette for Bridget.  All I had to add to that was a longer pause.  The rest just came together right away on that one!  I love it when that happens!  However, back and forth is absolutely the ‘par for the course’ when it comes to scoring film.  When there isn't a lot of back and forth, I am always concerned that something won't be right.  I loved how much collaboration I had with Wonder and the team on the Revelation score. 

Ziggy:  Many composers, especially when working on smaller budget or short films, simply go the all-digital route nowadays, playing all the parts themselves and relying on software to bring it together.  Revelation, however, was scored with real live musicians playing traditional instruments.  Why did you choose to go the “old school” route?

Catherine Grealish:  Old school is almost always best.  If you want a flute sound or a violin sound, a sample of that instrument is a shadow of the real thing, no matter how great or expensive your samples are.  The recommendation I have been given from every successful composer I know is to always have as many live elements as you can possibly afford.  It brings life to the music.  If I could, I would never use a sample again!  

Also, working with great musicians is why I do this.  Conducting the ensemble at the recording session was so much fun.  I remember a moment where I kind of had this out-of-body experience: I looked at myself conducting these great musicians and thought "How crazy fantastic is it that I get to do this for a living?!"  It brings me more joy than I could possibly express to you. 

The great thing is that all the big film scores you hear today are recorded with live musicians.  TV is now going that same direction.  An older example is “Battlestar Galactica” (Bear McCreary). A current example is “Once Upon A Time” (Mark Isham).  It is hard to get the funding for it, but when it happens, it sounds spectacular.  The audience can tell; I am positive. 

I would argue that using live instruments is not "old school".  It is the right way, the best way; and most composers I know would do it that way every time if they could find the budget for it. 

Ziggy:  What is it about this project that speaks to you the most?

Catherine Grealish:  I love the concept of Revelation.  I love watching the journey of all the actresses from the beginning to the end of their vignettes.  I can really relate!  When I heard the stories behind each vignette, it resonated so strongly with me.  I have similar stories in my own life.  One is how I became a film composer.  When I discovered composition, it was such a relief to me.  I have been a musician my whole life, but never felt like I knew where I fit in the world of music.  I spent much of the first three decades of my life performing, but never feeling right.  I tried to quit music twice, but always came back to it, because it was what I was supposed to do.  I have composed music on and off for over a decade, but in 2009 I decided that I needed to pursue composition with a single-minded purpose, and simultaneously found the world of film composition.  As soon as I started to look into that world, I knew I was home.  My life has not been the same since.  It was a revelation that changed me, for the better, and it has given me purpose and passion. 

Ziggy:  Who and/or what inspires you as a musical artist, and why?

Catherine Grealish:  I love to compose music.  Composing music is fantastic.  But it is even more fun collaborating with other people and serving the picture.  With film, there is a built-in muse!  There is clear direction.  This doesn't make it easy by any means, but I feel like I am never looking at a blank page.  There are certainly times when I disagree with the direction the director wants me to go in.  Sometimes I fight it, sometimes I don't.  At the end of the day we all want the same thing: for the film to be successful and to communicate the correct intent.  

When I don't have a film to work from, I tell a story.  I want to take the listener on a journey.  And I always write for the audience of today.  I want my music to connect with people now, not people a generation from now.  I am not interested in being ahead of my time; I am interested in telling musical stories that connect me with my community right now.  Last March I had my orchestral work "Artist and The Muse" performed at Benaroya Hall in Seattle as part of Symphonic Stories.  I told the story of how we are inspired and how challenging it is to bring an idea from inspiration to completion.  It was an amazing experience!  (Check out http://symphonicstories.com/ You can hear an excerpt here: http://soundcloud.com/catherinegrealish/artist-and-the-muse-excerpt)

As a composer, there are two musical devices that I use to guide me and keep me on track: melody and simplicity.  There is nothing as powerful as a beautiful melody, and when you have it, you also have to make sure that the music leaves room for the melody to sing and doesn't strangle it with busyness and complicated movement.  If you look at some of the most exquisite songs and scores of all time, I am positive you will be struck by the simplicity, whether it be the Allegretto of Beethoven's Seventh (featured at that climactic moment in The King's Speech) or “Hey Jude” by the Beatles.  Ron Jones, composer of “The Family Guy” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” is a dear friend and someone for whom I have mountains of respect.  He says that in well-composed music, whether it be Maurice Ravel or John Williams, there is "the thing" and "the other thing" and that is all.  I think he is spot on, and I have used that concept to guide me in my composing. 

Ziggy:  Do you have any favorite film scores that stand out for you as being particularly good or great?  What makes them so?

Catherine Grealish:  This is kind of obscure, but I love the score for Starship Troopers by the late great Basil Poledouris.  It is exquisite.  I heard it separate from the movie first, and then watched the movie to understand the context.  It is hard to hear it above all the gunfire; my husband kept asking me “why do you have the movie up so loud?!” 

I love the Bourne scores by John Powell, and also his score for How To Train a Dragon.  He is one of the best composers we have, and he just retired!  He wants to spend more time with his son, become better at piano, and study Bach.  He is one of my heroes, and I can't wait for him to come back out of retirement and continue to compose the socks off all of us. 

The score for Prometheus by Marc Streitenfeld was awesome!  It started with a French horn solo.  I was sold within the first minute of the film. 

Then of course you have the brilliance of John William and Thomas Newman recently, and Bernard Herrmann and Jerry Goldsmith back in the golden years.  I study all these guys because they all have so much to teach us.

What makes all of these scores great is Melody!  Such amazing melodies!  Also, great use of instrumentation/orchestration.  I was blown away when, after studying the first Bourne score, I found that in the midst of all the great action provided by powerful strings, there was this killer bassoon solo.  Bassoon!  In an action film!  Genius. 

Ziggy:  What kind of cheese and recreational beverage would you say that you pair well with? 

Catherine Grealish:  I love cheese so much.  There is this amazing cheese called "La Tur" that is supposed to be paired with champagne.  It is divine!  I love to celebrate.  As for a recreational beverage, I love a great dry white like a Savignon Blanc or a Sancerre.  After a long night in the studio, there is nothing better that a cold glass of white wine.

From the World of Traditional Cinema | Kris Boustedt | Lindy Boustedt | Catherine Grealish |

From the World of Other Fine Arts | Ross Pruden | Siolo Thompson |

chatting with ross pruden


Ross Pruden

Ziggy:  You’re writing short stories based on each of the six core films of Revelation.  What draws you to this project?  What is it about Revelation that speaks you, both as a writer and as a whole person?

Ross Pruden:  I was intrigued when I first heard about Revelation because many filmmakers only make short films with the hope of parlaying them into a paid gig at a studio, or at least to make a bigger budget film.  There's no market for short films, and part of why Revelation is so appealing is that “cinema as allegory” is shamelessly experimental.  It knows what it is.  It need not impress big studio execs, because there is no market for feature length allegorical cinema.  So that's a huge mark of respect in my book.

As for the vignettes themselves, like all good allegories, Revelation's stories bounced around in my head like pinballs for weeks after watching them.  There's something... pure about expressing meaning without a context based in reality.  As I watched each of the stories, what really spoke to me was when each of the women look directly into the camera, in sharp color.  That moment is shocking; it feels the characters are looking right at me.  By far, it's my favorite part of each film. 

There's a sharp distinction between how language is used in poetry vs. science.  In science, language is used in one narrow meaning to prevent ambiguity.  In poetry, the opposite is true.  You want to use words that carry as many meanings as possible.  Revelation is cinematic poetry, and as a writer, it thrills me to be involved in helping create something that could compliment each of the stories.

Ziggy:  As you write these stories, are you aware of the backstories already created by the actresses themselves as they developed their vignettes, or are you approaching these strictly from your own interpretations of what you see?  What is your process here?

Ross Pruden:  Initially, I was going to tackle the stories without any feedback, but then I thought I might have a terrible misinterpretation.  When I called up Wonder, I had no idea that the actresses had helped create their own vignettes, so she helped me get inside the stories and offer clues on how my stories might best integrate with the vignettes.  My process now is to re-watch the vignettes all at once, then each one separately before I do a first draft of each story.  After all the stories are written, I'll go over all of the stories to look for ways I can link them together with words or themes, or some other aspect.  I'll probably watch the vignettes one more time to add any final touches.

Ziggy:  Your perspective on the notion of “copyright” is very different from what has been the general groupthink.  Please explain your position.

Ross Pruden:  My previous position on copyright, in 1999, was as a strong supporter of copyright.  As time passed, I had a good friend who was an avid gamer, and we had frequent discussions on game piracy, but also all forms of media piracy.  He bought many games, but I remember one time when we wanted to play Unreal, and their stupid DRM was so egregious that we resorted to piracy to just sample the game.  That started me on a long mental journey of how effective copyright really is in stopping media piracy, and if stopping piracy is the wrong focus after all.  Is it more important to stop piracy or to get people to buy more?  After all, I ended up buying two copies of Unreal in subsequent years, which I'm sure I wouldn't have if I hadn't initially pirated it.  What good is enforcing strict copyright if it doesn't effectively encourage customers to buy more? 

Around 2006, I had the epiphany that there would never be a final way to stop people copying things online.  It's a global game of Whac-A-Mole, and the mole always wins in the end.  Sure, you can pull the argument that we regulate car traffic, so why not regulate media piracy?  That's a wholly inappropriate analogy, because everyone understands why we regulate cars: if we don't, people’s lives are at stake.  But there's a whole generation of people who see nothing wrong at all with media piracy.  When 76% of today's 18 year olds freely share media with their friends and family, no amount of "reeducation" is going to reverse that tide.  File sharing is mainstream now.

Not long after that, I started looking at using Lawrence Lessig's Creative Commons license.  The problem with copyright, as it currently exists, is that is forces us all into a "permission culture" where even quoting someone means we live in fear of being sued.  By contrast, the Creative Commons has more nuance, and invites others to share your work, or even resell, if you wish.  Compared to the Creative Commons, copyright looks like a bungling broadsword.

And then this last year, I was about to launch Dimeword, and I thought: "Wait... what if I really set these stories free?  What if I remove all licensing restrictions by putting all the stories into the public domain?  If my goal is to get these stories to be spread as widely as possible, isn't the public domain the ideal way to push them out into the wild?"  The idea was to stop worrying about what people will be doing with my stories, to let them copy and remix, and even sell new copies.  It doesn't make me stop being the author.  It doesn't mean I can't still sell books of the Dimeword stories.  What it does mean is that I never to have to spend money on lawyers trying to play IP Whac-A-Mole.

Writing for the public domain is still one big experiment.  One thing I've noticed, though: it's a radically different feeling when you know you're writing with the hope that others pick up your work to reuse it.  I'd rather live in hope than fear any day of the week.

Ziggy:  Tell us about the Dimeword campaign.

Ross Pruden:  The campaign originated from a discussion with novelist Suhail Rafidi.  We were brainstorming new ways authors could make money and take advantage of – instead of use DRM to dissuade – the internet's ability to infinitely distribute media.  Suhail is a great writer, and I felt such an overwhelming sense of gratitude in knowing him, that I reached into my pocket to see what cash I had.  I had a $10 bill.  I was willing to pay him that $10 if he'd write me a super short 100 word story.  At 100 words, $10 works out to 1 dime per word.

I talk a lot on Twitter about good and bad crowdfunding campaigns, but I'd never run my own.  Dimeword seemed like a cool idea that didn't need to raise too much money, and in keeping with the decimal theme, I thought if I could get just 100 people to give me $10, I only needed to raise $1,000.  I raised over $1,000 in less than 60 hours, and over $2,700 by the end of the campaign, which was astonishing.  I had five $100 backers, and one $500 backer, which shocked the hell out of me.  I'd been enumerating all the reasons why people give to campaigns for over two years, but actually seeing it happen was a pleasant surprise.

If I'd not had two kids constantly interrupting me, I'd have done a lot more for the campaign, like more frequent backer updates.  Every day that went that was a day without an update, I felt guilty.  I had so many things I wanted to talk about, and an awesome perk video that had to be jettisoned before the campaign went live.  Alas, the whole campaign was a learning experience for me, so I credit that as one very valuable lesson: plan in advance whenever possible.

Some people have congratulated me on raising so much money, thinking that I might spend $430 on creating the perks and keep $2000 for myself ($2430 after Kickstarter & Amazon fees).  The reality is that, from the beginning, I wanted to spend almost all that money on creating the perks.  My goal with this campaign wasn't to make money; that was my secondary goal.  The primary goal was to find out who my fans were, and see how committed they were, and then build on their trust by creating something great.  My $100 backers get a paperback book of the Dimeword stories.  I can print copies for just $8 each and pocket the rest, but that would destroy their trust in me forever.  I want fans to walk away from the campaign feeling like they're getting something super-special that they can't get again once the campaign is over.  That's why the $100 backers are getting a pimped out paperback with premium paper that costs $62 to print... in addition to all the other lower "waterfall" perks they get.  The $500 backer gets a hardbound edition, a handmade paperback edition, as well as everything else.  I prefer to not worry about increasing my profit margin by pushing down unit cost – it helps me focus on creating something truly exceptional for my fans.  And that's as it should be.

Ziggy:  What kind of cheese and recreational beverage would you say that you pair well with? 

Ross Pruden:  A sharp Chevre with pear cider, or a near-melted Camembert with a Beaujolais wine.

From the World of Traditional Cinema | Kris Boustedt | Lindy Boustedt | Catherine Grealish |

From the World of Other Fine Arts | Ross Pruden | Siolo Thompson |

chatting with siolo thompson

visual artist

Siolo Thompson

Ziggy:  You have created a work of art called “The Guardians” based upon Lisa Coronado’s vignette in Revelation. When you watched her vignette for the first time, what did it say to you? How did it make you feel?

Siolo Thompson:  Lisa's vignette in Revelation felt like a reluctant coming of age story.  Her character passes from an innocent, almost childish space into 'womanhood'.  Her transition does not feel particularly safe or joyful – for example, at one point she burns her hand on a light – and there is a sense of groping, almost stumbling toward this new version of self.  The most interesting thing for me, in Lisa's vignette, as opposed to the other parts of the film, is that I did not feel certain that the moment of Revelation or change was something she was reaching for, but rather something that happened to her.

Ziggy:  Describe your process for turning your impressions of Lisa’s vignette into “The Guardians.”

Siolo Thompson:  Before working with Lisa, Wonder brought the film over and watched it with me.  I saw each of the vignettes, and though I would have loved to do a painting of each of the ladies, I knew I would not have time to execute that many pieces.  I decided to focus on Lisa, and I was also hoping to be able to paint Wonder, the director, but we ran out of time.  Lisa's vignette resonated with me; not in any sense of our stories being similar, but I felt a kind of authenticity in her performance that led me to think that she would bring a strong sense of narrative to a painted work.

When Lisa came over to model for reference photos, the outfits she brought had a very innocent, almost childlike aspect to them.  Her poses and styling choices reiterated the feeling I had about the vignette: the sense that Lisa (and her character in Revelation) possesses a reluctance toward adulthood.  She has a very youthful soul; a little bit of Peter Pan, a little bit of Alice.  Despite her youthful spirit, Lisa is subject to the quandary we all face: the impermanence of youth, the heartbreaking brevity of childhood.  When I began to sketch out my concept for "The Guardians," I felt a strong compulsion to give Lisa a posse of protectors: storybook Guardians that would keep her safe from the perils of the grown up world.  Rather than paint a literal scene lifted from the film, I tried let my feelings about the performance guide me, and hopefully the final painting is something that will resonate with Lisa and with all of us who feel that we were cast out of childhood a little too soon.

Ziggy:  The subtitle on your website, siolothompson.com, is “Painting; The Memorialization of Memory.” Can you expand on that idea?

Siolo Thompson:  Our memories are immensely fallible, copies of copies of moments imperfectly stored and affected by every whim of history and human error.  Think of the most important moments of your life: how accurate is your memory?  How much truth does that snapshot carry?  How would others relate that moment, and does it share the same impact for them?  I think about these things a lot.  I am bothered by the lack of accurate recall.

I primarily paint people, and when I am working on a portrait, I am always moved and motivated by the fact that the person I am painting will never be what they are in this moment, again.  We are each of us changing, evolving, dying, and the self captured in a painting is a shadow of something that only existed for a moment.  A good portrait artist gives you truth as well as fact – she should accurately describe the lines and proportions that make us recognizable to others, but she should also give you insight into the personality behind the flesh; she should show how an individual should be remembered with both their flaws and their nobility.  I only paint people I know because I cannot adequately describe a stranger; I could give you the facts of their face and shape, but the truth of their essence would be missing.

My most successful paintings are those that feel like memories: those that have a sense of the tragic transience of human existence, the sadness and beauty of our impermanence.

Ziggy:  Tell us about “The Better Bombshell.”

Siolo Thompson:  “The Better Bombshell” is an amazing collaborative art/literary project that asks writers and visual artists to work together to address modern feminism, gender dynamics, and the media representation of the new female 'role models'.  We have a lively online forum in progress, and a book that will be released in February, 2013.  As the artistic director, my role has been to bring visual arts and artists into what would have traditionally been a literary project.  I love the creative dynamics that are taking place, and the art that is emerging is thought provoking, contentious, and sexy.  Please check out our website and blog at http://www.thebetterbombshell.com.

Ziggy:  What does “Beauty” mean to you?

Siolo Thompson:  That is such an explosive question these days!  Beauty has become a marketing word, a product that is sold in shiny boxes and a set of ideals that are determined by some nebulous group of tastemakers who choose the images that are shown on the covers of fashion magazines.   But Beauty is so much more complex than that!

For me, Beauty is kindness and strength and intelligence.  Beauty is being part of your community in a vital and meaningful way.  Less esoterically, Beauty is also sex; it’s that gorgeous curve between arm and breast, the downturned eyes and bashful smiles, a woman’s full lower lip, a man’s capable hands, the long muscles in his forearms and thighs.  Beauty is a stranger’s smile and the way it makes you blush.  Beauty is everywhere, in everything, but it should not be disassembled.  It should be accepted, not examined or bought or sold.  Beauty is the moment of reaction, that pleasure you experience when you see or hear or feel something spectacular.  It is ultimately life, the moving breathing parts of the human experience.

Ziggy:  What kind of cheese and recreational beverage would you say that you pair well with?

Siolo Thompson:  Ha!  What an awesome question.  I'm not sure what I would pair well with, but I can describe the things I enjoy.  The earthiness of a hard Spanish cheese paired with something mineral and tart; manchego and a white Bordeaux, for example.  If I were in a darker mood, I would choose an earthy, tannic wine; maybe a Zinfandel with fig and leather flavors paired with a rich complex cheese, something serious and blue.  And, of course, someone beautiful to remember it with.

"The Guardians" by Siolo Thompson

- Interviews conducted by Ziggy Berkeley, October, 2012

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