Q&A: INDIE TANGLE FEST, EDEN AMES
Written by Isabella Jorgensen
When Scott Schaafsma of the band Kerosene Stars needed help producing a music video, filmmaker Eden Ames stepped in to help. Six months, 20 people, and $4,000 later, “Talk Talk,” a hybrid live-action/animation project was born.
The duo created Indie Tangle Fest, Chicago’s newest art festival, to serve as a platform for independent and emerging artists. With less than a week left on Kickstarter and just under $2,000 to raise, Indie Tangle Fest needs you, members of the creative community, to help!
Shredded: So, let’s begin with a little bit about your background: How did your film career begin?
EA: Cool! My involvement started pretty much in Kindergarten. I think it began with watching the Star Wars making of videos. I was like, “Oh my god, people make movies for a living? That is awesome!” It made me completely pursue it; I went to the library and checked out every book on filmmaking that I could find, read all of them, and tried to develop these really professional-seeming productions with my friends in elementary school. Once, I did a war film in my bathtub featuring an aircraft carrier and helicopter fight.
I’ve always been very into anything fantasy related. It’s always been about creating these worlds and completely immersing yourself in them. That’s what film does for me. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve expanded into wanting to create worlds that somehow have a greater impact on world issues. That’s sometimes sort of difficult because oftentimes people approach art as a passive source of entertainment. That’s where it gets tricky.
Shredded: Your work with Kerosene Stars kickstarted this whole, big thing. How did you become involved with them?
EA: One of my buddies at work is in the band as their lead guitarist and knows that I am a filmmaker so, he approached me last summer, very chit-chatty during a company lunch, and asked if I’d want to make a music video for his band. It’s interesting to see how it all developed because I think their expectations and my expectations were different, though we were aiming towards the same product. He put me in contact with the lead singer, Scott Schaafsma, and we started emailing back and forth around December.
He was like, “Hey, there’s this song off of our new EP, it’s called ‘Talk Talk’ and I’m sort of imagining this David Lynch meets Portlandia vibe.” He explained the lyrics as the struggle of a man who kept returning to a relationship that was turbulent and so I took that idea and manifested it into a person, a Jekyll/Hyde figure. That’s how the woman in the video was developed, as this sweet person who after drinking a potion turns into a cat-like monster, literally ripping hearts out.
We didn’t want it to be super gory and that’s where we brought in the Portlandia aspect, giving it a more tongue-in-cheek vibe by making it so over the top that it almost became comical.
I had never done animation before but knew that it was a long process, so we spoke with an artist and friend of mine named Valerie Paykov. She really helped establish our storyline by animating our female lead’s monster parts through applying her artistic talents.
Shredded: How did the actual music behind “Talk Talk” inform your vision and development of the story?
EA: I’m probably using all the wrong words, but if you listen to the song the guitar has this kind of swingy vibe that I imagine in a 50s diner; all of their other music sounds sort of like a throwback to the past, like stuff that my dad may listen to. But that isn’t a bad thing! My dad is a musician himself so there’s some nostalgia in hearing their music and having it make me think of him. In that sense, I can listen to them and experience a personal connection.
Shredded: How did your visual style mesh with their musical style?
EA: After calculating up all the costs, I realized that this was going to be a pretty production heavy piece because, one, we wanted it to be a period piece. We were going for the 50s— the video has so many layers— just imagining such a strong visual aspect. So I knew that we were going to need money for production design; I didn’t expect it to be a ton but it turned into a lot toward the end.
Shredded: What was the vibe on set like?
EA: I wanted to help [Kerosene Stars] out but I also wanted to make it worth my time by producing something of high quality. But, they didn’t have a budget. I told them that we would be looking at about $3,000. In order to make it worth our time I felt it had to be guaranteed that it would at least gain exposure but, if not, that it would be financially compensated in its entirety. That’s when we started talking about the possibility of throwing some sort of event, but it was very early on and I told myself that I would think about it more in depth after the actual video was done being shot.
The vibe was really great on set! Our two days of shooting were probably some of the best set days that I have had because I had the opportunity to meet and get to know both actors prior to shooting, establishing dynamics with them. It really helped; in the past I’d directed films where I really didn’t get to know the actors as much. But now I am realizing that that is so key to directing— you have to become their friend.
Me and Victor Tan, our director of photography, were very close throughout the entire project and it was great to have someone who was as invested in my vision as I was. We were on the same page. Our first assistant director, Laura Petro, was so great to have on set because its really awesome to have someone who establishes a positivity there while also keeping you on your schedule.
Shredded: When and how did Indie Tangle become fully realized?
EA: It was Scott, the lead singer of Kerosene Stars’, idea. He suggested putting on a variety show, which he thought would be mostly students, but I wanted to embrace a larger audience. I wanted to bring a sense of professionalism to it. We needed “Talk Talk” to become financially worthwhile and to gain exposure, but when I was thinking about just doing a Kickstarter for a music video I kept thinking to myself, “Who is going to back just a music video?” It isn’t the same thing as backing a film. People generally expect the band to pay for these things but unless the band has a large following or a big contract it probably won’t take off.
If we were going to ask people to support us financially then it needed to be worth their while. So, we figured, if we pooled together a ton of talent in one place and showcased it then it would not only be an amazing time but it would be great for these independent and emerging artists. The idea gave us a more well-rounded, multi-tiered project that we believed people could come behind.
Now as I’ve honed and continued to hone a vision it’s become not just a self supporting business but a philanthropic community for the arts. Ideally, it would be amazing to see it over the years build momentum and become a fixture in the art community. We want artists to be able to do their thing being in a place where others can do the same, and have others there to support them and to collaborate.
Artists tend to have specific visions for themselves— I know that I do, but it’s important to remember that artists can collaborate together and create better work and support others. It’s all around good. Indie Tangle is a showcase of collaboration to show what artists are capable of together.
Shredded: What sorts of bands and artists will be featured at the event?
EA: We are interested in adding more artists! Currently, we have four committed musicians and four committed visual artists. Our musicians make up a very eclectic mix.
The idea is to change the environment using lighting and set dressing in order to develop new worlds for each artist. The female lead from “Talk Talk” comes from a musical theatre background so we are looking at creating a classy piano bar setting.
The second band is such a jump. They are an alternative/country/americana band headed by a DePaul professor. The music is very outdoorsy so we’d like to do some stars projected onto the ceiling with a campfire feel.
We then have Kerosene Stars who will be performing alongside their music video.
Our Fathers, another band that will be performing, won a poll at Deli Magazine as the “Favorite Emerging Band or Artist.” They are a female-led indie/electronic group who sound super great and are just starting out.
Shredded: How will the funds actually pan out? Who will they go to and when?
EA: $3,000 makes up our production costs, from location fees, to rentals, to equipment and feeding the crew. Whereas $1,000 goes to actually paying the crew. All of the money came out of my savings because of how badly I wanted this project to fully happen. In terms of Indie Tangle, $1,500 will go towards our venue rental.
I want to be an advocate for paying talented artists for their work. I think that sometimes people undervalue arts and artists and take advantage of them by asking for favors. I want paying creative individuals for their time to be a standard for anyone asking artists for their services.
Shredded: What’s one final thing you’d like people to know about Indie Tangle?
EA: I think that this project is interesting because it’s almost ironic. It’s all about how collaboration in my own efforts to create has been difficult in terms of coordinating a team behind me. I am realizing, through the process of how important collaboration is, how easy it is for people to just exist within their own little worlds. We are prone to staying in our comfort zones with people working with who they relate to easily and see often. I want people to be able to step out of that and give one another chances to see what they have to offer. There are talented people everywhere pouring their hearts out into their projects, it’s sad that because they aren’t playing on the radio or aren’t included in esteemed art galleries that they aren’t given a chance. Those artists, the independent ones doing it just for the sake of creating, are creating the more pure art forms.
You can learn more about Indie Tangle Fest and donate to their campaign here.
Contact Isabella by email at email@example.com
All photos courtesy of Eden Ames