Multi-talented, Nashville native Elise Tyler recently directed the new video for Damien Jurados single “Exit 353″ (from the forthcoming Visions of Us on the Land). Were such big fans of her work that we wanted to touch base with Elise to discuss her video, her work and whats shes into these days.
Ive lived in Nashville my entire life, and I have never lived outside of the South. Nashville has been very good to me, it is home to some of the most creative and genuine humans imaginable. My parents are both from Mississippi, which I consider a second home, and they moved to Nashville in the 70s to pursue music.
What is your professional work space like?
One of the joys of freelance and creative work is that you get to choose your own work space. I had an office job once for about six months, and realized I could never be happy on that schedule. When I’m not shooting, I am usually working from home, and have a really rad desk my friend Seth Murray built me that I do just about everything at- edit, write, sew, draw. He has a rad band called Natural Child that you should check out. Heres a picture:
You work in many mediums, such as photography, videography, directing, DJing and production. Can you talk about how you juggle these various pursuits and how you decided where to spend your creative energy?
There is a simple rule of thumb that I live by: do things that make you happy. Its pretty easy once you choose to do it. My professional life is pretty much split between film/photography work and running a music venue in Nashville that I own with my brother, William. When you love your work, it doesnt exhaust you the same way other work does. I am pretty obsessed with what I get to do with life everyday, and that excitement gives me a lot of energy to continue pursuing whatever idea or interest I can come up with.
A lot of my photography acts as scouting for video ideas. I try to spend at least two days a week just driving around, looking for interesting people and places. Those photographs will then help me develop ideas for videos, it all plays into each other. Oh, and my DJ name is Queen Sativa and I am available for all your grown and sexy events.
A lot of your videos have a similar style of direction and production, a sort of shaky camera, vintage, dream-like sort of vibe, though the artists you have worked with vary immensely. Can you elaborate on how these two dynamics tie together for you and your work?
I dont think that music has to look a certain way. Some of my favorite videos are visually or narratively very different from the expected image- for example, I love Danny Browns video for 25 Bucks, which is in no way a typical hip-hop video. For me, it is all about the beat of the song- the rhythms pace will effect my ideas more than the type of song it is.
You directed the new video, Exit 353, for Damien Jurado, which is fantastic. How did you develop the treatment for the video? Did the lyrics of the song have any influence in how you directed the video?
Well, first, I have loved Damiens music for a long time and was pretty darn excited that I got to do a video for him. His past videos are great, and he clearly has a lot of respect for film and image. Knowing this, I felt confident that we could play with the narrative. Twins Peaks was one of the first shows I remember being totally entranced and fascinated by, and it definitely informed my first thoughts when we decided to shoot near Damien’s home in Seattle. My cinematographer, Dustin Lane, and I agreed that the landscapes of the Pacific Northwest should inform the story. I wanted something spooky, which I think the locations definitely possess.
I also knew that I wanted to work with Lindsey Valitchka, a Seattle based actress who plays the older girl in the video. I think she has a striking look and I knew we could do something fun with her role. Exploring gender dynamics is something Im interested in, and I decided that having Damien be the victim would be curious. The song continues a theme he has explored for three albums, the idea of a man leaving society. In my mind, the video is him right before he is going to leave- sitting in his car, meditating. He sees the woman and girl walking down the road, and he is pulled back- he is a good man and wants to help. I loved the song, and was especially influenced by the line Are we all not stars here on the ground- there is something hopeful but tragic in that thought. And, obviously, the final line- I was alone again- dictated the ending of the video for me.
In your treatment for Exit 353, you wrote:
“The locations will highlight the weird new America that my eye is always drawn to- slightly grotesque but honest and beautiful. We will find the eccentric faces and moments to help define our story.
The Damien video captures this quote beautifully in the way in which the characters interact and the present story line. Is this something that inspires you in all of the work that you do?
I am mostly interested in documentary work, capturing the beauty of what exists around us constantly but that somehow you grow numb to or just overlook. I am always looking for space to allow the real world- like the woman smoking the cigarette at the beginning, or the little girl waving at the end- to inform the shot and therefore the entire piece. Those are often the moments that are the most interesting and powerful in the end.
Who are some of your contemporary and peer influences (in photography, videography, etc)? Anyone you’re particularly stoked about at the moment?
My friends are my biggest inspiration, whether they are also photographers, filmmakers, musicians or visual artists. Also, thanks to Instagram, it is so easy to find other visual artists to connect with. Having said that, my favorite current photographers are Alec Soth, Bryan Schutmaat and Stacy Kranitz. Adam Curtis is my favorite current filmmaker, his most recent documentary Bitter Lake is so good that the first time I saw it, I immediately re-watched it from start to end a second time. Though not a contemporary, Les Blank is probably my favorite filmmaker.
Favorite local band right now?
Thrashaholics are taking the Nashville scene by storm (http://thrashaholics.com/).
Finally, We have a Secretly Indie Spotify playlist where we list our favorite independent songs. Would you add your current favorite song that youre listening to and why you chose to add it to our playlist?
Yup you got it- I added Weyes Blood In the Beginning. I have really been digging the new Weyes Blood EP “Cardamon Times,” this song particularly. The lyrics just gut me- I would try and choose my favorite line but the entire piece is a poem, touching on the concepts of time, growth, being a “queen,” and how sometimes things just don’t work out. The video for the song is really cool too, shot on Super 8 film.