The Power of Music In Film: An Interview with Anna Maestas

“Whenever I make videos, I rely heavily on the music I incorporate. I think the reason why people get so emotional over films is the combination of a visual and music component–without both, it just wouldn’t be the same.” -Anna Maestas

By day, Anna Maestas is a sophomore at the University of Oregon studying journalism. By night, Anna directs and produces a series of moody, heartbreakingly beautiful short films. The first episode of her video series, “Would You Like to Leave a Message?,” premiered just last month. The film, inspired by and centered around a real voicemail submitted by Anna’s friend, is as tragic as it is visually stunning. The accompanying track, Perfume Genius’ “Otherside” builds the film to an incredible climax, leaving the viewer with a sense of mutual longing and sympathy for the actors on screen. “Otherside” fits perfectly in terms of content and rhythm, complimenting the depth and complexity of the film itself. I chatted with Anna about her film, where she finds inspiration, and the ways in which music has largely contributed to her creative process.

(Note: images may be blurry on some devices. We’re working on getting that fixed ASAP!)

KWVA Blog (Sophie): For people who are unfamiliar with your video series, “Would You Like to Leave a Message?”, tell me a little bit about the project and how you came up with the idea.

Anna Maestas: When it comes to art, I usually start with an idea that I think about for a few months. I put it into words, and then I don’t actually complete the project until like a month or so later. For this film, I got the idea in February of last year. I was going through life, things were pretty normal, but I was feeling some strong feelings of longing for different people, as well as longing for home. I decided to channel those feelings into an art piece by using voicemails.

When you call someone, your initial hope, of course, is that the person on the other line will pick up. When they don’t, there’s that “limbo” state you enter where your emotions end up spilled out into a voicemail. Voicemails are an expression of a very tangible, genuine longing. I knew that I wanted to use real voicemails in the film because it falls under the category of my favorite kind of art, which is called “relational aesthetic.” This type of art occurs when the artist curates real-life relationships and experiences through pieces. This can be expressed through performance, video, photography etc. The artist brings people together through an artistic depiction of a relationship or particular situation.

Whenever I do art, I like to use themes from real life. So for this film, I wanted to take something that is very real–which is why I asked people to send me voicemails they’ve received. The voicemail I used for this particular film was between a girl and her boyfriend at the time. It’s so real and powerful…and in a way, if you listen to it, he didn’t really say anything in particular. It was just him rambling and hoping she would pick up. That stuck with me, because that’s how I was feeling about some of the people in my life at the time. So I crafted my visual interpretation of the situation and filmed it with some friends. After I filmed it, I worked on editing it in Allen Hall every day for over a week!

KWVA: How many voicemails did you receive?

Anna: So many. One of the most amazing parts of this project was the fact that so many people were willing to share such intimate parts of their life with me. It was so special that I got to hear the voices of their moms, grandmas, friends etc.

KWVA: Who were the actors in the film?

Anna: I had originally planned to film it here in Eugene, but I ended up filming in my hometown of Denver, CO. Over the summer, I got my friends Ben and Kylie together, and we ended up filming it over the course of just two days.

KWVA: You chose the song “Otherside” by Perfume Genius to be the background track for this film. It fits incredibly well. Did you choose the song beforehand, or decide to use it as you edited?

Anna: Whenever I make videos, I rely heavily on the music I incorporate. I think the reason why people get so emotional over films is the combination of a visual and music component–without both, it just wouldn’t be the same. That’s why people react so strongly to films with an incredible soundtrack. Whenever I look for songs to include in my videos, I look for a build in the song, where things are happening and they suddenly lead up to a certain moment that makes you go “holy shit.” So I heard this song by Perfume Genius, and I loved the build and the way it made me feel when I listened to it. I had it in the back of my mind when I was filming the video, and I knew it had to be that song.

KWVA: Is there a movie that’s had an impact on you in part because its soundtrack?

Anna: Call Me By Your Name. That movie is such a true and honest representation of love. I associate Sufjan Stevens’ music (which is in the film) with Eugene, since I watched it for the first time here with a lot of people I love. The music in that film partnered with the incredible story line all falls together so well for me.

KWVA: What other artistic/creative projects are you involved in?

Anna: I’m involved in Duck TV, and right now I’m the assistant editor and DP for a show that my friends are producing called “Hard Spirits.” It’s about five teens in the 80’s who encounter a ghost. It’s really funny–kind of Scooby Doo-esque. I’m also a copy editor for Oregon Voice Magazine.

Thanks, Anna!

If you’d like to submit a voicemail to Anna, send them here!

Anna Maestas

Photo by Marissa Willke

An Interview with Frankie Kerner, Creator of the “Eugene Muzine”

Frankie Kerner, a junior at the UO, is spreading the word about Eugene’s growing music scene in the most creative way possible. Her DIY music zine, “The Eugene Muzine,” which covers local bands, student art and writing, photography, and music-related projects on campus made its debut just last month!

Frankie, also known by her on-air name, DJ Bird, is an office assistant at KWVA, manager of the Eugene band Laundry, and a journalism student with a focus on music journalism. Her show on KWVA, “Flippin’ the Bird” is every Thursday from 11 am-noon, where you can find her jamming to music from the alternative, folk, jazz, soul, funk, and indie genre.

I sat down with Frankie today to talk a little bit about her new zine, what’s in store for the next issue, and what inspired her to get started!

KWVA Music Blog (Sophie): Tell me a little bit about your zine and what inspired you to start it.

Frankie: The Eugene Muzine has had one issue released so far, and I’m working on the second one right now. It should be released within the next week! For those of you who don’t know, “zine” is short for magazine, which is a DIY, self-released, unofficial publication. DIY or die, am I right?

What inspired me to make this zine is a couple different things. One, I feel like the Eugene music scene is really exciting–there’s a lot going on and there are many opportunities for musicians and people who are interested in music. I got really into the music scene last year, when I started booking shows at the Lorax, a co-op house show venue. I met a lot of great people in the music scene through that. Now, I’m the band manager for Laundry.

I started the zine when I began to see that the music scene wasn’t inclusive in a lot of ways. People might not know there is a music scene here, or feel that they aren’t welcome into it for various reasons. I felt like making a zine is a cool way to get encourage and welcome people who want to get involved, raise awareness about the local music scene, and create a platform for new artists. Also, the zine is a great creative outlet for me.

KWVA: What kind of content is included in the zine?

F: The zine is mostly made up of poems, photos, written work, house show promotions, and some random doodles and comics. I want other voices to be heard, not just my own, which is why I accept submissions. Not all of the stuff in the zine has to do with music–I’m up for any type of content. In the next issue, I’m going to be including a piece submitted about the downside of the music industry and the struggles of being a self-made artist. I think it’s really important to be real about that kind of stuff.

KWVA: How do you put it together? What’s the process?

F: For the first issue, I used photos from a bunch of old National Geographic magazines I had laying around. I cut out the pages, then glued them in as a background for the articles. If there is a lot of text, I’ll type it out, but for small writing pieces I’ll handwrite it. In the end, I have a full physical copy that I scan copies of. “The Eugene Muzine” will always be free. I’m never going to charge people for it–I think it’s important for small publications like this to be accessible. It would be cool to eventually get an ad in the zine or some artist promotion, but at the end of the day I’m not doing this for my own financial gain at all. It’s more of a creative outlet for me and a way to educate others about the music scene here.

KWVA: Do you have a favorite piece from the first issue?

F: My favorite page from the last issue was the house calendar I included. After I published that, a few freshman in the Music Industry Collective I’m a part of came up to me and asked me more about the shows. I really wish I had been more involved in the music scene my freshman year, so it’s cool for me to be a resource for freshman who want to get involved. They’ve been asking me great questions, like how to form a band. It’s awesome to see people enjoying the zine like that.

KWVA: Who’s been involved in the zine?

F: Mostly my friends, so far. In the first issue, Bobby Schenk, the programming director here at KWVA, submitted a series of comics having to do with dungeons and music. It’s a funny set of doodles that’s dungeon themed, but also highlights various artists. Bobby wrote about the artists in medieval language, which is a really fun, creative, and very Bobby-like way to talk about bands and singers. Also, Sam Mendoza (from the band Spiller) who is part of Blue Plant productions did a brief interview with me about the collective.

KWVA: Last question for you. What artists/bands/singers have you been listening to lately?

F: Palehound, SALES, Noname, and Vince Staples.

Thanks, Frankie! Want to submit your own work to the Eugene Muzine? Email Frankie here.