When casting the male lead what elements were you looking for?
I had a look and intensity that I wanted, but equally important was finding someone who was game to try different things. I went into the shoot with a rough outline and a few key shots I wanted to capture to tell the story, but the rest was improvised play.
Harrie Demero was recommended to me as someone who was professional and easy to work with. He endured freezing cold water, getting eaten by ants when tied to a tree, dodging rocks falling from the cliffs, and all my random ideas. Even the kiss at the end was decided on the day, while he was shivering between takes.
After I met him I actually rewrote the script slightly. I originally had a more nuanced plan for the video, but it would have required multiple takes and being able to review the shots to see if we captured what I was looking for. I realized that we only had a few hours to shoot to catch the morning light, so rewriting it in a way where the story was told more physically was helpful. Being able to tie him up wasn’t so bad either. I should write my own scripts more often.
The challenges involved with being both lead actor and director?
Not being able to see what was being shot. I didn’t review any footage at all until after the fact, so I had no idea if something looked good or not or how to modify it. I ended up having to do the second day of shooting because the shots from the first day came across a little too gentle, so I juxtaposed it with more aggressive solo shots to raise the intensity of the whole video.
There is also a challenge in directing yourself in a project you’re so intimately involved in. As an artist, it’s important to have a team around you to help you get out of your own head and give a different perspective. I had some great creative collaborators with me along the way who were there to let me bounce off ideas and tell me to keep going when I was uncertain if I’d ever get across the finish line.
Self-sabotage remains my greatest challenge. Right now I have a sticky note in my kitchen where I make my coffee that says “self-sabotage is expensive”. The only thing holding me back most of the time is me.
The most satisfying take away for you?
Getting to the end and actually feeling like I achieved something I was proud of. There were moments along the way where I felt this was something I’d never release, they all came together at once, almost as if by magic. Most of that magic was worked out in the editing suite - we had some decent footage (and a lot of not-so-decent footage because the director didn’t know what she was doing). The video was pieced together bit by bit. My editor, Michael Cunningham, was brilliant to work with - we sat together for about 30 hours editing, colouring, examining cut points, making sure my nipples weren’t showing (screw you facebook censors)
The day of actually shooting is always so satisfying to me, especially when I get to truly act or play a more intense role. The day I shot “Cruel” was the first time I expressed myself creatively without holding back and it was powerful and exhilarated. The second day of shooting “Afterglow” had a similar feeling, playing a woman stepping into her power made me feel like one. Unstoppable.
What would you like audiences to take away from the video?
Whatever it means to them. I know what I tried to communicate, but once something is out there the interpretation is no longer in my hands. How we perceive art and the meaning we attach to is very much about what is happening for us internally, and that’s why art can be a powerful tool for reflection, self-discovery and social change. I’d love people to be moved by it somehow, but how they feel about it isn’t really my business. I know what it means to me.
There are definite themes and layers of meaning in the black paint, the rope, the mirroring of self-harm and hurting another, the colourful paint and passion, the drowning, and emergence. But it’s not up to me what people take out of this. To be honest, even some of it doesn’t make sense to me. Some people say “oh this must mean that” and I say “sure”, discovering layers I didn’t even realize were there myself.
Going forward, do you intend to direct all your videos?
Yes, definitely. I feel so creatively satisfied. The learning process through this one was immense - I had no idea what I was doing or what elements were required in pre-production, editing, etc to make sure the whole process went smoothly, so now I know how to plan it out better to achieve the result. Video is such a powerful medium for telling a story. I’m already thinking about the next one.
That being said, I love creative collaboration and would still be open to working with different directors, or possibly even directing for others in the future.
I have this weird combination of winging everything and going with what feels good in the moment, and then being incredibly perfectionistic about the final result. It’s not always the best combo - I’d be better off starting with some ideas/structure and then letting the flow happen, instead of going in winging it, and then piecing things together as I did in this case. I’m lucky it turned out as well as it did.
Will ‘Afterglow’ be screened at the live show?
Three video directors you admire?
Michael Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)
David Lynch - you’ll see a Lynchian vibe in the first video, “Cruel”
Jean-Baptiste Mondino - director of some great music videos, including Madonna’s “Human Nature” - one of my favourites
So, Audra Santa premieres the single “Afterglow” during what rehearsals say will be a smoldering, atmospheric affair at Radio (Adelaide Hall) Fri.Nov.9, band on at 9.30 P.M.
Watch Audra Santa the official video ‘Afterglow’ here: