Hey friends! I hope you’re having a wonderful holiday season! Anyone who knows me knows I am just as excited about the message behind my art as I am about the art itself, so I am excited to let that start to take center stage this year! In a series called the DIwhY Podcast, and here on my site, I will be breaking down the what, the how, and most importantly, the why of each of my videos. So here goes!
Part 1 THE WHAT
I wanted to write a piece about holding both sadness and joy at Christmastime, I wanted to create something for myself instead of creating something I thought people would like (which for me, is a tricky thing to do), and I wanted to challenge myself.
Part 2 THE HOW
It to me several weeks to chip away at the song, mainly because I wrote three different versions of it. The first one was fun, but it generally spoke about the concept of joy and sadness during christmastime. It didn’t feel challenging to me lyrically, so in honor of my what, I went back to the drawing board. The second version hadn’t really gotten to the heart of the message in the chorus. I said “I believe in saying my grace” over and over again, but what does that really MEAN in the context of the song? So I took another day to chip away at it until it felt like the thing I wanted to say. And then – the hardest part – I let it go!
The video making process took two weeks. The first week was design prep, which is basically me looking at Pinterest, then impulsively buying things on amazon. Here’s what I got:
Removable Peel-and-Stick Paint in Milano Red for 39.99. There’s extra, so I’ll be able to use again.
6 Richland Geometric Tealight Candle Holders for 38.97
12 unscented Light In The Dark Red Votive Candles for 10.29
Meiliy Greenery Xmas Pine for 14.99.
8 Rinlong frosted Artificial Berries Hanging Spray for 79.96. this was a late night impulse buy, I’m not proud, I could have done better. I’m gonna try to repurpose these for a Christmas brunch table arrangement. It’ll make me feel better.
Which comes out to…
Side note – I spent 200 to mix and master the song. So…$384.20. I’m gonna try to undercut that number by a lot for my next video.
I also decided to wear my most favorite Red Plaid Christmas jumper in the video. I bought it at art effects for 80 bucks, but I’m not including that in the final tally because I bought that jumper for ME. I love it.
I also used this week to try out some movements that felt right in my body – am I stated in my what, I wanted to make this video a challenge for me. Movement is really hard and a big point of insecurity for me, but I secretly love it. I wanted to focus on making my videos visual beyond just the design, so I spent a lot of time making weird movements in front of our kitchen mirror while gabe was at work. I ran them by my friend Ashley at free Mvmt workshop. She helped me simplify and build a few things, but she really said the only thing I needed to hear, which was to tell me I was great and I could do it. Sometimes, in the creative process, or just in life, really, it’s nice to have a friend to tell us that we can do it. So in case you need it today, whatever it is, you’re great and you can do it.
Week 2. Filming
Despite the fact that I am fully aware that I ALWAYS have unrealistic timeline expectations for everything I do, I still thought I was gonna shoot this in 2 days.
Day 1 consisted of hanging the red votives in the holders on fishing wire in context of my chosen camera frame. I have a bunch of mini wall hooks in my ceiling, so I was able to shift the wire around until I found the right hooks.
Also – side note – for some reason, I decided to cut out sugar, bread and fried foods today, too. When I got frustrated when the berry clumps just looked dumb, but the red candles by themselves looked boring, I stopped making the video and made a really good pot of avocado chicken soup instead.
Day 2 Frustrated with my berry impulse buy, I decided to rip the bunches apart and twist them into the pine to make garlands instead. Gabe, expecting me to be filming at this point based on my 2 day promise, found me on the floor, unshowered, surrounded by garlands of fake greenery instead. We chatted about the day while I taped and strung up the garlands so I could be ready to shoot the NEXT day.
Day 3 I sat down to practice a few takes early on. Turns out none of my choreography fit once you put a camera on it. I reworked each section until the sun went down, then decided to call it quits. I went to bed with rotator cuff issues in my left shoulder, but I was confident that day 4 was the day!
Day 4 I woke up early, made myself a super healthy breakfast of sweet potatoes, avocado, and eggs, and practiced until I felt ready. I did my hair, put on makeup, and sat down to do a couple of takes. I kept psyching myself out and messing up, but I powered through until I got one clean take in. But just as that happened, One of the votives spilled wax all over my computer and more importantly my CHRISTMAS JUMPER. Startled, I bumped into my stand, broke it, and promptly shut down Ableton. It was a mess. I was grumpy. Why was I so bad at this?
Day 5 I took a day off to sulk and feel sorry for myself and watch all of season 3 of Rick and Morty. I then ate a pound of bacon, opened a gift from a student which contained a card that said I wasn’t only a good teacher, I was a good friend. I projectile cried in the kitchen and then ate 6 of the 8 cookies she sent at once. I later had an acid reflux attack which resulted in me almost puking in Gabe’s face.
Day 6 This is the one. I chipped away at each take, finding parts to be more specific and relaxed. When Gabe got home from rehearsal, I was out of breath and sweating. The candle wax was everywhere – the floor, my Christmas jumper, my desk, but I just didn’t want to do this again. I asked for two more takes, and then walked away. We went out for sushi and ice cream. I was so happy. I decided, after my acid reflux vomiting incident, maybe moderation might be more my style.
Day 7 I Woke up to watch all 20 takes. I was prepared to do another day of filming if I HAD to, but I was very much ready to let it go. Surprisingly, the last take was the best one! It’s usually the SECOND to the last take for me for some reason. My bangs had become a sweaty mess, my eye makeup was smudged, but I didn’t care, because when I watched the take, It looked like like I meant it. And if I’m making something for me, then that’s the only thing that matters.
I watched it over and over again until I started to see the cracks, and immediately shut my (still covered in red candle wax) computer. You can’t ever look too close at your art, or you’ll never be done.
Part 3 THE WHY
Ok, so my why is complicated, because all of my feelings around Christmas are complicated.
I think it’s easiest to frame it around how I used to feel about Christmas, because I was that girl. I was obsessed with Christmas music. Jesus. And Cookies. One year, I even made Christmas gingerbread men cookies of all of my friends and decorated them to look like Anne, and Melissa, and Mia, and Fitz. I still don’t know if they thought that was weird or not but, like most of my art at my best and at my weirdest, I just do things with good intentions and hope for the best.
Most likely the peak of christmas for me was when I was singing in – and eventually directing – a Christian rock teen group at a Catholic Church. Yah ya heard me. It was called one voice and it was awesome. My mom directed it, my brother played guitar in it, my dad ran sound for it, and some of my best friends sang in it with me.
Christmas Eve masses were basically my pitchfork. We did upbeat, hip remixes of all of the favorites – joy to the world, hark the herald angels sing – we even did Mannheim steamrollers version of silent night where everyone just sings the melody on ooh and it’s so beautiful I could just cry thinking about it. Before the masses, we did a sing along, and all the little kids would come up and sit down in front of us and sing the little drummer boy with us and it was so cute. And afterwards was a love fest of gifts and hugs and family.
I left the group when I got older, but continued to sing at masses around chicago. More Christmas love fests, just different. Around this time, I started to go to battle with Christianity. How can people be so adamantly Christian, then actively exclude and deny rights and respect to others because of their color, faith, identity, or sexual preference? Not in line with the Jesus I grew up with. So how do so many people get the message so wrong? And then on top of that, people in my life started to leave…we lost matt, we lost kellen, we lost grandma, we lost Paula, and, with that, I lost Christmas.
What used to be a time that was all about the joy and presents and music and family now only feels like a time where I recognize the loss.
How can I feel joy around Christmas? Is it possible to hold sadness and joy at the same time? And what does that look like to me?
I started clinging to the word grace for some reason. It means a lot of things – goodwill, elegance, the favor of god. But to me, it means saying thanks. my family used to say grace every night. Thank you for what we have.
And even though I’m not all “jingle bells and mistletoe” right now, I have so much to be grateful for in my life. My mom is healthy, I have a boyfriend who still loves me after I almost acid reflux puked in his face this week, I’m actually making a living as an artist, i have really, really good friends, I’m taking DANCE classes – me – DANCE, which has somehow helped me curb my anxiety (what?!), PUPPIES exist in this timeline – I mean, the list goes on.
Holding on to the idea of saying my grace this season helped me discover that we CAN hold sadness and joy at the same time, and it doesn’t dull the joy at all. It reminds us to hold the people and the blessings in our lives closer while we still have them. and for me, that’s my family, thats gabe, that’s my friends, and that’s you.
So, that’s my why. What’s your holiday why? What is it about this time that helps you find your joy? I’d love to find out – comment below! Have a wonderful rest of your holiday. Keep creating, keep holding on to your joy, Keep looking for your why, and don’t forget to stay hydrated.
If you want to be a part of the how, I have started a patreon! Each video – from the writing of the songs, to the production, to the construction and filming of the videos takes about 3 weeks to make. With materials and song mixing, each project typically costs anything from 200-400 dollars. I’m gonna keep making them anyway, but even a contribution of 5 dollars a video would help to keep these videos and this podcast going! You can find me at www.patreon.com/godwinmuses
See you next time!