The intimately fascinating documentary, “The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye,” had its North American premiere at SXSW 2011. The film explores the transformative relationship of Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and Lady Jaye, celebrating their art, music, and pandrogynous evolution in marriage. Director Marie Losier and producer Steve Holmgren shared their vision for the film and how it came about.
Marie, how did you connect with Genesis and Lady Jaye to make the film?
When I met Genesis and Lady Jaye in their home, after having corresponded with Genesis, I was sitting in that giant green plastic chair in the shape of a hand and they were looking at me intensively for a long time. We talked and it was evident I was not a fan, I didn’t know much about who they were and I was not making commercial films at all; after 20 minutes Lady Jaye said aloud ‘She is the one!’ They explained they wanted someone who could film their life and were waiting for that person for a long time. After 30 minutes I found myself invited to go on tour with PTV3 in a month and that was how it all started. I left with the band on a giant tour bus, with my silent film era Bolex 16mm hand cranked camera that I always use, a ton of 3 minute rolls of film… and lasted 7 years!
Steve, how did you connect with Marie to produce the film?
I got to know Marie initially as a fellow film programmer at fi:af – French institute alliance Française in NYC (my day job is programming documentary film and other events at the Williamsburg arts space UnionDocs). I then got the chance to see some of her moving portrait films on visionary artists like George Kuchar, Guy Maddin and Tony Conrad. She’d been working on “Ballad…” for seven years on her own and after seeing some early footage I was really moved by the story and spirit of the film. I came onboard about a year ago to help her finish the film: coordinate an editor, assist in finding finishing funds, helping with deliverables and coordinating festivals and sales. Martin Marquet also joined the team as a producer and has been very helpful along with editor Marc Vives and the rest of the team. On personal films with no budget like this, it takes a dedicated team to make things happen and we’re happy with the vision Marie put forth.
So you weren’t previously a fan Marie; how did you discover Genesis and Lady Jaye?
No, I didn’t know who they were and their music at all….the film happened to start our friendship. My films are always a story of friendship, a surprising unexpected encounter that lasted and continues. I first saw Genesis perform seven years ago at the Knitting Factory, the now legendary club in Tribeca. Watching him perform was pure enchantment. His words from the stage hovered somewhere between song and speech, deeply poetic, primitive, at times frightful. It completely hypnotized me. I knew immediately that I had to film this perplexing and powerful figure, perhaps as a way of understanding what I had experienced. Moreover to have proof of the existence of a being I was convinced had arrived from somewhere else!
In a typically miraculous New York City coincidence, I met Genesis at a gallery opening in SoHo, in one of those sardine-can spaces where you can barely walk and hardly breathe. Being relatively small, I got pressed into a corner where I inadvertently stepped on someone’s toes. I turned to apologize and there was Genesis smiling, his gold capped teeth glittering down over me. We spoke briefly, but in that time I felt something special had passed between us. He asked me about my films and gave me his email. Whether it was fate or pure clumsiness, this marked the beginning of an artistic collaboration that would develop into a close friendship.
Steve, were you a fan of their performance art or music?
I’m a fan of both their art and music and it feels very intertwined. I appreciate Genesis’s philosophy that the highest art is in how we live our daily life. Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV, Thee Majesty, and Genesis’s other efforts are different and great. Genesis continues to push the boundaries in performance and art in interesting ways.
Genesis was asked at the SXSW screening about the film being a “collage” of his life? Do you see the film like this Marie?
Now that the film is finished, yes, I would totally say it is a collage. It is very close to the way I edit and make films, so it was a perfect meeting between me and Genesis, as well as Genesis and Lady Jaye’s love and life. A Cut Up! I would definitely call it a collage and that is really how I make films. I was a painter before and still think that way about collaging different textures, but now with motion added to the medium, which is wonderful.
I really didn’t have a structure in mind and discovered very quickly that Genesis and Lady Jaye’s life style, art, music and love were cut ups, which was perfect for me and gave me total freedom to explore the 7 years without any restriction. I always mix surreal scenes, sort of living tableau with daily life scenes, fiction with archival footage and shoot with an old hand cranked Bolex with 100 feet rolls of film. The Bolex already forces me to do a sort of collage since I can only shoot 3 minutes at a time. It is the perfect medium for me and adds the fact that it never synchs with sound, adding another aspect of the collage by recording sounds, interviews and music outside of the shooting time and process. Genesis and Lady Jaye’s project of cutting up their bodies was even more an extension of collage that I was not expecting; it brought that freedom of editing and shooting to another level for me. Cut it all Up!
The documentary took 7 years to make! What was this experience like for you Marie?
It was an intense and incredible 7 years with a lasting bond between us. At times incredibly difficult, especially when Lady Jaye died and as a filmmaker and friend, I was also a care taker at times. It was incredibly inspiring, always because of the characters, their art work, the music, the close friends, the process of making music and just the daily life of kindness and fun. I learned so much and experimented so much, so it was and still is an incredible adventure. I am exhausted by it for sure and need a break before knowing where I go next. Yet, I’m relieved that I was able to stubbornly finish the film and get Genesis’s entire trust and support.
I work alone, never have a crew, I do it all: camera, sound and editing. Just me with my camera and mic at times that I use for recording the sound, interviews, rehearsals and concerts. So in 7 years of recording sounds, different mics and spaces create a collage of very different, sometimes very bad sounds that I collage in the editing. I had 15 tracks of sounds when I edited; I love sound and edit the image according to sounds and noise to create the gestures, the cut, the choreography of each frame. The creative process in my filming or recording technique, is just as creative in the editing, which takes months and months to find its story and shape. I never write scripts or know exactly where to go, only time and the friendships slowly draw the film’s shape and color.
What’s next for you Steve?
Matt Porterfield has two new Baltimore projects we are starting to show around that I’m super stoked about. I’m also working with filmmaker Joseph Cahill on the Prague project “The Night Fisherman,” along with producer Courtney Andrialis. It’s a futuristic, sci-fi indie thriller with brains. Gotta keep evolving. Hopefully Marie will get some rest and start dreaming up another feature as well.
Steve, did you think SXSW was a vital festival to reach for the film?
We had our World Premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival in the Forum, which was amazing. The team over their really embraced the film and audiences have been overwhelmingly enthusiastic. We were honored to win the Teddy and Caligari prizes there and very happy to bring it to SXSW for our North American premiere. Janet Pierson and her team have been supporters of other projects of mine including Matt Porterfield’s “Putty Hill” and they’ve continued to build a solid festival centered on unique and vital independent features. Their connection to music was also exciting as we were able to work with that camp to bring Psychic TV in to do a concert in conjunction with our screenings. We’re also thankful to Tribeca, BAM, HotDocs, San Francisco and Ann Arbor, among others showing the film domestically and hope we’re able to continue reaching people through fests and eventually theatrical distribution.
Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Join the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own articles.