A trained and domesticated woman, whose only connections to the outside world is her record collection and the windows of her house, longs to discover aquatic freedom in the short film, Domesti City, OK. In this deadCenter Q&A session, we hear from the filmmaker, Nicole Emmons-Willis.
Tell me a bit about yourself and your role in the film?
I am an animator and artist, fourth generation Oklahoman/Indian Territorian, born in OKC, moved away and came back. I am the director of Domesti City, OK.
How do you personally describe the movie to people?
The movie is set in Every Town, USA. It depicts the isolation that some may feel when their domestic role feels set to usurp their individual identity.
Why should one see it?
Domesti City, OK is a short film that combines live action and stop-motion animation, which can be a risky combo. This is the second short film I have made that combines the two techniques, and I love the larger (story) universe building that combining these two mediums provides. The film also has a unique take on the idea of the mermaid. There is something for the fantasy fan, as well as the animation fan.
What are your thoughts on the deadCenter Film Festival?
deadCenter Film Festival is so good for Oklahoma City. It is a solid national film festival that brings all kinds of established filmmakers to our town, which encourages them to consider Oklahoma for future projects, while also inspiring Oklahoma based filmmakers to expand the reach of their projects. It also gives film fans of the state a chance to see more independent film.
What was the most challenging aspect you had during production?
The editing process. I knew I wanted to show different sides of the same character, and to do that I chose to use different actresses (and stop-motion puppets and dolls.) The stop-motion scenes I had completely clear in my mind; you don’t generally overshoot in stop-motion due to the painstaking and time-consuming nature of the art form. With the live action, on the other hand, I had the liberty to do multiple takes, and “try different things.” Which means I shot a lot of footage that I had to cull down to the most meaningful (and best performed, and best light, etc.) nitty gritty while also finding the shots that matched best with the stop motion.
What was the best part about filming in Oklahoma?
I love how easy it is to get around town, how I can always find parking, how the traffic is really never that terrible unless there is a wreck or construction. Food and rent are fairly inexpensive. People are very open and willing to be a part of projects; they are excited about filmmaking here; it feels like a solid young industry. I did shoot a couple of shots in southern California as well.
What were some particular scenes or moments that were enjoyable to film?
“Working with all the different actors was really meaningful for me, thinking about how this story could relate to a lot of different women, and to anyone who feels confined to a pre-described role.”I really loved shooting the water-related scenes, mainly because I am in love with the ocean, and swimming, and all things water. I got to shoot underwater for the first time to catch the tail shot, I was on a whale watching boat for all the ocean shots, and a beach for the waves in my toes shot. Those were a lot of fun. Working with all the different actors was really meaningful for me, thinking about how this story could relate to a lot of different women, and to anyone who feels confined to a pre-described role. I got to direct two members of my family, and different age groups. It was new for me to direct a child, that was challenging and rewarding. Only one of my actors considers herself an actor, so it was interesting working with a variety of players that have different relationships with filmmaking.
What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?
I love being out in the natural world. I love hiking, camping, river, creek, lake, ocean swimming, I learned to scuba dive and I need to go again soon. Traveling, anywhere, gives me a boost. And sometimes, just hibernating in my house not seeing anyone for a day or two is all I need.
What do you think should be placed as a marker for the deadCenter of the Universe?
One of those time capsules like we sent out to space a few years back, with samples of all of earth’s most treasured cultural and scientific contributions, in some kind of golden space box. And it should have pictures of the full spectrum of life on earth, and audio recordings of that life, and maybe a sample of plant life like in “Wall-E.” I mean if they ever figure out where the exact center is, I guess it changes as the Universe expands.
Domesti City, OK deadCenter Schedule:
Saturday, Jun 9th, 8:00 PM @ Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Sunday, Jun 10th, 3:30 PM @ MidFirst Bank Theater at Harkins Bricktown Cinema
The 2018 deadCenter Film Festivals runs from June 7-10. Read more Question and Answer sessions with other deadCenter filmmakers, past and present, here.