We chatted to Creative Production in Film M.A. student Alexandra Concordia about her spirituality-inspired project proposal, her influences in film and art, and the ecstasy of creation that she has dived into while developing her short film and immersive installation project at Catalyst.
The creative process is all about making connections. It starts with an idea, which deepens and broadens until you find yourself, months later, in the centre of a labyrinthine rabbit hole, from which you can’t imagine ever resurfacing. Creativity is flowing joyfully into unfolding. It’s revelling in the aha-moments that propel your journey forwards, then backwards, then sideways, ahead to the beginning, and back to the end again.
It is this ecstasy of creation that Creative Film Production MA student Alexandra Concordia has dived into since she embarked on her practice-based research project at Catalyst last year. Harnessing her wealth of traditional and contemporary art knowledge, she set out to portray, through a short film and an immersive installation, the feeling of religious transcendence that inspired so many of the paintings and sculptures she enjoys. The flexibility of our Masters project has allowed Alexandra the freedom to blaze her own creative trail, while receiving the mentorship and accountability required to fully develop her artistic voice.
Are you currently crafting your MA project proposal to apply to Catalyst this year? Read on to learn about Alexandra’s experience of the programme, and how she’s developing her fascinating project.
Above: 'The Ecstasy of St. Cecilia' by Raphael
How did you come up with the idea for this project?
The idea for this project came up about a year ago when I was applying to the MA at Catalyst. Initially, I was trying to come up with a short film that could visually represent an experience of transcendence through music. I was really inspired by a song by Philip Glass called ‘Vessels’. Then, serendipitously, through a series of coincidences, I started researching paintings and sculptures of women and depictions of female religious ecstasy and transcendence.
When I applied for the MA, I decided that I would try to link these two interlinking themes by reinterpreting – or just inventing, at this point – the ecstasy of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music. I wanted to tell her experience of ecstasy as an experience of spiritual transcendence, that develops visually through music as well.
Since I applied, the project has just taken a complete life of its own, and has developed into an incredibly complex and layered project that I’m very excited about.
Why do you think that film is a good medium to explore spiritual themes?
I thought film would be an interesting way to add more complexity and depth to the themes of spirituality, religion, faith and sacredness, which I had experienced in paintings and sculptures. I thought it would be a challenge to recreate a similar moment or story through moving images. I also believe that film in general can be a form of expression that is not only contemporary, but also incredibly human in the way that it’s able, stylistically and narratively, to explore themes.
Why did you opt to create both a short film and an immersive installation?
I was really interested in both visual mediums and their potential. I wanted to challenge myself to create content that would experiment with both types of filmmaking during my MA experience. As I developed my research proposal and project, I decided to use the short film to tell the story of spirituality and ecstasy, and the immersive installation to represent the more abstract, inner state of mind connected to the theme.
What are your influences within film and art?
At this point, my influences within film and art are quite extensive and interconnected. I come from an art history background; I’ve been formed by Old Masters, Renaissance and Baroque art traditions. I’ve also worked in contemporary art, so I have a wide knowledge and interest in contemporary painting and sculpture, as well as contemporary video art.
With film, it all feeds in. I have a great appreciation for a huge range of film directors, from documentary film to narrative film. At the moment, the directors I’m most inspired by are the likes of Andrei Tarkovsky, Pawel Pawlikowski and Carlos Reygadas. I’ve also been incredibly influenced by female directors such as Agnes Varda and Chantal Akerman. I guess the list always keeps evolving, and I’m constantly influenced by everything I watch, so it’s quite wide-ranging and a constant process.
"The MA treats you as an independent creative and, in some ways, as an artist. I find that incredibly empowering."
How have you planned out your creative process?
The creative process is something that is constantly fed into – whether you’re learning about post-production, pre-production, scriptwriting, or narrative storytelling, or you’re just reading a book, watching films, or listening to music. Everything just feeds into everything.
Luckily, the MA at Catalyst makes you really structure your work, as if developing your project were your actual job. You are held highly accountable for how you structure your work, how you hand in deadlines, and how you think about your projects. I’ve spent the past few months doing stylistic research. Now, I’m focusing more on narrative and technical research for the script and story development. Then, I will spend the next few months in pre-production and filming.
What tools and resources are you planning to use to explore this idea?
My tools and resources are very diverse and all-encompassing. My research spans academic and creative sources. On one side, I’m researching religion, spirituality and mystical experiences of ecstasy. And on the other side, I’m watching films, studying other directors and their stylistic storytelling techniques, and exploring camera work through test shoots.
Are there any tutors that have had an important impact on your process or experience so far?
All three of my tutors at Catalyst have had an incredibly important impact on my process and experience. I’m very lucky to have such supportive tutors, who not only inspire me, but also provide great external support for developing my ideas. Maria, Jon-Carlos and Leandro are all equipped with different backgrounds and different personalities, but very much feel like both mentors, and also colleagues, in this filmmaking journey.
What was your creative background before starting the Catalyst M.A.?
I studied politics and economics as an undergraduate, then went on to study art history, before working in art galleries for four years. This MA is my first creative endeavour, and the first time I’m leading my own research.
"I’m treating creativity as a game, so the more I play, the more I advance."
Why did you feel this programme in particular was a good choice to pursue your creative goals?
This programme was a very good choice to pursue my creative goals. I felt like, although I had a lot of enthusiasm and ideas, I was in a place where I was really missing both the theoretical and the practical skills to fully develop the film projects that I wanted to create. I wanted to find my own voice, message and style, and cultivate my independence – figuring out what I wanted to say and do, and where I wanted to go.
I feel like Catalyst, and this programme in particular, gives you a complete, all-encompassing look at the film industry and all of the possibilities within it. It also lets you tailor your experience and your project. I like the fact that it’s all based on your independent project, and that it’s independently led. You are very much deciding where you want to go and what you gain from it. That’s what interested me the most.
Could you share something valuable that you have learnt or discovered through this MA so far?
The MA treats you as an independent creative and, in some ways, as an artist. I find that incredibly empowering. It makes you take what you do and what you develop very seriously as an actual profession, and I have found that incredibly valuable and stimulating. It gives you the confidence to take your time, effort and choices as seriously as you possibly can. That’s amazing, as it all starts from you. No one’s going to tell you what to do in life, and no one’s going to take you seriously until you take yourself seriously. That’s what Catalyst has shown me so far.
What would be your advice to those who are putting together their project proposals right now?
My advice is to really trust the process, trust your movement within the process, and keep going no matter what. Everyone’s work is personal, so always look into yourself for answers, for comfort, confidence, and courage. Keep moving forward and things will always figure themselves out.
What catalyses your creativity?
The sense that the deeper you dig, the more that comes out of it. Right now, I’m treating creativity as a game, so the more I play, the more I advance. This sense of movement is something that really keeps my creativity going, and definitely makes me feel like every step I make in a certain direction has meaning and is important to the whole process.