Meet Monica VelourLast Friday MEET MONICA VELOUR opened in movie theaters nationwide. Why does this warrant a post? Because writer and director Keith Bearden is an OP Alum! We had the chance to talk with Keith a little bit about his journey to get to this exciting place.
1. What was it like writing and directing your own feature film?
It depends on the day. Writing it felt lonely, waiting years for it to get made was frustrating, the first days of shooting were terrifying, working for months with Kim Cattrall to transform her into Monica Velour was really satisfying, finding my groove on set with my actors and crew was joyful, editing was tedious, having people laugh and be moved by the film at screenings is the best feeling in the world. I understand why directors don’t retire. That feeling is satisfying enough to spend an otherwise frustrating lifetime chasing.
2. How did your Oddfellows experience shape your career path?
I wouldn’t have a career path without Oddfellows! OP validated my interest in the arts. Working class kids in small towns aren’t supposed to dream of being actors or dancers or filmmakers. Oddfellows was and is full of kids and adults who are interested in and love the performing arts. I could see that my passions were not totally alien. Oddfellows encouraged my interests and let my creativity run wild. After film school, and years of writing, schmoozing and dreaming, what started at Oddfellows Playhouse has come to fruition.
3. What was the defining moment of your artistic life (thus far)?
I think when my short movie THE RAFTMAN’S RAZOR got added to the Museum of Modern Art’ s permanent film collection in 2007. A little movie I dreamed up and made with friends is now preserved for time immortal. I almost got a tattoo of the museum catalog number on my arm, but cooler heads prevailed.
4. Why do you feel the arts are an important experience for young people?
I think the best way to raise children is to present them with as many options as possible for what their life could be like as an adult. I feel like too many grown ups are unhappy because they are living someone else’s life—not a bad life, just not the one that’s right for them. Oddfellows fills such a gap left by school, and sports, and most homes—it’s a non-competitive place to learn about the arts, to be taken seriously and express yourself. Oddfellows is such a different experience for young people, I feel like it’s a huge help in filling in details of the map of the adult world before they have to venture out in it. It’s not that every OP kid becomes a working artist—though it exposes them to that option--but it starts them on their own journey of self-discovery that will aid them so much as the enter the often tricky and treacherous grown-up world. Knowing yourself is the first step in making the right decision, and I think everyone learns new things about themselves at Oddfellows.
5. What is the most challenging part of making a life in the arts?
A: Well, obviously the most challenging part is making a real living doing your art in a country whose government doesn’t support artists (living in Europe looks really good sometimes). The other challenge is more abstract, but more paramount—finding and refining your voice as an artist. What do you have to say, or show, or give, that is special and unique to you? How do you stay true to that in a way that other people will find moving or evocative? Can you work with other people, or in existing structures, and still let that special voice, that flavor, that worldview, shine through? Especially for a filmmaker, where there are so many people and elements to work with, it’s a day-to-day issue. Also, how do you succeed in the arts without becoming a person you don’t want to be? A megalomaniac or a phony or a tyrant? Most film directors are arrogant jerks, because it helps them get their way on screen. I have a hard time being that kind of person.