This article, written by Eve Bradford, was published in the German magazine, READ. October 2014
Blood Moons and Desert Honey: The Making of Psychedelic Marfa Film
written by Eve Bradford
Really, it was the desert that called us.
From our busy corners of the world, from Brooklyn to Nevada City to Southern France, we heard the call to follow our noses and our guts to the desert. And so we came…we came to make a movie, we came to be with our people, we came to ignite our lives with meaningful work.
For myself, it was a text message from Bryn that went like this:
"Can you come to Marfa in April? Making a psychedelic cowgirl gypsy caravan divine feminine love film. I want you to be the gatekeeper of the oracle."
What could I say but yes?
This undertaking has been guided by some unseen hand from the get-go, as so many of us with our absurdly busy lives happened to have that month long window strangely open and free. When Bryn McKay and Bianca Butti, two of the most fearlessly creative and authentic characters I am blessed to know, put out the call to come to the desert because they are making a movie and there's no script and no budget but all of your magic is welcome and all of your offerings will have a home, then you go. You just do what needs to be done and you get your ass to the desert.
I arrived in Marfa under the glow of the Blood Moon lunar eclipse. Bryn, Bianca, and her partner Lily Gold, who had all worked miracles to escape their hectic NYC lives to steer this ship, had set up shop in an empty cement house with one bathtub and a backyard filled with piles of rubble. Nothing to ruin and everything to create. Our anchor in Marfa was the unsinkable Robin Lambaria, head maven of the Marfa Film Festival, who not only made sure that we were welcomed by the locals and given the finest in Texas hospitality at every turn in spite of looking like the hooligan circus had rolled into town, but also helped scout locations and source costumes all while watching something like a hundred films a day for this year's festival curation.
As Bianca tells it: "Bryn had come to me last summer after she helped Robin with her film festival in Marfa, saying, "we have to shoot something there, it's absolutely amazing." We were in the middle of writingThe See of Light together and our day dreams kept arriving at Marfa and just running away and shooting something. Things aligned during the winter months and the talk of Marfa became more real. We felt we should do the things we dream. I told Lily we were all going to Texas to make a movie and she was on board immediately. So then the three of us started to dream together, each by day working towards buttoning up our lives in New York and heading West March 1st.
The interest sparked by talking to friends about the project was incredible. At every mention of the project, people immediately wanted to be involved and help, take time off work, fly themselves out there, even though we had yet to define what exactly we were going to do when we got there. Which was and is part of the beauty... we never defined what exactly what we were going to film, this was a project of ideas and collaboration, of spontaneity and magic, dependent on the efforts of ourselves and riding on the chance that people would come and share in the creation."
From the start we defined ourselves with a lack of definition. This movie was not to be made like other movies. This was a ritual experiment, an exploration of the place where we meet when we set ourselves free. And mostly, at the end of the day, where we met was in the bathroom, a few of us in the bathtub, a few brushing our teeth, and someone on the toilet, reviewing the day's work, singing each other lullabies. Things got intimate, fast.
What emerged was an exploration of story outside of narrative, of how meaning lives in moments and creates a lyrical logic of its own, born from the interconnectivity of the group mind that grew from our gathered selves. We found ourselves tracing ancient lineages of feminine wisdom, lost and broken, hidden and alive, running like veins thru the body of our emerging story. The images and situations that arose through us became a map to the work that wanted to be made, like drunken detectives in our shared imagination, we pieced together each scene as a clue to some potential shared ecstatic liberation. The film itself became a call to aliveness in all its grit and glory.
This project has been a kind of magnetic vortex, attracting exactly what was needed just in the nick of time. Once it was set in motion, Bianca was contacted by the ever-gracious Anthony Pedone of FilmExchange, and the next thing she knew, had been leant a Black Magic 4k camera, a slew of Zeiss Primes lenses and a whole bunch of other top-notch equipment including a steady cam rig and Jake Ramirez, a genius photographer and all around magical creature who became our one-man crew. Needless to say, this massively upped the level of the project and somehow we all recognized that this was a vision with the full synchronistic support of the magical universe. We started to get bold. When we needed a horse, there happened to be someone riding one next to the bar where we went for last minute burgers on a day we didn't have the energy or brain power to cook. When we realized we needed a sound babe, one appeared, in the vagabond form of Ryan Rooney, who showed up at our door one day and stayed for weeks, weaving seamlessly into the mayhem, his own healing and redemption becoming part of the unfolding story. And so it was with us all.
Bianca Casady and her sister Sierra, who together form the band CocoRosie, were kind enough to lend their RV to the production and, eventually, came and joined us in the desert, responding to the rare opportunity to collaborate with such a unique women-led crew. When asked about it all, Bianca replied, "I came to Texas with no expectations. My sister's dream of becoming a rodeo clown manifested before our dusty tequila filled eyes. I found peace in riding back seat in this particular amorphous ship of creativity. There was a mysterious end to every scene, one which none of us cared to control or predict."
Each day was a hairline dance between order and chaos. Someone would get up and start boiling water in our biggest pot and frying whatever we had on hand for the ubiquitous breakfast taco party. Gradually we would each wander in, half-naked and bleary eyed from whatever revelry had ended the previous night and there would be the genuine glee and affection of seeing each other again, doing this again, another day of anything possible. Most days there would be something resembling a production meeting, over coffee, matè and tacos, figuring out what we were filming that day, what was needed, who could do what. Sometime props needed to be finished, sometimes scenes needed to be written. Usually we didn't really bother with that. Early on we made a list of all the amazing ideas everyone had for specific scenes that hung around the general themes we had laid out and each day we would pick one or two and do what needed to be done to bring them to life. Really, they were bringing us to life.
Everyone did everything. That's how it worked. Sometimes it made us feel crazy, but usually someone was feeling solid and grounded even when someone else was crying or confused beyond reason. We held each other up. When one of us could only collapse in a corner, the rest of us would carry them. And we all had our turn in the spotlight, our turn to be the visionary and our turn to be the key grip, the make-up artist and the craft services.
Many of us answered this call to the desert because in the rest of our lives there was something missing, some undefinable yet deeply felt collaborative creative way of being, some wild free unfurling into the mysterious source of existence through the act of collective art making. Somehow we all knew this would be that. And our own knowing, our own faith in our shared ability to bring that through, made it so.
Not that we agreed about everything. Challenges abounded, and shaped our raw ecstatic impulses into something actual. There were those of us deeply resistant to narrative structure, and those of us professionally trained to create it. Personal aesthetics ranged from hyper-feminized flowing chiffon dream sequence to blacked out teeth androgynous grumble queen. And every day we came together to find the common ground, to step outside our comfort zones and give ourselves to the mystery at hand.
And then, all the ladies in the house started to bleed. At the same time. We had already been planning to do a red tent scene, creating the environment we wish existed for us at that time every month when suddenly we are moving at a different pace than the outside world, immersed in the fertile pulse of womb time and the cyclical logic immune to the yang ruled mainstream. It just so happened that everyone started bleeding right when we had planned to film that scene. That's just how it went with this project, the membrane between art and life dissolved into one illuminated landscape of embodied dreaming. And let me tell you, it got wild. The next thing I knew, we were all dressed in white, inside my canvas bell tent in the back yard, painting our bodies with a fake menstrual blood brew created from the condiments in our fridge by our psychedelic MacGyver one-man art department Rob Ebeltoft. Bianca Butti somehow managed to climb over and between us, filming as our improvised vocalization climbed into a polyphonic crescendo beyond reason. Yes, it was mayhem. It was also the channel and release of generations and lifetimes of forcing ourselves over and over again to pretend we're fine and normal when in fact we are not normal, we are carrying the full spectrum of life force inside of ourselves and grieving and celebrating every life that has ever ended or begun inside the hidden caves of our very being and watching and feeling it all bleed out thru the pleasure center of our bodies. Somehow we had all made an unspoken pact to back each other up in getting seriously free, and this scene was that pact in action. Really, in way or another, most of them were.
Our hope is that anyone who sees the movie will join us in that pact.
My final day of shooting was on the full moon, one month after arriving, in White Sands, NM. We all journeyed there together in a caravan, on a shared mission into a landscape we envisioned to be the embodiment of this space of pure imagination we had been collectively inhabiting for the last month. And so it was. While some of us filmed scenes, others got naked and bathed in the glittering crystal sea of impossibly soft white sand, rolling down steep slopes and dancing across the dunes. For one shot, Bryn and I, whose characters embodied those 2 lineages of female wisdom we had been exploring throughout, one broken and persecuted, the other hidden and intact, processed slowly, slowly towards each other across a vast expanse of blinding whiteness. With each step, I felt ancestral stories telling themselves through us, seeking expression and recognition through our bodies and their motions. When, after what seemed eons, we met, face to face, and paused for a moment of mutuality and exchange, my body shuddered with the echoes of ten thousand years. We circled each other for a ritual moment, exchanging the gifts of our polarized, allied archetypes and then continued on our way, changed for ever by our meeting, and more clearly on our path than ever before.