Immersive installation by Urs Fischer, whose work appears in #Horror
The title #Horror in itself resonates, I’ve probably said it in my head more than once after posting an imperfect crop on Instagram. I can talk myself down, but at the pivotal age of 12 amidst a social media soaked existence the repercussions can turn tragic. In her first feature film, Tara Subkoff heightens the effect by casting contemporary art into a leading role with the works of such stars as her husband, Urs Fischer, Tabor Robak, Rudolf Stingel, Dan Colen and more. In #Horror Tara Subkoff explores the withstanding power of good art in our aesthetic world.
Pari Dust: This was your first time writing and directing a feature film, incredibly impressive. You’ve worked in many facets of the creative world, including as an actor, fashion designer and artist. Did this feel like a natural extension of your creative impulse? What is your favorite part about directing?
Tara Subkoff: Directing was always my dream and why I wanted to act in movies was to learn how it all worked from the inside. I left art school to work as a directors assistant at RSA and never got to be on set. Realized acting would insure I had to be on set! And it was a great teacher. I love acting and think it taught me tremendously.
Fashion designer I have never called myself. Imitation of Christ was an art project where we made pieces with our own hands out of old recycled clothing. It was political, and environmental. We first coined the term “up cycling ” and probably were the first totally “green” fashion line. I directed and produced and conceptualized over 50 performances and shows around the world for imitation of Christ. It taught me a ton. I also made many short films and video pieces.
Hoping to continue writing and directing film for a long time. It’s where it feels the most right to me to include all of the stories I want to tell and mix it with the aesthetic I feel I have learned and want to put into film. Plus there are enough men out there making movies. We need more female told stories and with the female POV.
Fashion design has been one of your interests over the years. Would you say there are some similarities between designing and directing?
No. And honestly I’m really not a fashion designer. I’m an idea person and a project based person. Whenever I’m hired even for someone like Tommy Hilfiger. It’s not for design. It’s to create an installation and give ideas and a POV. I’m good at that and that is definitely helpful to directing film. You have to make very quick decisions about 100 times in a shooting day in an instant. And those decisions completely will effect your final film. You have to know what you want and fight for that every day. Especially as a woman. Because you are having to tell a crew of men what to do and how to do it who don’t respect you completely or feel that you have a right to be doing this.. And women have to be even stronger then the men, more confident and more educated on what they want and why. And be able to fight for that.. But not aggressively. Its complex and challenging. I love that.
You wear so many hats in this film: writer, director, producer. Considering your background I am curious how active were you in the wardrobe design of the movie?
I definitely was a huge part of that too as I also co production designed with my brother Daniel Subkoff. It was a small small crew and a small movie. It was important to me to oversee every detail and then some. But every good director from Goddard, to Truffaut to Scorsese to Wes Anderson to Darren Aronofsky is like this. I’m sure Sophie Coppola is too. It’s your vision and you have to be behind it completely. I remember reading once that Sir Anthony Hopkins chooses what shoes his character wears before he works on anything else. Because that choice defines how the character will walk. Would anyone ever say that Anthony Hopkins cares too much about fashion? No way. But clothing and those choices define a character and how they move and what they are like. I’m happy to have been so involved in so many different specific aesthetic worlds so that I can bring that to film. It gives a different depth to it. For instance I think Tom Ford is an incredible director. I loved A Single Man.
In many ways, cyberbullying is worse than in-person bullying. Online allows a broader audience to witness the attacks and leaves no place to escape to; it follows you home. What triggered your interest in this topic? Does someone in your life have personal experience with cyberbullying?
My friends daughter was badly cyber bullied. Another friends daughter tried to commit suicide from being badly cyber bullied. Look at the news this past week.. There are minors facing criminal charges for cyber bullying/slut shaming. This is everywhere. And terrifying.
Can you talk a bit about what it was like to work with such a young cast?
Challenging and rewarding. They were all 12 when we started shooting and for many of them this was their first film. I worked with them and rehearsed and did emotional improv exercises for a month before we started shooting. It was intense but we really trusted each other and that’s why the performances were at such a different level then most kid actors of that same age. I’m really proud of them and how hard they worked to go there. They were brave. It was a tough shoot. We shot through 3 snowstorms in negative 0 degrees in outside nighttime exteriors!
#HORROR is a highly aesthetic film loaded with contemporary art. The art by Rob Pruitt, Urs Fischer and Franz West seems to come to life and play an integral role, representing more than just a visual component of the film. It participates in the plot, which is really interesting. Can you talk about the art’s power, and what you were thinking when you decided to cast contemporary art in such a prominent role?
The art became characters in the film. Pivotal characters that felt alive and had energy and a force. I believe that art has incredible power especially when it is good.. And it spans lifetimes and centuries. It bears witness to horrible things and beautiful things. Wars and love affairs and it is on the walls through all of it. I believe that objects hold some of that especially when they are exceptional. It’s almost like they have a secret to tell us.
Extremely grateful to have worked with such incredible artists of our day and had real art in #Horror. It gives such a different feeling to have this level of depth of work in the house. Urs Fischer and I curated the collection together that would be right for the house and this story.
I also collaborated with Urs when he made the masks in the film and also collaborated with video artist Tabor Robak who created all the video art that is the social media game in the film.
PD: Who have your greatest influences been?
Too many to list in this article! So many. But definitely listed some great directors already above. Probably my greatest influences are all women who stand up for themselves and speak their mind. And support other women. We ALL need to do this much more. It’s time. Luckily we are starting to see this occur more and more. And it’s exciting to be a part of this. I feel more hope then I have in a long time. And if we can continue to do this then I believe that we can affect greater change and a different outcome. I think by nature women care more about the world because we carry babies and have to think about more than ourselves. Right now we are facing so many crises. Environmentally we are really going to face tremendous destruction if we can not start facing reality.