Date of Submission
Academic Programs and Concentrations
Film and Electronic Arts; Music
Project Advisor 1
Project Advisor 2
Not Tryina Die Young: Princess on Vacation
A Love-Hate Story Told Audio-Visually: An Artist Statement Told Astrologically
Starting right off the bat with its two-part title as well as its double Film/Music situation, my senior project Not Tryina Die Young: Princess on Vacation closely addresses dualities, contradictions, and Libraesque weighted choices, within and without my (split) personality. Dedication, sincerity, passion, clarity, analog realness, and confidence are contrast with sloth, artifice, apathy, confusion, digital manipulation, and fear.
My filmmaking / songwriting process was both passionately involved with the narrative and ephemerally disengaged from it (I'm a Scorpio). I mean that most when considering the protagonist, Clarence, played by me. Clarence is a young, independent female (or male? Clarence's gender is never specified) diplomat living in the year 2121. Blank eyed and aggressively neutral, a tabula rasa totally reliant on her environment and devices to tune her personality, Clarence is very representative, I would imagine, of her time and context. Clarence is totally a Cancer-on the cusp of- Leo, which is super evident in the scene in Part 2 where she returns to Hell to fight the offensively Sagittarian Illuminati. I won't describe the narrative arc now because the aesthetic plan is more important, but just know that it is a classic "hero fights villain rescues princess" trajectory, wrung through a distorted editing configuration, a technocratic hall of mirrors lost in an acid trip.
In 2121, post-ayahuasca Google Conglomerate curates Earth's totalitarian utopia, a malleable grid of physical- technological-spiritual connectivity. Citizens navigate this grid by their Google Lattice devices, which are like today's iPhones if they were wearable spirit guides. Google Lattice and its sister technologies are classified not as analog, not as digital, but as biotech, a whole other animal since biotech is sentient and intimately connected to its wearer (I felt strongly about the Google Lattice's closeness yet separation from its master. The comparisons to today's devices could start a whole conversation, I think). The three technological divisions - analog, digital, biotech - exit in their own physical space, respectively in Heaven on Earth, Hell on Earth, and Earth Proper. I've always thought spirituality and technology go uneasily well together and can't wait to see what becomes of its connection in my lifetime.
Over the first few months of last semester I did a lot of writing about the proposed landscape and context of 2121 Earth. August - November were spent scripting, planning, composing, and generally thinking about the piece, tryina come up with a vibe for it and a direction to take it in. I did a lot of research, listening, watching, and dreaming about future-based/futurist/retrofuturistic older and contemporary art, which was a lot of fun and very Piscean. The rest of the process, since I began production in November and postproduction also in November, was 50% self-mimicry, 10% Amazon.com, 10% trial and error, 6% Campari, 3% collaboration, 1% sleep, 0% vacation. The remaining 30% pooled into a cutthroat algorithm of planned and improvised techniques during which I would black out whenever I did something effective because it was just too good. I'm still processing how everything was put together as cleanly as it was, so it'll be news to me whenever it's news to everyone else. That said, I do have about seven filled-up notebooks of schedules, costume drafts, dialogue ideas, floor plans, tear stained diary entries, and more schedules, but I'm not sure when I'll be past the PTSD to revisit their contents.
The term "Use of Space" came up often in my planning and I wanted to do something aesthetically interesting with a large scale canvas of interior set design. Attempts were fruitless and disappointing until I realized later in this semester that the entire movie was principally shot in two locations: in front of the green screen in Studio X, and my room in Red Hook, which was used as a set and re-re-re-re-configured the shit out of in between scenes (another relevant duality). Good save, Nastya.
Something I wish would have been doubled on a Gemini level was my physical presence: I directed, edited, filmed, choreographed, scored, scripted, wardrobed, produced, funded, starred in, and built the sets for this hour- plus long project. Not that I'm complaining, since I love doing all of those things and am an insufferable control freak about the way I want to present my work, but my time frame was severe. I set April 23rd 2014 as the date for my presentation (an outdoor screening accompanied by a live music performance where I layed down some sexy live synth/guitar/effected vocal loops over the main backtrack from the movie). Surely it was on the early side, weeks before the rest of the department, but I'm glad to have finished it quickly, with the anxiety-induced fire under my ass lending me grace under pressure to perform my project with nuance and devotion. Plus I have bragging rights for pulling off an ambitious project mostly by myself within a depressing time frame.
The process was costly on my psyche, social life, and academics: I had to summon all kinds of self-control, stubbornness, and wherewithal from the Capricorn/Taurus/Aries traits trinity. To finish the project, I lived in a practice room for two weeks (seriously) with no cell phone service or contact with my Red Hook housemates, but all the money in the world and no expectations.... princess on vacation off screen. (Weirdest vacation ever. I mean, the whole year was like this, but the last month of sproj work was definitely a compressed k hole of edits, reality, tears, edits, premature victory dancing, edits, final cut crashing, 4 AM vocal fiesta, 2PM naps, edits, meditation, tears, piano tears, guitar tears, transcendence, denial, edits.)
The result was something between a movie, an album, an installation, and a performance, so I'm not sure how to market my sproj without context. Where this Not Tryina Die Young: Princess on Vacation franchise succeeds, I believe, is its malleability and warped scale. From my experience of explaining it, the project can easily flip between wide, abysmal explanations (yeah it's a movie about the future), to amphetamine-like focus with neurotic attention to detail (well I'm really exploring the contemporary aversions to religious oppression of some niche subgroups by creating physical landscapes of Heaven and Hell, each with their own sonic signifiers and spatial taxonomy, aestheticized by the cast of young, attractive, immortal future diplomats).
Ultimately, neither of those things was my intention in making this movie (I'd like to call it a movie, comparable to Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge or Prince's Purple Rain for its campy qualities and necessity of the soundtrack, but please don't call it a "musical" for the love of god). I think "visual album", like Animal Collective's ODDSAC or Beyonce's Beyonce, is actually the most appropriate term for my piece. After I hit the Best Buy with video games and a line of custom headphones based off of the project, I would more than anything love to have the economic weight and moneyswag to call it a franchise. I did drop a fat stack on Amazon.com for the set props and personal items featured in the movie, but they aren't even as flashy as the digital/analog effects.
The imaging was done on Final Cut Pro 7 and shot on a Canon 7D (mine, not the department's). The audio was treated on Logic Pro 9, but all effects, except for reverb and compression, were processed through chorus/flanger/ delay/bitcrusher/sitar pedals (for which I'd like to thank Electroharmonix Corporation).
Behind my project's massive ornamentation and audio-visual layers, which did the heavy lifting in drawing attention, my intent was obviously to make a quality movie with quality songs with a quality protagonist with a quality villain with a quality story with a quality use of space with a quality script.... It's pretty simple, I wanted to make a work of the highest possible fidelity at my current financial/academic status which represents who I am as a person and artist.
After driving tooth and nail to make it happen, I'm mostly proud of what I've accomplished. Some things about it aren't ever going to fulfill my standards but I'm hoping to sit down with this narrative in a few years time and be like, "damn, this is str8 up awesome I did a sick job". Alternately, if I'm really hard pressed on tweaking the flaws in Not Tryina Die Young: Princess on Vacation, I'll go back to the cutting room and make something entirely new out of it.
I've already explained so much, and I feel like there is even more to discuss about my sproj movie and music development, production, presentation, themes, and future plans, but I won't digress any more ----bottom line is, I made a visual album that's so... ~**~∆o ~* everything,~¡•† *~* that it's tricky to find a center of gravity from which to describe it. You'll have to see it to believe it. Actually, the whole movie was just an excuse for me to get naked and play video games, but you still have to see it to believe it.
Not tryina die ever, Nastya Valentine
If you may indulge my social media, you can look at the official movie trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6O2DVQmCKM
and follow its progress (mostly production stills) here: http://princessonvacation.tumblr.com/
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.
Valentine, Nastya Denise, "NOT TRYINA DIE YOUNG: PRINCESS ON VACATION" (2014). Senior Projects Spring 2014. 393.