“Embrace the happy accidents”: an interview with filmmaker Lori H. Ersolmaz

Lori H. Ersolmaz at Voices of Hope ProductionsThis is the 20th in a series of interviews with poets and remixers who have provided or worked with material from The Poetry Storehouse — a website which collects “great contemporary poems for creative remix.” This time we talk with Lori H. Ersolmaz.


1. Would you briefly describe the remix work you have done based on poems from The Poetry Storehouse?


LHE:
My first remix was with Claudia Serea’s poem, The Moon and I was first drawn to it because of the subject, but I also fell in love with Nic S.’s voice. Narration is an art, and the smooth, soulful, sometimes sensual quality of Sebastian’s voice touched me immediately.

I am in the process of finding my own film poetry voice. I’ve been making short documentary films for almost ten years, but I get great satisfaction from creating remixes. I love filming and collecting footage which now finds a home in my remixes. With each new piece I reach for an abstract expression using image and sound. The first remixes I produced were more literal than I wanted and I prefer playing with the material—molding and shaping it. I have always loved print collage and I’m trying to experiment similarly with video. I tend to embrace the happy accidents I sometimes make and interrogate them in multiple ways. Jim Murdoch’s poem As Is, again with Nic S.’s narration, allowed me the freedom to express and insert some film accidents. The Poetry Storehouse 2014 Anniversary Contest also gave me the freedom to follow my instincts. It will be exciting to see what poem gets paired with it, as it was a different process than the other remixes I’ve done, which begin with the poetry.


2. How is The Poetry Storehouse different from or similar to other resources you have used for your remix work?


LHE:
Other remix resources I’ve had experience with are Freesound, Flickr Creative Commons and the Internet Archive. I find my experimental work is more successful when paired with a narrative, and poetry helps to inspire me to produce an experience based on the words I encounter on the page. I try to transform imagery, sound and audio effects with a strong narrative voice to hopefully create an altered meaning. Without a license to use the poetry the filmmaker has more production work to do, so Poetry Storehouse alleviates time and energy on what sometimes can be a lengthy process.

Poetry Storehouse’s model is fantastic because it’s free of any license to use the material and is an inclusive community of people who love poetry and want to see the audience for it expand. It’s a progressive idea to make poetry more accessible by marrying audio-visual techniques with narration to create a multimedia experience. We are a visual society and the synchronicity of the mediums can create a successful partnership. But I can also see how it could be gut-wrenching for the poets and I try to stay sensitive to their work.


3. What specific elements do you look for when you browse offerings at The Storehouse (or, what is your advice to poets submitting to The Storehouse)?


LHE:
I look for poems that resonate with me and I can potentially make a social commentary. Instead of going on a rant about a problem, for instance; trying to find a workman who can fix things in my 1920’s house, I was actually able to articulate my own experiences through a James Reiss poem, A Day in Ohio. Michael Dickes’ gritty voice had the perfect tone to deliver the narration and I merged my own footage with what I found on Internet Archive to say exactly how I felt about the matter, and although it may be a bit more of a literal depiction, I made my commentary nonetheless.


4. Talk about how the remixing process comes together for you — for example, does your inspiration start with a poem, or with specific footage, for which you then seek a poem? How does sound play into the picture for you?


LHE:
I always start with my mood and a poem that seems to fit it, or what’s happening at the moment. I’m constantly shooting new material because I also use my smart phone everyplace I go. I’ve always been a believer that creativity isn’t about the tool—it’s about an idea. If I see something, I stop and shoot immediately. Recently, I shot footage of two fish tanks at a local hospital when I was there for routine tests. At the same time we were bombarded by news reports about the outbreak of the Ebola virus. When I read Tara Skurtu’s poem Some Days Begin Like This, again it just jumped off the page for me. I immediately felt I could place it up against the fish tank imagery because the concept emulated my feeling about being in a fishbowl. I emotionally sensed the poem, having myself been in the hospital feeling somewhat anxious about the potential results. So far it’s my favorite piece, along with As Is. I was so happy to hear Tara Skurtu say that she “loved the remix.” I feel a responsibility to honor the poet and it’s terrific to get feedback, either way because I can learn more about the process and the audience’s reception.

I’ve always felt sound is extremely important, but I save it to the end. I play with multiple tracks laid over each other and create whatever intuitively feels right to me. I think my love of imagery sometimes overtakes the time I spend on the audio component.


5. Most Storehouse remixers are video-makers who combine a poem with video footage and a soundtrack, but all in very different styles. What have you learned from seeing how other remixers work?


LHE:
I’m new to this genre and am humbled by the great work of the poets and filmmakers. So far I’ve tended to produce more abstract work, but I’ve seen smart Storehouse films that showcase people and I’d like to include more people/figures into future remixes. Since I interview people so much for documentary work, I tend to move in a different direction for the remixes. Poetry Storehouse and Moving Poems are my go-to places for my personal educational awareness and to see new film poems, both on their websites and Facebook. There is just so much material to review and the articles, films and discussion are highly inspiring. I initially came to enjoy the genre three years ago after seeing a screening of several Nathaniel Dorsky films, which are without sound. I find the genre to be spiritual, lyrical and utterly sublime. I watch and make poetry films to stimulate creativity and to partake in a spiritual, “Zen-like” journey.


6. Is there anything else you would like to say about your Poetry Storehouse experience (or anything related)?


LHE:
I would like to encourage poets and others to provide narration for poetry remixes. I dislike my voice, so I prefer to not to record my own narrative. The Storehouse is a wonderful asset and I’m thrilled to be part of a community of talented and serious artists and poets. I was welcomed with open arms from the very beginning and since I started remixing, Nic S., Dave Bonta and the Storehouse poets have been very encouraging and supportive. Poetry Storehouse is a true gift to me, and I look forward to many more collaborations in the future, as well as finding ways to give back to the community.

Nic S.

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