Lee Anne Schmitt and Jeff Parker
We live together here with our son; we wanted to create a portrait of the quiet amidst the anxiety present in the domestic space at this time, the attempt to create a space of growth in the context of fear of death and to allow our son to grow in the midst of the ongoing and sometimes seemingly unstoppable threats of violence around us.
Lee Anne Schmitt
Lee Anne Schmitt is an artist and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. She is interested in political thought, personal experience and the land. Much of her work involves 16mm filmmaking placed in landscape, objects and the traces of political systems left upon them.
Her projects have addressed American exceptionalism, the logic of utility and labor, gestures of kindness and refusal, racial violence, cowboyism, trauma and narrative and the efficacy of solitude.
She has exhibited widely at venues that include MoMA NY, the Getty Museum, RedCat Theater, Northwest Film Society, Centre Pompidou and festivals such as Viennale, CPH/DOX, Oberhausen, Rotterdam, BAFICI and FID Marseilles. Schmitt is a recipient of a Graham Foundation Grant, a Creative Capital Award, and the Guggenheim fellowship.
Jeff Parker is recognized as one of contemporary music’s most versatile and innovative electric guitarists and composers—creating works that exploit the contrary relationships between tradition and technology, improvisation and composition, and the familiar and the abstract.
A longtime member of the influential Indie band Tortoise, Parker has been an associate member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) since 1995. A prolific bandleader and collaborator, Jeff has appeared on over 140 commercial recordings. Currently, Parker has been focusing on music production, small ensembles and solo performance.
What are some of the ideas you’re exploring in your film?
Lee Anne Schmitt: Since our son Ezra was born, but more specifically over the last six months, my focus has been domestic—where the domestic meets the political. I think that has always been in my work. In Purge This Land, the last long film I made, it kind of started to emerge even more. The full-length film that I'm working on now is very much about how political thought shapes family and how families live within political thoughts.
How long did it take to gather the footage of your son, Ezra?
LAS: So, I had already been kind of filming Ezra. It’s so interesting watching him grow up—how he's formed by the toys he gets, the things he reads. You know, when you live with a kid, when you live with anyone, their stuff is everywhere and that's how you know them; through the evidence of the things they leave behind. And so, I was looking at the things he was drawn to, what he used and how he kind of littered our space. And you know, the way I respond to these things is to film them.
What is your process for collaboration?
LAS: We've been in the same space with each other for the last six months; really intensely. So, I think we have a familiarity with what I’ve been filming lately. Our basic process is I put the footage together, kind of in a rough assemblage, and give it to Jeff for his feedback. And then we'll go back and forth like that a few times so we each have our own space around what we're making, but we dialogue in the middle.
Jeff Parker: She actually gave me several things to look at, some were more overtly political. The thing that stayed with me the most was the footage of Ezra. It captured the feeling of what it is like for us here every day in our domestic space.
Jeff, how do you approach making music for the kind of imagery that Lee Anne captures?
JP: Generally, the way that I compose is I just kind of start by improvising. And then I'll kind of hone in on one thing and develop that. I try and stay out of the way of the images and create music that really complements what's happening.
Everything in the film was done right here in our house, you know, from all the imagery to all the music. A lot of the music is Ezra—it’s him playing the drums, singing that melody and then I put a piano underneath it. And then I just put everything together so that it worked.
Did Ezra know he was scoring a film, his film?
JP: He had no idea!
Lee Anne, what’s your impression of the music Jeff and Ezra created?
LAS: A lot of times when I'm working on footage I have, I know what I'm working on, but I'm not sure why I'm filming the things I'm filming towards it. And then, you know, it's all kind of like evidence of something that comes together. So, I think the sound feels a little bit that way too. It is pieces of moments that then Jeff sort of ordered and put together.
How has isolation changed the way you live at home?
LAS: There’s this fine line between meditation and retreat, and then anxiety and isolation. You know that there's such a similarity between some of the ideas around purposeful living and slowing things down and then having that imposed on you. And then obviously sort of feeling what can you control? I've been thinking about that a lot as I'm filming stuff, too.
What do you love about L.A.?
LAS: Being here versus being in Chicago or New York, I've been really grateful to be in California and Los Angeles during this time. A lot of the things that have kept us focused is the fact that we live in our yard. We've had these seasons: the bees in our backyard, we have the wildflowers that came up. We've been able to observe time, and that's meant a lot to me, being in this kind of natural domestic space and kind of tuning into that.
JP: I love just the landscape of California in general. Like Lee Anne, I'm from the East Coast, which has a beautiful landscape as well, but out here it's just totally different. I also love the facade of the city. It is the entertainment hub of the world, but underneath all of that, there are so many creative people. L.A. is open territory for making stuff on a grass roots level—it’s kind of a fresh thing that has emerged since I moved out here about six years ago.