We are loving Cassis B Staudt Week so much and today's episode is another great one, where Cassis uncovers some of the mystery of film making. Of course I used to just toss off about how shitty movies and tv shows were until at one time, I met Crickett, a screenwriter and Rocky a boom operator... Since then given the huge number of people giving everything to make even one small movie scene look as great as it can be... I've begun to think maybe there are no bad films, so epic is the film making undertaking. But of course, don't worry, there's still plenty for me to moan about.
OUTSIDELEFT: You're known for your music for films. I sometimes wonder how films get made at all. Such massive creative collaborative undertakings. Someone's gonna get hurt. The music is so significant. You've said sort of wedding music to images is natural for you, but what about doing that while keeping the last thing the director said, out of your head, or some overheard remark by some who... There are as many voices add there are pictures. Seems like a lot resting one your shoulders?
CASSIS B STAUDT: As you said - Filmmaking is a huge collaborative process. I really like it because, to me, I am creating a new band for each film, even if it is just the director and myself. The director usually has been working on the project - the story, the envisioning of colors and sets and framing for the cinematography - for a much longer period than me - sometimes years before I get on this already moving train. But it’s not even the director - for me, the film is really the boss. And everyone acts as translators to help the film to be as strong is it can be. Before I compose music, I meditate and want to get my subconscious to chime in while I create a first throw of themes. I listen to those themes while jogging and, immediately, the heady stuff falls away for the sake of what is organic sounding. Overall, it is a lengthy process of back and forth. I am a team player. We all have to have the goal in our head and the goal is to get the best film made possible.
OUTSIDELEFT: And in the world of indie film, women's shoulders still have to be stronger? Kind of like that Kim Gordon quote ... "There’s some unseen wall of faceless men that I have to climb over as if on a mission.”
CASSIS B STAUDT: True. The film world is full of egos. That is not only gender-specific. Trying to navigate the narcissists is always a challenge! I visualize the type of clients and projects I want to work on and these have been arriving on my doorstep more and more. I’m a member of Pro Quote, a group that is actively fighting for women’s rights in the film industry. I have met some powerful, impressive activist women there. Progress is being made but there is still, of course, a lot to be done. Thank God, we had a female composer get the Oscar this year – Berlin based! Long overdue!
OUTSIDELEFT: Award segment producer Cannes... Can you explain, can you talk about that, feels like an amazing accomplishment?
CASSIS B STAUDT: It is one of these things that just were on my plate to do. I was employed by Jim Jarmusch at the time when Tom Waits wanted Jim to direct the music video I don’t want to grow up. I was the only one available from his team and, since I had already produced films starting at the age of twenty-one, it came natural to me to organize the music video shoot with an additional day attached where Jim could shoot one of the Coffee and Cigarettes segments with Tom Waits and Iggy Pop. I guess I was really excited because I remember Jim telling me one morning when we left the hotel outside San Francisco to go shoot in Tom Waits’ chicken barn that I was smiling quite a lot – meaning too much and especially too early in the day! Caught. I couldn’t stay cool and poker faced back then! I needed a few more years in NYC to master that. Still overall I rather show my emotions than not. The Waits video was a dream come true. One of the highlights was picking up Iggy Pop at the airport. I had the greatest conversation with him and his partner. Iggy is such a friendly, polite and interesting man. Really wow. They had brought their cat and were walking her on a leash through Tom Waits’ vegetable garden…. It took a lot out of me to keep my eye on the crew and their needs for the shoot and not get carried away by the emotions of just how beautiful this experience was. Jim did not want to go to Cannes and that made it impossible for me to go there. So, when Coffee and Cigarettes; Somewhere in California won the Palme d’Or for best short film at the Cannes Film Festival, that was a bit of a somewhat removed surreal experience for me. I am glad I went to Cannes a couple of years later when Dead Man premiered there. The Palme d’Or certificate, signed by festival director Gilles Jacob and Jim Jarmusch, hangs proudly on my wall.
Jim Jarmusch recalls the shooting process thus:
Tom was exhausted. We had just shot a video the day before for "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" and he had been doing a lot of press. He was kind of in a surly mood as he is sometimes, but he's also very warm. He came in late that morning - I had given him the script the night before - and I was with Iggy. Tom threw the script down on the table and said, "Well, you know, you said this was going to be funny, Jim. Maybe you better just circle the jokes 'cause I don't see them". (Note from Cassis: I was there – I was about to wanting to disappear when I heard that ;-))
He looked at poor Iggy and said, "What do you think Iggy?" Iggy said, "I think I'm gonna go get some coffee and let you guys talk." So I calmed Tom down. I knew it was just early in the morning and Tom was in a bad mood. His attitude changed completely, but I wanted him to keep some of that paranoid surliness in the script. We worked with that and kept it in his character. If he had been in a really good mood, I don't think the film would have been as funny."
OUTSIDELEFT: Has there ever been a Hollywood film with a French location that doesn't feature the piano accordion? It's an obvious and lazy audiovisual trope. That I like!
CASSIS B STAUDT: Haha - True! I own several accordions and recently had to play a very specific one live in a film where a song of mine is featured. We resurrected a real mini button accordion from the 1930’s and had it tuned, for no small amount of money, so that I could act and play authentically.
OUTSIDELEFT: Jim Jarmusch cannot go unmentioned!
CASSIS B STAUDT: Jim Jarmusch is partially responsible for me starting out to perform live. He let me in on his music taste and through him I met some of my idols. With all this input I could not help but starting to write songs myself. When I produced the music video Big Time that Jim Jarmusch had directed, I was able to visit Neil Young’s ranch. Uhhhh – that was quite something. I was at Neil Young’s recording studio! Later, I was invited to see Neil Young play at Jones Beach. Someone showed me the stage and it so happened that I was not getting off the stage fast enough when Jewel started playing as the opening act. I stayed seated on an amp in the back and watched Jewel’s back and the audience being mesmerized by her. It was quite the experience. Highlights in the Jim Jarmusch time were when he would dictate screenplays from his handwritten journals that I would then type into the computer. And then he sat me down to show me the Robert Frank short Pull My Daisy on VHS. I got a crash course in good taste!
Cassis B Staudt photo ©Sandra Buschow, website at sanstories.com
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