What’s your earliest memory of film, and when did you realize you wanted to be involved in filmmaking?
I have Tourette’s, and when I was super young – 3, 4, 5 years old, and still now – I get these incredible surges of energy through my body that have to be physicalized. So when I was a kid, I would dance in the living room a lot – I think subconsciously to help manage these waves. And my dad would film me dancing on the camcorder. I think this is my first memory of film.
For better or worse, I’ve always been an out-of-scope type of artist. Always coming into the room with an idea too big or too expensive or too complicated. I studied dance in college, and I had all these ideas I wanted to try, but everyone kept telling me: no, impossible. That just wasn’t the mindset I wanted to be surrounded by, so I switched to a medium that I knew would say yes, possible.
Elena Velez NYFW23, How’s My Driving
Coming from a choreography background, you’ve talked about seeing things ‘in terms of bodies moving in relation to the rules of their space’. What spaces have you felt compelled to explore or create in your work? And what makes movement such an interesting tool to challenge rules and boundaries?
Every world abides by a set of rules. Here, it’s gravity, law, mortality. Universal truths that each element within the world is unconditionally subject to and uniquely affected by. Coming from choreography and working 12 hours a day with just an empty studio and my body, you learn you need rules. Something that guides what can and cannot exist within the fantasy.
From a directorial perspective, I strive to build worlds that provoke us (both as creators and as viewers) to feel primal, instinctual, honest, exposed – where strange is the baseline. When working with musicians/actors/non-actors, no matter how confident and famous someone is, movement has a way of humbling you. And dark thoughts can be born here, when you’re staring at your reflection for hours on end, trying to “dance”. If you just take the mirror and those imposing thoughts away, you’re left with an open vessel – egoless and listening. Creating from this place allows you to see instincts vividly. And now the relationship between this person and the rules of the world has an open channel to communicate. This is why I like using movement to tell stories.
As a director, how much structure and detail do you plan in advance of a shoot, and how much do you leave to chance, improvisation and performance during filming?
Structure – always. Detail – it depends. Some projects lend themselves to boring outcomes if left without intention and preconceived vision. Others, the thesis could be completely destroyed by trying to create it without being inside of it in real time. I oscillate between these two practices. I think they’re both equally important.
Your work is characterised by unexpected angles, unusual perspectives, and visual juxtapositions – be that light and shadow or people and their environments. How would you describe your aesthetic, and how has it evolved over the course of your career?
I hope to not have an aesthetic. I’m trying to lose it right now, actually. The last few years I very much created inside a specific aesthetic world, and my deepest hope is to abandon it completely. I’m only aiming to facilitate high-impact experiences, and that being the identifying factor. Not aesthetic. Otherwise, I feel trapped.
Elena Velez NYFW23, How’s My Driving
You’re an admirer of Ohad Naharin’s GAGA movement language, which focuses on creating forms that elicit ‘sensation’ in the viewer and performer rather than making pleasing shapes – are there any other disciplines or artists (visual, filmic, physical, musical) that you find inspiring?
I recently started getting infatuated with paintings. I feel like I’m just starting to understand how to be influenced by them in my body, and that didn’t come naturally to me. The staple though…music is the fool-proof source. When I’m cracking an idea, I loop a single track for days on end…unfortunately for my neighbours.
Let’s talk about your 1.4 Award-winning video for Doechii’s Crazy, which is shocking, ugly, beautiful and thought-provoking in equal measures – with a great twist and a message about the importance of female solidarity at its core. Can you share how you came up with the idea and the way you brought it to life?
I was low. So low that I could finally operate from a non-precious place. I had experienced a lot of loss at that time, 360 loss. All surrounding female figures in my life. It felt so invasive and so inescapable and so dark that I was finally able to actually see the humour in it, to see the lightness and playfulness. I felt soft and raging simultaneously. Curious and unconcerned. So depressed and so open-minded. And from there, I was finally able to understand what I was trying to say. It was an idea that was floating around me for 2 or 3 years, and I finally felt like I could touch it. Like I could speak from inside of it.
Jeremy Pope, Worth a Million
Were you concerned that certain aspects, like the nudity, point blank shooting and scene of self-mutilation might attract the wrong sort of attention and overshadow the point you were trying to make? How did you get round that?
I’m really not a confrontational person, it’s not in my nature. I’m a pretty gentle communicator. So putting out an idea this loud, nuanced and at-first-glance brutal was deeply intimidating. But these were topics and situations and feelings I’ve combatted my whole life, and Doechii too. So there was just this profound inner knowing what the story really is that gave us the confidence to do it. It honestly was only in a few moments that the fears swelled, and I think Doechii and I quietly carried each other through the process. Some days I got so nervous about people misinterpreting it; some days she did. And luckily, we always caught each other and held up the compass. For example, a few days before the shoot a huge meeting was called to discuss the repercussions of the nudity. Everyone was so spooked out, but that happened to be the day I felt undeniably clear on the vision. One week before the release, Doechii and I were asked to re-edit the film to take out the guns -otherwise it would be banned from trending or monetizing. That happened to be the day Doechii felt undeniably clear on the vision.
Crazy also showcased a never-before-used SnorriCam rig to give viewers the impression of being inside a video game – are you a fan of experimenting with new kit and camera techniques?
Every time I film, I do something I have absolutely no idea how I’m going to do. I have no issues being the dumbest person in the room. I usually try to set it up that way. Learning is the only thing that has never failed me. It keeps me honest, humble, intentional, and (hopefully) innovative.
Jeremy Pope, Worth a Million
Your work discusses a whole host of gender issues, from female taboos and women-on-women violence in Crazy, to the nuances and fluidity of gender identity in Worth A Million. What interests you about this topic, and are there any other themes you’re keen to explore in future work?
Ever since I was really young, I’ve always felt an incredibly nuanced relationship with my gender. I wouldn’t call it a battle though; it’s been more of a conversation for me. Where I’m at now is that I love the idea that each of us embody 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 different ideas inside of us—and they’re all you. I love giving myself and the people I collaborate with permission to play with them all at whatever volume they would like. In most settings, I love blurred lines. I feel safe in ambiguity and in amorphous forms, and I try my best to facilitate this same freedom for other people.
Worth a Million is a stunning example of the interplay between choreography and fashion; movement and costume, and the way Jeremy Pope’s personal journey of self-discovery is reflected in his clothing from body ‘armour’ to a romantic, ruffled ivory gown. Can you shed any light on the styling and choreography? How creatively involved did Jeremy get in the shoot?
Every frame in that film is imbued with Jeremy’s essence. His passion is unparalleled. His work ethic is unparalleled. Capacity unparalleled. Communication unparalleled. We had a really immediate connection, and somehow we crafted an environment for me to see him and him to see me. Beyond the disarming energies, I think it was because we had no money and no help. He’s the only artist I have ever worked with who made as many moodboards as I did. Who was as detail-oriented and persistent on intention as I was. I was so inspired by our synergy, and I still am. He is an incredibly close friend still, years later.
The styling was only made possible by the magic wand of Juliann McCandless the only person on the planet who can be given $300 and pulled up with 12 couture racks of the most powerful, emotive clothing. We did the fitting in my living room. One of my favorite memories from that project was the moment Jeremy put on the ivory gown for the first time. We all fell silent in awe, and I’m pretty sure he said, “She’s saying yes to the dress.” It was iconic.
Elena Velez NYFW23, How’s My Driving
Are you still part of the sportscar collective? How’s that working out for you all so far?
Yes, sportscar is so alive. They are my family in every sense. Father, Son and Holy ****ing Spirit. We have seen each other under just about every circumstance at this point, and we still ride for each other unconditionally. We recently signed with Object & Animal and are so wildly excited to be supported by and create alongside those humans. More soon…
You’ve done a lot of music video and fashion film – are there any other genres you’re keen to explore?
Don’t tell anyone, but I just started writing a feature.
YSL, Push the Boundaries
INTERVIEW BY SELENA SCHLEH
C Prinz website
Elena Velez NYFW23 - Hows My Driving
Director: C Prinz @cprinz__
Executive Producer: Jill Ferraro @jill_earth
Executive Producer: Emi Stewart @emi_stewart
Production Company: Paradise Productions @paradise.w0rk
Production Company: Object & Animal ç
Director of Photography: Kelly Jeffrey @kellyjeffrey
Styled by: Joe Van O @joe.van.o
Hair Stylist: Isaac Davidson @isaacdavidsonhair
Makeup Artist: Nina Carelli @nina_carelli_
Nail Artist: Lake Stein @_steinlake
Production Designer: Laura Hughes @shifty_erogenous_zone
Art Director: Elena Velez @elenavelez
Junior Art Director: Andreas Farsta @andreasemenius
Production Manager: Mia Jarrett @miajarrett
B Unit Camera Operator: Jason Filmore Sondock @jasonfilmore
Composer: Jason Tibi @tibi.jason
Editor: Jojo King @traderjojos
Assistant Editor: George Romo @inbogwetrust
Producer: Grace Hammerstein @gracagrace
Head of Production: Lisa Barnable @rainbowskylight8
Executive Producer: Adam Becht @cheze
Color House: Ethos Studio @ethos_studio
Colorist: Dante Pasquinelli @dantegiani
Color Producer: Nat Tereshchenko @sweetiepiekewpie
Creative Studio: Ophelia & Company @ophelia.company
Creative Director: Elliot Barbernell @elliot.barbernell
Producer: Jeff Haskell @jeffreyvince
Special Thanks to Nō Studios, @anorak_film , Rafe Scobey-thal Coloured Contacts, Martine Ali, Bella Carlos, R13
Director: C. Prinz
EP: Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith
EP: Anthony “Moosa” Tiffith
EP: Eli Raskin
EP: Nance Messineo
Post Producer: Cole Santiago
Producer: Nabeer Khan
Choreo: Tyrik Patterson
DP: Mika Altskan
Production Designer: Brielle Hubert
Casting: Esprit Casting
Stunt Coordinator: Rob Brown
Editor: Armen Harootun
VFX Studio: v01 Studio
Color: Dante Pasquinelli
Sound: Christian Stropko
Label: Top Dawg Ent. & Capitol Records
TDE: Keaton Smith, James Mackel, Dann Gilbuena, Saj Motley
Production Manager: Paul Lee
Production Coordinator: Ariel Hutchins-Fuhr
Intimacy Coordinator: Jazlyn Lewis
1st AD: Joy Hubbard
2nd AD: Emily Lavengood
2nd 2nd AD: Jibriel Rabinowitz
AD PA: Josephine Lewis
Stunt Asst. – Bri Marie Korin
Steadicam: Parker Brooks
DIT: Keith Pratt
VFX Supervisor: Matt Kemper
Gaffer: Mathias Peralta
Key Grip: Luke Poole
BBG: Jon Coyne
Art Director: Matt Toth
Stylist: Julio Delgado
VFX Producer: Amit Grant
CGI: Yoni Shahar, Ben Artzi, Amit Bensangi
VFX Artists: Daniel Gerber, Amit Bensangi, Artur Tut, Rahul Gidd, Alexandr Dysenko, Stas Ravskyi, Imri Agmon, David Nahari, Yogesh Sharma