For a scene in a Woman’s Picture Snapshot short we filmed called Silent Movie (see the video library to watch for free), the character I played goes off in his head for a minute dancing. He’s just imagining it. I don’t really dance, and it was seven a.m., and the cameraman is a friend of mine who knows that seeing me dance is like seeing a hippo walk a tightrope, so I had some wine and did my best. When it came time to edit the little chunk of footage showing me stumble around, I realized the music I’d played during the shoot wasn’t going to work, and I started looking for something else. There’s a band here in Memphis I really like called Glorie. Visit their website, glorierock.com to see why I like them so much. You can hear the music for free there. When I got their CD, I drove around listening to it obsessively, and it became the soundtrack to my day and I pictured a lot of film scenarios around it. It was really immersive that way. But for some reason it took me a while to realize I might contact the band and ask if I could use one of the tracks for the scene. I like that in the short, Mackie, the character I play, is pretty much engaging with the music the way I did listening to it in my car. The song is called “Full Circle” and reminds me of moody eighties films. It gave a perfect tone to the scene.
The first three portraits of the Woman’s Picture series (Miriam, Loretta, and Ingrid) zero in a lot on the relationships between mothers and daughters. I’m not a daughter or a woman and basically drew from my relationship with my own mother and from memories of my grandmother’s relationships with her three daughters. The way people talk in retrospect paints a pretty rosy picture – and I’ve heard a lot of that over the years – but what I remember as a kid was a lot of conflict and a constant undercurrent of remorse and regret. Mothers don’t come out looking wonderful in Woman’s Picture. Mothers and daughters both are often frustrated with each other or themselves or with the roles they’re asked to assume. They look at each other and see a contradiction of some fantasy they have, a distortion of the way they wish things were. They want to be close but they can’t seem to reconcile those discrepancies. They act in ways they’d be embarrassed for anyone else to see.
Months ago I started talking to Savannah Bearden, a friend, about the possibility of working together. I wanted to turn away for a while from mothers and daughters, or to look at the legacy of those relationships from a different angle. I’d already played Mackie (in the portrait called Ingrid), and implied some family dissonance in his background, and I wanted to flesh him and that story out a little more. So Savannah became Meredith, Mackie’s sister. Talking about Meredith and Mackie, we kept looking at our own siblings. I sent Savannah pictures of my sister, and described our relationship – abstracting it in a way that helped me see it in new ways.
I relate a lot to Mackie’s bristly dismissal of intimacy and anything but fugitive displays of affection. I get him, because there’s a lot of me in him. I told Savannah a lot about the way I’ve typically interacted with my sister, thwarting her attempts to get closer, to find things in common, to establish some sense of familial rapport. We pictured Meredith as someone who, like Mackie, inhabits the legacy of a very specific childhood experience, but deals or copes with it in an entirely different way. Mackie adapted an armor of cynicism and shoots almost everything down before it has a chance to prove his negative worldview wrong. Meredith builds everything up for the same reason.
The pink room we used for one of our recent scenes together reminded me a lot of my sister’s teenage bedroom, so it was nostalgic to re-enact our dynamic there – a little sad, because I wanted to be closer to her back then, a lot more like her, liked by her, accepted or whatever. She had a canopy bed with a pink calico printed fabric. I pretended it was mine. I laid in it, when she wasn’t around, the way I imagined she did. The light came through the canopy, blushing the room. She listened to Carol King’s Tapestry record constantly for a while and those songs are like an instant shot of childhood to me, bringing back the atmosphere of that room and the way I felt in it. She was popular, I thought. I was bullied and without friends. She couldn’t be bothered with me, which doesn’t seem so atypical for girls and brothers that age but seemed unique to me at the time, confirmation that I was negligible not just at school but at home.
When we became adults I stopped viewing us so separately, and saw or suspected that the same things that isolated me as a kid sent her out of the house looking for the protection and incessant distraction provided by friends. But I carry that weird resentment with me and it makes being close to her now problematic, and the scenes with Savannah reflect that odd intersection of conflicted feelings.