Kier Atherton - USA
1. Kier, you`re a pretty creative person who loves several kinds of art. You love film making and playing music. But you also love traveling and being outside in nature. Do you think there`s a relation between nature and creativity?
There has always been a strong connection between nature + creativity for me. Songs arriving in the wind on long walks through the forest. Geography teaching me how nature composes an image. The camera was late to the party and gets too much of the credit.
2. You live in Montana, close to some remote and amazing landscapes. In Mathieu Le Lays exciting film „American Loneliness“ you give us a deep insight into your connection to the country you live in. What made you getting a part in this documentary? Let us share your thoughts about this land and your feelings for it.
Mathieu Le Lay reached out to me through mutual friends before his trip to film American Loneliness. I had been caretaking a ranch alone all winter, where the only cows still on the property were in the freezer. A road trip through the ice and rain and mud of Montana spring sounded like a good break from talking to the taxidermy in the house. And Montana spring weather is not very alluring so I was excited to experience the beauty of the season through Mathieu’s lens. Montana is harsh and doesn't care if you live or die but that ruggedness gives even more sweetness to the beauty of life that thrives here and the magnificent sculpted landscapes.
3. Your work is published under the title „Motion noise“. This is a clear reference to the film and sound elements of your creative output. Please describe your different previous works and publications.
Motion Noise is the name for my get-poor-quick company for passion projects. I have been filming a live music video series “Out of the Studio” for several years in Montana as well as documentary films including Junk Studio, Cowboy P.I., and Bleeding Into Eternity and narrative films including the feature Love Like Gold and the short Skybird. The names dates back to the musical duo Pterodactyl Plains and our first album Raven self-released on Motion Noise Records. The most recent musical project is a collaboration music video album called Subalpine Joy.
4. In 2014 you produced your first movie „Love like gold“. What did you feel when you realized that this project would get reality? Was it a long way to make it happen?
The moment I knew LLG would happen was surreal. I was alone in Boise and my producer was working in NYC. I purchased a flight for a French actor, Theo Muncer Trifard, and at that point I knew we would make the movie no matter what and when the opportunity would be. The road to get from an idea to production was nearly three years. Once I had the seed of the movie I had to make a lot of life changes to prepare for it including a transition from music back to film and summers of working on trails & wildland firefighting to squirrel away money. Eventually I found myself working as a tour manager for the band St. Paul and the Broken Bones from Alabama. It was the best work experience I had ever had and they were on a rapid ascent but I knew I had to go back to MT to discover and create this story. Between shows in NYC though I connected with my friend, Skye Grace Bennett, who asked if she could produce the film. I said yes and we began finding our path to make it happen.
5. Your newest project is „Bleeding into eternity“, a short documentary about poet Joe Sawyer. You`ve been dreaming of this for a long time. How did the idea come about? Did you have to build a close connection to Sawyer for an authentically portrait?
I keep a wishlist of films I hope to make and Joe Sawyer has been on the list for many years. He’s been an inspiring character in my life for years, but in an elusive way. You can rarely plan or anticipate when you’re going to see Joe, but when you do it’s always a memorable event. And when he was in college in Missoula I had the opportunity to work with him on a documentary he was making for class about a guy who went to a Scientology rehab center. We had phenomenal creative chemistry and since then I have hoped to collaborate on another project, but after years without this happening I instead asked Joe to be in front of the camera. When the opportunity was created to make this film it was very helpful to have this connection. I wanted to capture the feel of having a conversation with Joe rather than an interview and I think the film portrays him authentically even though it’s difficult to convert the warmth of a winter hug or the joy of an impromptu behind the scenes dance party.
6. You show your films on festivals for attracting interest and giving access to a wider audience. How important is the presence on a festival where you can get an authentic impression from the people? How do you deal with bad review?
Posting films online gets the most measurable views but it’s hard to discern the quality and attention of people’s eyeballs, let alone their hearts and consciousness. Most of us are getting better at scrolling and worse at paying attention. To me the communal theatrical experience is only getting more important as we get distracted and alienated by technology battling for our attention and shoving ads into every nook + cranny of our brains.
As a filmmaker the experience of watching a movie in a theater with an audience is a masterclass too. And the reaction always varies from audience to audience and often becomes contagious. I’ve played the same film to crowds that laughed together at every joke and crowds that never broke through that barrier alone or together.
Bad reviews still aren’t fun for me, that’s a skill I’ve yet to learn. But I believe the best films generally polarize an audience rather than patronize. So whenever I get down about a bad review I go to IMDB and read the one star reviews to my favorite movies. Works every time.
7. Where do you find your inspiration for all those creative projects? Is there any artist who you admire? Do you also like novels?
The inspiration usually comes from life + experience. Most ideas I pursue arrive in dreamlike visual fragments at unexpected moments, often while actively in motion and rarely when I try to sit around and wait for them.
Mathieu Le Lay is one of my favorite artists, he always inspires me to go outside in bad weather and chase good light past dark. And his film + photography with Larissa has the same philosophy of light + love that I try to live by.
Novels have been more influential to me than movies. I grew up reading every book I could find and my primary access to films was the local gas station rental wall and late night Canadian television (the only station that made it to Trego, Montana.) Brothers Karamazov is my all time favorite and runner up is Brothers K, an amazing tale of a family in the American West.
8. Recently you`ve been on a long journey through Europe? Have you been in Europe for the first time? Which city or country did you like most? Please tell us something about your experiences on this trip.
Europe has always been a source of inspiration for me. It’s good to take a break from the more commerce driven environment of the U.S. and experience the traditions and celebrations of art you can find in Europe. As part of the musical duo Pterodactyl Plains I had the opportunity to backpack tour twice through Europe. The Pyrenees have always been my favorite place though. I love the mountains and the small towns, and the whole geography and culture is very different from the Rocky Mountains where I am from and spend most of my life.
On this past trip I had an experience in Warsaw that helped shape the rest of my trip. I was walking to the Kafka Cafe for coffee in the morning and a drunken older man from across the street tried to get my attention. Instead of simply walking past I turned and crossed the street to talk with him. Although very drunk he wasn’t concerned so much as getting money from me as sharing his morning bottle of vodka and talking about poetry. He couldn’t speak much English but once he discovered I liked Leonard Cohen too we ended up singing Suzanne together on the sidewalk as we finished the bottle. It was my favorite kind of unexpected and connecting travel experience, and it really shifted my consciousness to be much more open to developing strong connections with people I met along the way.
9. What do you think, where will your creative power leading you to? Do you set goals or is it more like drifting?
Currently I have two short films I’m working to make this year and a feature that is ready to leap from the imagination to the page. It’s hard to balance work and making time for the important things though. As James Watson (co-discoverer of DNA) said “It’s necessary to be slightly underemployed if you are to do something significant.”
I spend the majority of my time drifting punctuated by my favorite periods of single minded + obsessed focus on a project. Excited to soon be in another phase of obsession again.
10. Final Question: This project is called "Vision and life". What do the terms "vision" and "life" mean for you, Kier?
We live in an era of transition from ancient dogmas that are fading before our eyes to a future that depends on the vision we have on shaping it. Our modern world lacks meaning and exists far from the sacred and I believe it is time to build new foundations of meaning together and that the visions of artists will be essential to this process. To paraphrase Joseph Cambell, we’ve replaced church with tv but we’re producing junk food.