Recently I had a chance to converse with Jennifer Corcoran, writer/director of She Sings to the Stars, which is currently crowdfunding on Seed&Spark to secure the film’s distribution.
I’ve had the opportunity to see the film and am excited by the prospect of it reaching a wider audience following its engaging, award-winning film festival run. Our conversation covered a range of topics. I’d like to share this one portion of our dialogue at this time, because I think it gives a glimpse into why backing this woman-led project matters at this time.
In my view this film is an example of the kind of work that deserves enthusiastic support from independent filmmakers, filmlovers, and those who feel excited about the prospect of humans tuning in and living lives of deeper connection to the underlying nature of reality – the magical aspects of the universe. This film arose from powerful dreams. It is the first of a planned “cycle” of feature films. The filmmaker is responding to a deep call to bring rich stories through.
I hope you’ll enjoy this conversation and then take time to explore She Sings to the Stars‘ crowdfunding campaign: March 29 – May 1
The simple act of FOLLOWING their project page (and encouraging friends to join you) has benefits, but I hope you’ll consider contributing financially as well.
This is the time for those of us who are ready for the world to shift perspective and align in more beautiful ways… to take action to make that a reality. This is a great place to make a difference.
Dive in to the conversation…
JC: We are raised in a very patriarchal educational system and then participate in a very patriarchal workplace and that part of us – that very innate feminine part of us (in both men and women) – is missing. It has no place to express itself, and it’s certainly lost in the story-telling world of film. We have forgotten the feminine nature of our Earth and our intimate relationship to it. What is our collective feminine nature? Women all over the planet are beginning to come forward with their own voices — ones which have been quiet for a very long time. And I don’t mean feminine as in pink and frilly…
DBW: Right. Yeah.. the yin..
JC: Yeah, the yin doesn’t have much of a voice in the West. It has been so obfuscated that I’m not sure we know what it feels to fully inhabit that part of our nature. I had the honor to home school my three children. I have one girl and two boys. My daughter taught me more about the feminine than I knew of it, myself, as she grew up outside the conditioning of an educational system that is oriented to the yang. And I’d say my sons, too, were freer to explore their own yin natures. We all contain both yin and yang, but what I am wishing to explore with these films is what is that yin? What does that voice sound like? How does it perceive? I think that is the point of imbalance we are at right now on our planet.
DBW: I think that our culture suppresses the yin in men.
JC: Yes. Definitely.
DBW: And I think that your film is really rich in exploring that…and that men long to be whole. I feel that. And everyone’s on a spectrum. Right now there’s a lot of exploration of the fluidity of gender and I think that’s really in its infancy in terms of a broad public exploration and I think it is going to be a long time before a lot of that expresses itself more fully, but I think that when we look at gender fluidity sometimes what people are searching for is the expression of the yin and the yang in themselves and I think that when that becomes more available to people then some of the situations of I’m different from you will soften… and men will be allowed to live life more fully as themselves also, which is what I’m interested in.
What I’m interested in is authentic creative expression flourishing…and for individuals to bring their gifts fully not only for themselves but because I think that’s what we all benefit from. Then this combative… fear of lack… and someone has to give up something for someone else to have something feeling dissipates. We all flourish. That’s what I’m interested in. I’m not so interested in just women having opportunities.
JC: Yes. I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s a much broader vision than “opportunities”.
DBW: Yeah… and it’s funny… What I do is I tune in on an energy level to people’s work. So as soon as I heard about you and your work… I thought, “Oooooh!” Every time I think of your work its an “ooooh!” Not just because of the topic. It wasn’t the topic. It was the feel. Every time we would interact I had that feeling that you were looking deeply at what was happening. It was so great to see your film. It was very hard for me to wait. So, thank you. I have so many films I’d like to see. I can’t see them all, but I dropped everything to watch yours.
It’s a complicated film, because it unfolds in its own time. It’s expansive vision is displayed in the expansive landscape. I feel like I’m being held in this enormous space the entire time. There’s a male main character really. In some ways Mabel is the main character…
JC: For me, she is the main character. No doubt about it. There lies the irony. He is onscreen most of the film, talking talking talking, so we assume he is the “main” character. But she inhabits the whole space, without need for constant chatter, without need of explanation.
It was very interesting for me to read a recent review of my film by a young reviewer. She didn’t “get” that Mabel’s presence is the power in the film, not recognizing her power as a woman. She was wanting backstory, emotional response. First, that’s not what you get (in my experience) from Native elders; secondly, you don’t need all the details, all the chatter when you get to her age. She gives us bits and pieces, uncharged — like the understated lines about Indian boarding school, re-location, her objection to her grandson’s drinking, referring to her daughter who has passed because of alcohol — that her husband was a snake priest — in my mind, we don’t need more! She is. She is being. She relates to all that is around her. Enough! We have lost our understanding of receptivity, the ability to contain everything, with quiet.
DBW: … but in terms of a traditional story… a man arrives in an alien environment and has to contend with challenges… so on that level its his story. A lot of women’s groups confuse a woman director with having to create stories about women.
JC: But She Sings to the Stars is a story about a woman to me! I’ve always seen her as the center tent pole around which these two men flail until they can arrive at a point of quiet in themselves. She holds the space. She is not a shaman, she just is. What power in presence!
DBW: Yeah, because it’s a story of her waiting. She sings to the stars. She waits. She sees him coming. Now in somebody else’s version of the film we might have had a dream where she… but you don’t need that.
JC: Quite right.
DBW: I feel like she is… one of the things I love about her character so much is that she has no need to explain herself.
DBW: Yeah, and she also doesn’t question this strange occurrence of someone outside of her culture being important to her experience.
That’s what she’s been shown, so she engages that. She’s engaged. And she’s active. She’s patient, but active. These are skills. And one of the things I see in a film like yours that I love is to me it’s like a healing story and healing stories do not – although there is an exciting climactic segment late in your film, there’s a sweet, gentleness to it that I see a lot in healing films. Things get more and more clear. They don’t get more and more muddy … and then crescendo.
DBW: And I find that is very challenging for a lot of film people to connect with necessarily whereas audiences are often available to it.
But for people who filter themselves through a massive number of film critiques often feel a little thrown by that. I don’t know if you’ve had that experience or not.
JC: I’ve had both ends of the spectrum. To begin with the people who really respond to the film tend to be older. I would describe them as mature audiences … not that they’ve arrived at ‘maturity’ at 18 years old, but that they’ve come to a place in their lives where they’re not just running — they are seeking. Asking the bigger questions. For example in Vermont I’d say 90% of the audience was over 45 and the response there was overwhelming. Men and women were coming up to us – sometimes with tears in their eyes – just saying, “Thank you!”
And then, I’ve been surprised by a few in their mid-twenties who get the film immediately, the mystical mid-twenty year olds — they have an off-planet twinkle in their eyes!
Then there are the more mainstream 30-something festival programmers who are so used to a certain pace, a certain formula, they just don’t relate. “I don’t relate to the pace of the film. It’s just too slow. Nothing happens.” There is no comparable model for this film. They find Mabel boring, Lyle neurotic, Third angry and that’s it. I had one audience member so irritated by the pace, she said to me “How stupid to go out into the desert with no water. How dumb can you get?” !
DBW: Oh really. Well, he is.. he is a little. He’s out of balance.
DBW: I think the whole film is about that kind of balance. She overtly says so multiple times.
JC: There also have been a number of middle-aged men who find Lyle offensive. I wonder if Lyle throws up a mirror to our general neurosis: the running, the dollar-trapping, the social expectations laid out for the white male. The impatience. Lyle scrambles. He’s really out of balance and lost. Broken.
DBW: And yet he’s still connected. One of the things I really love about his character is that on the one hand he is insanely going somewhere where his car is not reliable. And I’m thinking “WHAT is he doing?!” Then he makes it worse by going off the track, but he’s led there… and he feels connected to something. He has to do it. Although he’s a little challenging at times to me, because he’s so unbalanced that it’s hard to be with him sometimes.
JC: And yet on another level he has some real magic, Mabel recognizes it in him. He is not just a sleight of hand magician. Some of his tricks are mind-bending, no explanation for them. How on earth do Third’s choice of numbers turn up on Lyle’s lottery ticket? Mabel’s innate sense of what we might term magic in the way that she relates to all that is around her, moves through what we perceive as impermeable ‘boundaries’, is juxtaposed to his magic. If she didn’t listen to her dream, recognize that this unbalanced man had some real medicine, would have packed him off down the road. There’s something to this guy!
DBW: Oh yeah… clearly.
JC: There is a sweetness that emerges in Lyle (that was always there, lying dormant in the face of his struggle).There is tremendous potential that is released in the end, but some men just have a really hard time with him early on and never manage to get off the dime with him.
She Sings to the Stars is the first in a cycle of films I would like to create about women, about our collective feminine. The next one will be set in Ireland with a 28-year old protagonist. So much of this work lives within me which makes it tricky to articulate. Writing and directing one’s work is an intimate process, a little like waking up within a dream. It doesn’t often come with an outer world vocabulary. Perhaps it’s best to leave words to other people like you, the audience, to take forward. Frank Zappa supposedly said, “Talking about music is like dancing to architecture.” Thank you for pulling this out of me!
DBW: I think that your film is awaiting the alignment with a really wonderful distribution process that will allow the people who really need or would love to see your film to have access to it and to notice it.
JC: Thank you kindly!
Support the She Sings to the Stars crowdfunding campaign on Seed&Spark today! The campaign runs until MAY 1: https://www.seedandspark.com/studio/she-sings-to-the-stars
Barbara Ann O’Leary, #DirectedbyWomen Catalyst