Creative Quarantine: Filmmaker Melika Bass

Emily Irvine, Performer | Shoals | Directed by Melika Bass, 2011

Esthetic Lens recently caught up with Chicago-based filmmaker, Melika Bass to discuss her creative pursuits over the past year. Much to our surprise and joy – as the timing could not be better – we were happy to learn that a selection of Melika’s film work will be featured May 2nd-5th as a solo showcase at Oberhausen Short Film Festival in Germany and that she will be part of the festival’s live Q and A. Check out Melika’a Creative Quarantine, and then check out her films at the Oberhausen Festival as well!

Oberhausen Short Film Festival passes can be obtained though this link.

1.How are you holding up?

Doing ‘pandemic ok.’ You know…astonished and numb. Healthy. Grateful for a steady job and time to slow down. Sometimes productive, often spaced-out. Quietly relishing Springtime and all the electric-green sprouting.

Sarah Stambaugh, performer | Songs from the Shed | Directed by Melika Bass, 2008

David Cook, performer | Songs from the Shed | Directed by Melika Bass, 2008.

2. Has Covid-19 had an effect on your work? If so, in what way?

It’s mostly been (a bit embarrassingly) helpful. I’m lucky to be in-progress on a years-in-the-making feature film, The Latest Sun is Sinking Fast, and 2020 opened up time to concentrate on editing.

Shoals | Directed by Melika Bass, 2011

It’s a chronicle project that we’ve been intentionally building over the last 8 years, shooting every few years. It’s my first feature film, a blend of documentary and fiction – characters/people age, seasons turn, hairdos grow, and when we come back together to shoot, real live events that have transpired get folded into the world of the film.

Shoals | Directed by Melika Bass, 2011

The pandemic constraint led to an intensive editing process, which totally transformed the film, which is very exciting. I’m grateful I can work remotely with editors Tim Fryett and Hannah Simon Kim during what otherwise has been very rough time for many people.

Selma Banich, performer | Waking Things | Directed by Melika Bass, 2012

Filmmaking is often about world-building, where there’s control and play and lots of possibilities. 2020 offered very little of that, so I cherish that we had our editing-as-re-writing zone to dive into.  

Penelope Hearne, performer | Creature Companion | Directed by Melika Bass, 2018.

3. What are some of the unexpected creative things or projects that have developed for you while navigating the current state of the world?

A new habit that I know a lot of folks have begun also — going on regular all-season hikes out in the surprisingly! wide sprawl of forest preserves that encircle Chicago. These suburban-wildnerness adventures have also doubled as location scouts for our next shoot for the Latest Sun film…

Selma Banich and Penelope Hearne, performers | Creature Companion | Directed by Melika Bass, 2018.

Clip from Creature Companion | Directed by Melika Bass, 2018.

4. Who do you wish were still with us to provide pointed commentary on what we are collectively experiencing and why?

George Carlin, Richard Pryor, James Baldwin, Walker Percy, Toni Morrison, John Muir, Nina Simone, Forugh Farrokhzad, and all of my grandparents.

Sarah Stambaugh, performer | The Latest Sun is Sinking Fast | Directed by Melika Bass, in-progress feature film.

5. What artists, performers, writers, have you come across recently that have created poignant work about where we are at right now?

Talk Easy podcast; Verzuz livestreams; N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth series (audio books); Lovecraft Country, Beforeingers and I May Destroy You TV series.

Matthew Goulish, performer | The Latest Sun is Sinking Fast | Directed by Melika Bass, in-progress feature film.

6. What are you looking forward to?

Short-term, I’m lucky to have something film-wise that’s coming up soon ~ May 2-5 ~ a solo showcase of my short films at Oberhausen Festival in Germany. It’s a wonderful international film festival, an important platform for short film, the oldest! It’s a for sure weird benefit of the pandemic – to have access to things over the interwebs that we’d normally not be able to get to in person.  The festival will be all virtual, and they did a really nice job with the online festival last year. 

Sarah Stambaugh and Bryan Saner, performers | The Latest Sun is Sinking Fast | Directed by Melika Bass, in-progress feature film.

They’re showing 5 of my short films in 2 programs with special lil’ intros to each that we recorded. There will also be a live (and free!) Q and A which will be fun. To brazenly continue this shameless plug, the festival passes are only $18 bucks for access to 400 short films, including the 2 programs of my films. A pretty wonderful deal if you want to check out some surprising and exciting new movies from 50 different countries, or just come say hi and fling me a question in the live Q and A ( which is May 4 at 1pm CST).I’m looking forward to taking some of the good things from the pandemic into future life. More slow mornings, regular contact with family. I’m anticipating re-learning how to hang with friends again. It’ll be interesting to see what does and does not change in the land of humans, as a result of all this …

Clip from Shoals | Directed by Melika Bass, 2011.

Melika Bass lives in Chicago where she makes slow-burning films and installations. For more information, check out her website and Instagram.

Melika Bass | Image Courtesy of the Filmmaker