Diving Into An Abundance Of Creativity
Updated: Jul 16, 2020
RACHEL MASON literally oozes creativity, she is an artist, musician and filmmaker. From her exhibitions at the Los Angeles Museum of Art, multiple performances and albums, to her Netflix documentary, Circus of Books, she has done it all - Not only has she done it all, she has done it with wonderful color and passion - we invite you to dive into her creative world!
You have a wide and varied involvement in art, music and film, which do you find most absorbing and why?
I think it varies at different times in my life... sometimes I feel most compelled to make art, and sometimes music and sometimes film. It also depends on a project that might rise to the surface for logistical reasons. Such as Circus of Books, my most recent film. The whole reason it happened is because the stores were closing, and I realized that I needed to get back to LA (I was in NY at the time) to start filming otherwise I'd never document this moment.
We would love to know more about your latest album and when and where it will be available?
The latest album is called "Circus Life" and I'm working on it right now. It is a collection of all the songs that were in various stages of development and songwriting over the four-year period that I was working on the film. It's really hard to make a movie, and there are some unbelievable highs and lows, and frustrations, and setbacks, all kinds of things that you can't imagine feeling so lucky to have captured, and then feeling devastating about losing something, either not being able to capture what you wanted in the moment, or realizing later that it won't work in the edit... so it’s a harrowing, emotional roller-coaster. I never realized that the "Circus" as a concept perhaps, had absorbed so much into my psyche until I started making the movie. Even FutureClown, which is my alter-ego character that I use for internet videos making fun of political leaders, I never realized the connection to the idea of the "Circus" until being in the world of the store for the last four years. So, the album features songs that I wrote during this time and also one song I wrote specifically for the end credits, which imagines the store as a character itself.
Rachel Mason's single "Give you Everything" comes out on July 12 on Spotify and other platforms in advance of HER ALBUM, "CIRCUS LIFE" WHICH WILL BE RELEASED CONCURRENT TO THE FILM'S DEBUT ON NETFLIX.
Your upcoming Netflix documentary, “Circus of Books”, looks fascinating, please tell us about your parent’s and the process of making this documentary?
My parents are about to have their 15 minutes of fame (or longer depending!) but they are really, truly not public people. They have kept their heads down as workers, just being really hard core (pun, maybe sorta intended, lol) focused on the business they were trying to run. They both come from modest means, my Dad more so than my Mom, and worked really hard just as a way to survive. Although they aren't first generation, they aren't far from it, and have an immigrant-mindset and work ethic, which I think comes from being Jewish, as there is a general feeling of, you can't ever get too comfortable, because you don't really belong and you might lose everything at any moment. Maybe I'm exaggerating, but I think a lot of the survival instincts about keeping the store a secret, and also having the store in the first place, come from that kind of sense of being in survival mode.
The making of the documentary is now in retrospect, like a 3-Act play. There were definite acts, and I feel like at this point, I'm the only recurring character, with major supporting actors who have played pivotal roles. Really the two creatively pivotal people, without which the film wouldn't be what it is, are Cynthia Childs and Kathryn Robson. Cynthia was an unbelievably hard-core focused and naturally talented producer, she worked on all aspects of getting scenes shot and created. I learned a ton from her. She was so organized and clear about what was needed. She instinctively and intuitively knew what questions to ask and how to get coverage for various story-lines that would become so important later. Kathryn came in as editor and producer from the post-side onward. She is also brilliant and hardworking, pulling all-nighters (many, unfortunately) to get the film ready for festival deadlines, and painstakingly re-editing the film many many times as we responded to notes from other various producers and friends. Kathryn has a special talent I think for the nuances of emotion in interviews, and in the story-craft. The film's narrative arc is really a testament to her ability to craft a story in the way that the mind needs to naturally ask questions and get answers. It’s such a rare gift. On the funding side, it’s important to note, my film was supported by an incredible patron, Gerry Herman, who in addition to putting in the very first funds that got the film started, he was there from the very beginning until the very end, as a sounding board and supporter, and Rhianon Jones who provided investment funds from her company Neon Heart, which specifically focuses on content made by women. Without these two, the film would really not have gotten completed in this timeline.
What are you most proud of so far in your life?
I actually feel now the proudest of my business skills in managing this film. I look at all my art and music and film as sort of easy. It’s so easy to work hard with unrelenting focus on the creative. What is difficult is the business side. And I'm also most impressed now with artists, and non-artists, who accomplish big, grand things, because I know how hard it is to negotiate with people and get things together.
You must have some amazing Pride memories, what is the most outstanding to you and will you be celebrating Pride this year?
At this years' pride, I took my son (he's 6) and this year for me was about kids being at pride. When I was a kid, growing up in West Hollywood, I "knew about" pride-- like I was aware it was happening, because it was just down the street.. but my parents didn't participate, and it was like this "crazytown" thing happening nearby, which, like all the other crazy things in Hollywood, I found fascinating, but wasn't "for me." And I feel this sense when I see kids at pride that, that's where the truest activism is... And the profound thing this year for me happened when we walked past those bigoted fascists with their "Christian" signage, and they were blocked by what looked like the National Guard in riot gear-- and my son could just intuit something inherently evil about it, and he asked me later, "are those the same people that do slavery?" Because he just started learning about slavery, and I found his observation so profound. And my answer was to say, "yes, it’s the same kind of bad thing."
I think it’s good for kids to have an awareness of the realities of our world, as painful as it is for me to show him some of these things, I do think it’s important for him to see it in that scenario, where the love outweighs the hate. That was why Pride felt especially important for me this year.
Do you have any advice for women who are trying to break into the world of art, music and film?
I love thinking of role models. And I don’t know if I am one, (yet) because I look up to artists like Amanda Palmer-- (watch her Ted talk), who aren't afraid of revealing the secrets of the business side of their practice. I think that you have so many artists who you can admire, but it’s so hard for anyone to ever say, "how did you actually accomplish this?" And when they do, it’s helpful, and healing. And I think a lot of the business side, isn't really so beautiful (obviously it’s not interesting to watch people email or talk on the phone), but when I see a show that is a total unbelievable spectacle, something like Bjork's recent live shows instance-- I'd love to know all the logistical details of how that came together. Teams of people, thousands of emails. And I'm curious about the financing and the business structure of these things and how they work, and I find this aspect really creative. I find all sides of it interesting-- and not just the "artist" at the very center, like I used to. So, my advice to artists, is to think of the things you want to accomplish and then seek out the "how do you do this" aspect by looking up the artists doing it and asking questions-- or looking for videos like the one I mentioned by Amanda Palmer- -where she talks about her process of asking for help.
If you could choose one person, alive or dead, you would like to perform with, who would you choose and why?
Klaus Nomi. Definitely. He is my hero for so many reasons. I feel like everything about his work comes from some other dimension, and didn't in any way abide by the rules of the time he lived in. I really wonder about what his later work would have been like had he lived to this day. The fact that he died of AIDS during that era with so many others, you really wonder about the unbelievable creative void... so many people talk about it- but I just imagine his later work to be so filled with richness unimaginable, because when he died he was just at the career-breakthrough moment... he was this alien being, belting opera in unbelievable kabuki-theater makeup. Just thinking about him makes me cry and feel joyful at the same time.
Who has inspired you and why?
Artists like Klaus Nomi, and in our contemporary moment- - there are artists like Peaches, who also occupy a unique space-- basically I love so many artists who take up their own unique spot, and really carve it out, and defy the standard, or just make up their own rules... I love Bjork, Peaches, Lauri Anderson, John Waters, Patrisse Khan-Cullers, Madam Gandhi... too many to name. Those just came to mind right now.
What is your favorite inspirational quote or mantra?
"Enjoy your Life" -- stated by my dear friend Levi Steinberg who lived to be 103. I was re-introduced to him by an artist, Delia Brown, even though he actually was my relative by marriage, I had heard from my grandmother who visited him that she and he were friends, and somehow our worlds collided in the last few years of his life. And every single time I saw him or spoke to him on the phone, those were his parting words. When he finally died, I thought about those words as having a really profound message in them. Because it was so simple, but so deeply, resonant... if you're not enjoying your life, right now, doing whatever you're doing, try to do something so that you can. Because that's all there is. Really, just your one life. And I can't think of this enough...
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For more information about Rachel Mason and her creative works, please visit www.rachelmasonart.com/work