Peer Review: Angalis Field
Angalis Field, represented by Florence, is an NYC-based writer, director and photographer, whose emotionally-charged and intimate work embodies a contemporary queer subjectivity. From playwrights to powerful performances, Field talks us through the creatives who inspire him and tells us how he found his voice.
Who are three contemporaries that you admire?
There are many people in my community that I turn to for inspiration. This includes;
Harley Weir, a prolific fashion photographer who makes images that are formally inventive, erotically charged, and continually surprising.
Playwright Jeremy O’Harris (Daddy and Slave Play) is a dramaturgical force, but his charisma and genius are also in the way he’s positioned himself as a producer, an actor, an intellectual, and just a star.
I deeply admire Eliza Barry Callahan, an artist in the broad sense of the term. Her forthcoming debut novel, The Hearing Test, is about a young woman trying to make sense of her life after being diagnosed with sudden deafness. She has a singular voice, associative and referential; pre-order her book, and you’ll know what I’m talking about. I am lucky to call her my writing partner and creative collaborator—we just finished co-writing my thesis short Bust and are working together on a feature film.
Please share 3-4 pieces of work that exemplify great direction, and explain why?
The Wolf of Wall Street, which I think is Martin Scorsese’s most fully realised film… the performances, camera movement, and dialogue work together in almost orchestral harmony.
Fish Tank by Andrea Arnold is a tremendous example of the inimitable realness that can be achieved through the sensitive directing of a “non-actor.” Scenes From A Marriage by Ingmar Bergman reminds me that humour is often closely coupled with pathos; I think of this film as an ur-text to many other great relational dramas.
Above: Trailer for Fish Tank (2009) directed by Andrea Arnold.
What do you like most about the work that you do?
The craft of filmmaking feels specifically pleasurable (and challenging) because it contains many other mediums: writing, photography, music, and performance. At its best, it can also be greater than any sum of those parts. I enjoy that filmmaking necessitates collaboration but that, at the end of the day, it is in service of a single vision. As a director, you have to give your cast, crew, and then, later, the viewer, an experience. I love this element of filmmaking, this offering, which makes the practice feel almost spiritual.
I consider photography and direction to be fundamentally discrete crafts that produce radically different viewing experiences (a book or gallery as opposed to a dark theatre).
What was your journey to becoming a director/photographer?
I took darkroom photography classes as a high schooler in Portland, Oregon. Then, while studying literature and writing at Columbia University, I continued to photograph and found my way into helping my first photo idol, Ryan McGinley, cast his subjects. After college and a couple of years working as a freelance photographer and writer, I returned to school to pursue an MFA in Film at NYU Tisch. As I leave school, I feel lucky to have signed with Florence. They are helping to usher in the next phase of my career, supporting my commercial work and my narrative film projects. So, the journey continues!
Above: Posters for Playwright Jeremy O’Harris' plays Daddy and Slave Play
How does photography connect with filmmaking for you? Does one practice inform the other, or do you consider them separate?
I consider them to be fundamentally discrete crafts that produce radically different viewing experiences (a book or gallery as opposed to a dark theatre). My photo practice is the slow accretion of images that begin to form a body of work, sometimes across years. It feels quite private. Maybe my video art would follow this process, but I’m most interested in narrative films, and these emerge from a text—a script. With filmmaking, writing is at the centre of it all. There is then an immense amount of preparation around and attention to this text that involves collaborators, and that gets expressed in a durational, almost athletic performance, which is the process of shooting and editing a film.
I’m increasingly interested in connecting with the person in front of my camera and approaching them as I would an actor, searching together for a true experience.
More and more, I am trying to allow my film and photo to inform each other. Film school has allowed me to develop my writing in new ways and to see photography as an emotional medium rather than an aesthetic one. I’ve learned to value “performance” above all else. That’s not to say composition, colour, styling, and lighting are not integral to making powerful images, but these days, I find myself less drawn to beauty or form. I’m increasingly interested in connecting with the person in front of my camera and approaching them as I would an actor, searching together for a true experience.
What is one thing all directors/photographers need?
A point of view. And a light meter! Is this a trick question...
Who was the greatest director/photographer of all time? Why?
I generally disavow any construction of hierarchy around art, so I’ll share that I deeply enjoy the writing and film work of, in no particular order: Martin Scorsese, Eliza Hittman, Lucretia Martel, Dee Rees, Chantal Ackerman, Noah Baumbach, Jesse Amstrong, Andrea Arnold, Paul Thomas Anderson, Eric Rohmer, and Ingmar Bergman.
Right now, I am looking and thinking about work by Reinke Dijkstra, Deana Lawson, Sam Contis, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Peter Hujar, Stephen Shore, John Edmonds, Matt Leifheit, Tina Barney, Farah Al Qasimi, Alec Soth, Elle Perez, Daniel Arnold, and Wolfgang Tillmans.
Did you have a mentor? Who was it?
Todd Solondz is my thesis advisor and has been a central presence during my four years in the NYU Tisch MFA Film program. He is a writer and director of tremendous vision, and also a very generous professor. If I send him a script or cut at 10 p.m. asking for feedback, I’ll be in a meeting with him receiving notes by early the following day.
I have to remind myself that directing and photographing is a practice and to take pleasure in the difficulty of the process.
I’m especially grateful for his support on my thesis short “Bust,” which I made this summer. Whenever I sit down to write, his voice is in my head, asking: “But what’s the story!?”
- Director Martin Scorsese
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What’s changing in the industry that all directors/photographers need to keep up with?
The idea that “representation/visibility” is somehow synonymous with equality.
What advice would you give to a young director/ photographer trying to break into the industry?
I’m not sure if I’ll ever feel a sense of arrival in the industry (and I wouldn’t say that’s my orientation exactly), but I am slowly finding my voice. Right now, I’m excited about a personal photo project I’m working on about young men in Oregon. I’m also excited by an editorial I just shot for a well-known fashion magazine in Bolinas, California. I am trying to make my first photo book, and my first feature…“breaking into,” is an ongoing process. I have to remind myself that directing and photographing is a practice and to take pleasure in the difficulty of the process.
As for advice to younger artists working with film, I think the best way to learn to direct is by "doing" and editing the film yourself. Editing allows you to become intimate with your mistakes, which is a vulnerable thing, but I’d also suggest getting comfortable with allowing oneself to be seen because this work leaves it all right there on the surface anyway. But in terms of practical advice? Networking, networking, networking...