A Look at Life Through Montage
Last summer I went to Alaska and was immediately blown away by the expanse of nature. I knew it would be stunning, obvi, but I didn't realize it would be fucking EVERYWHERE. I know that sounds ridiculous, but bear in mind that I'm a Angeleno born and bred so I expect my nature to come with a side of freeway, jah feel? Anyhow, here I was faced with some the most stunning scenes I'd ever seen, surrounded by family and friends, and all I wanted to do was record it all. Not in a 'lemme take a few pics so I can #tbt on Instagram for a few weeks' way. But in a 'lemme never not be recording video of every.single.thing' way. From leaves blowing in the breeze to songs around the campfire, I got it all on video and vowed to make a montage when I returned home to reflect on it all. Turns out my compooper is a tad too old for that, but nonetheless, I became fascinated by this idea of montage. Why is it so emotionally captivating? What do the filmmakers get out of finding these moments and capturing them? Does it change the way they view the world?
If I wasn't going to ever make the montage myself, I figured I could at least reach out to two of my lovely friends who do a damn good job of it for their insight. Cue Olivia Meyer-Jennette and Sahar Roodehchi, best friends, lovely human beings, and dedicated montage makers. I've been watching their videos for months now and am constantly in awe of not only their ability to make the mundane appear so joyous, but also of their ability to make me feel like that joy could be my own if I looked closely enough at my own life. I could only imagine that the making of these stunning films was self-care somehow... I could only dream that finding the beautiful parts of life and recording them was a sort of ode to – or a celebration, perhaps – of a life well lived. Lucky for me, they were lovely as ever and agreed to chat! See their thoughts and some of their stunning films below:
Gooey Girl: "Why did you start making these videos?"
Sahar Roodehchi: "I started making my videos firstly because I was inspired by my friend Olivia’s monthly videos. Not only was it super fun to see the bits of her life that she lived when we weren’t together but, in a vein of narcissism, it was especially fun to see myself in the videos and remember the moments that we spent together. Also, since I was spending the year abroad, I really wanted to have a way to record my experiences, especially since I’m naturally a very forgetful person. So, halfway through the school year, and at the start of 2016, I decided to make a year of monthly videos my new years resolution. I’ve never been much good at keeping a diary but somehow I’ve been able to keep up with taking videos of the things that make me happy in the moment so they can make me happy later on too."
Olivia Meyer-Jennette: "I decided I wanted to start making little films because I saw other people I really admire creating such cool things using the medium! (especially Sarah Cousins and Elizabeth Brooke). I kept stumbling on little moments and thinking, 'I want to capture this with more depth than I can with photos.' I was at the beach at the time and there was so much beauty in the movement and light of the ocean and the people around me. I was compelled to make the monthly videos because I’ve always wanted to make a year-long project but burned out a few months in. This was less pressure because I didn’t have to capture every single day and I could still make something that felt really whole."
GG: "How has making them changed the way you view the world?"
SR: "This is about to sound very cliche, but I feel like starting to record videos has made me see bits of life as moments of art — the way that branches swing above me in the wind, the small motions and gestures that friends and family make when they are happy or laugh...everything has this little rhythm to it. I feel like I’m constantly looking around for these little moments so I can share them later on, but I also feel like I usually stumble on them when I’m not looking."
OMJ: "I think the past few years in general, as I’ve gotten more into taking photos and making videos, I’ve had a big shift in the way I look at my surroundings. I’m an observer! I feel like I’m constantly in search of aesthetics out in the world, noticing small moments I find beautiful or compelling. Making the videos is interesting because you’re taking lots of different shots from different contexts and putting them together to make something cohesive, trying to tell a story. I think I’m going to come up against this more as I start to make different types of films. I want to create narratives that have more depth than a chronological re-telling of a specific time. I’m so excited to experiment with different ways of communicating through film!"
GG: "What makes a video more special than a photo?"
SR: "It’s really all in the movement! There have been shots that I have taken with my camera where the video was essentially a photo – just 3 seconds of the same building or same view. It lacks the movement that makes videos so much more interesting and fun. When I saw Olivia’s first video, I remember that the thing that I noticed was that the whole video felt like her life was dancing. I'm hoping that my videos capture my own dancing bits of life."
OMJ: "Music is definitely a HUGE part of the appeal for me. Songs are so tied up in specific seasons and people and places and I’ve found they’re a great way to connect with distinct times my life and past. Also, capturing the distinct ways people move is so special for me. It’s easier to delve deep into someone’s mannerisms, the way they laugh and speak and shake their head. I love those reminders about the people I love, and being able to step back a little and watch those moments from a different lens. And then, the final project is so satisfying! It feels like such a cool, beautiful, fun cumulation of all the experiences I’m constantly collecting."
GG: "What’s been the most fulfilling part of it for you?"
SR: "I have really enjoyed the process of looking back at my month as I make the video at the end. It’s nice to see the memories I’ve forgotten about. Also, my videos have really featured the people I love in different moments I’ve shared with them. It’s a little like a scrapbook in that way. I think that the most fulfilling part of my videos is still coming, then. I think it’ll come when I look back at the whole year of videos and see a year filled with experiences with the people that I love (cheesy I know, but my videos are honestly pretty cheesy too so it works.)"
OMJ: "This past year has been the most adventurous, exciting, transformative year of my life, and I feel so lucky to have such a tangible reminder of all of it. Seeing all of the videos together is so powerful. I had a moment watching them a few weeks ago when I realized, this is by far the best project I’ve made and also one of the best things I’ve ever decided to do. I feel like I’ve grown in my technical ability and also just being able to find and represent things that I feel passionate about. It’s so cool! And very, very special."
- as told to Lenea Sims
Sahar Roodehchi [@saharroo] is an Iranian-American Georgia peach studying English Literature at Tufts University. She spends most of her time thinking about food and friends and fancy cheese (which is both food and friend). Olivia Meyer-Jennette [@theolive_mj] is from North Carolina and studies International Literary and Visual Studies at Tufts University. She likes art museums, black coffee, and morning light.