Featured Artist: Beth Drozda

Beth Drozda discusses directing and screenwriting and how psychology and the teachings of the Catholic Church have affected her storytelling.

Nick Jones:  What inspired you to go into the film industry?

Beth Drozda:  I’d always been interested in forms of entertainment and the arts and stuff like that.  But the first time I specifically thought “Oh, I think I want to do film,” is when I watched the BTS [behind the scenes] for The Lord of the Rings.  I watched that and I was like “This is almost cooler than the movie…This is something I want to learn more about.  This is really cool.”

NJ:  What kind of art do you want to produce as a writer and as a director?

BD:  Theme-wise, I think I’m really interested in depersonalization… It’s a terrible thing, but [it’s] basically idealizing people or seeing people as something that they’re not- like a lot of psychological games.  I’ve done that writing-wise quite a bit.  I also like writing about obsessions, whether it’s with a person or thing, or an activity- addictions…not always like shooting up heroin, but people get addicted to random things that most people wouldn’t think about, like certain feelings or certain people, certain atmospheres- stuff like that.  I like writing about addiction in that sense.

A lot of my stories tend to be almost like this urban legend… There’s always something that’s gonna be a little bit off about the world, something that’s distant from reality, but I like it to feel like it could be reality.  A lot of my stories are kind of vague as in how the world works or like specifics, because, to me, specifics aren’t as important as a theme or understanding a character.  So I think that’s why [my stories] come off as urban legends, or “modern fantasy”.

NJ:  Reflecting on your themes, is that why you might see that the world, in a sense, can be a bit messier and darker than what people purport it to be?

BD:  Yes.  Things are almost always different than what people assume- and that’s what I like to focus on.  Which is why the logistics, again, aren’t such a big deal to me as getting across an honest message.  I’d rather be honest in message than in specifics.

NJ:  Are there any artists, films, TV shows, music- any kind of media- that really spoke to you that you’d like to emulate?

BD:  I love Darren Aronofsky so much.  His films, they do kind of have that “Well…technically I don’t know that this would actually work,” but you understand the character’s motives and their feelings in the situation.  And in his films, a lot of things aren’t exactly as they seem, whether it’s in the audience’s perspective or in the perspective of a character. He [also] has a lot of heavy, psychological scenes.  To me, psychology is everything; character is everything; motives are everything.  I’m extremely character-driven when I write.  If you focus on the characters and what drives them- at least to me- the plot sort of comes together.  I’d rather pay attention to the emotional logic than the mechanical logic.

NJ:  What are the benefits and some of the good messages that you see in this type of genre?

BD:  I know Aronofsky [for example] has gotten some backlash, because of the endings of his films- and his films in general- are devastating.  But to me, I think it’s important because a lot of times people that we interact with, and sometimes even people we love, do have motives that affect us that we don’t know or were unaware of at the time.  I think that when we see a film like Black Swan or Mother!…we can recognize ourselves falling prey to deception, and hopefully we don’t see ourselves as a deceiver.  But I think it could be a way to catch that if you do have those tendencies.  I think the more aware you are of human psychology, the better off you are in your relationships.  It’s the relationships that are important in life, in story- everything.

It’s also looking at someone who does horrendous things and then looking at their reasoning behind that.  I love American Horror Story for that reason, because you watch a season and you’re like “Everyone’s horrible!”  I can’t be on anyone’s side, because first of all, everyone’s terrible.  But second of all, I could see myself doing those same thing under those circumstances, you know what I mean?  So, those kind of themes and that reality check is really cool to me.

What’s interesting with my senior project [Franklin Street] is that the themes and everything are completely different than the way that I write.  It’s new to me thematic-wise, but for Franklin Street, even though the themes are new, aesthetically, it’s still going to be me as far as directing.  Just experience-wise, it’s something that I don’t really explore in my stories, and so I think it’ll be good for me to reach out and pull from different experiences.

NJ:  What is it like undertaking the role of being a director for a senior project?  What’s that been like so far?  I know production hasn’t started, but take us through the preparation for it.

BD:  For this project in particular, it’s been amazing because of the people who are on the project.  I think working with people who know you- that makes all the difference in during a project.  Prepping for the story and the aesthetic has been amazing because the way the script is.  It’s so well-written.  Maria [Oscilowski] wrote it, and she’s an amazing writer.  The way it’s written- the images and the feelings are so vivid that they jump off the page, and it’s so easy to latch onto them.  I’ve been in several meetings where I start to describe something, then someone else in the art department will be like “Yeah, I was thinking the exact same thing.”  Then they’ll jump off of that, and I’ll be like “Oh yeah, that’s where I want to go, too!” because the story is so vivid that it connects people so easily.  So I think that the aesthetic and the artistic side of the story [has] been super easy to collaborate on, because of how good the script is. I’m really excited about that.

NJ:  Are there any other current or future projects that you plan on doing as well?

BD:  I’m in pre-production for a music video for a client, which is going to be a dark humor-slasher kind-of-thing.  I’m really excited for that.  Another future project that I’m looking forward to that I have a script for and everything- which is a fan-film based on the graphic novel, The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys.  It’s written by Gerard Way [who] was the lead singer of My Chemical Romance.  I love the graphic novel so much.  I read it first when I was traveling on the road to go to college here and was like “Why hasn’t this seen the screen yet?”  It’s so vivid and it would be amazing on the screen.

NJ:  You mentioned that you’re working with a client for a music video.  Do you do music videos on a regular basis?

BD:  Right now, I’ve had a few clients and I’m working on getting more.  The first music video I worked on for a client was Machine Gun by Twin Seas.  That was a lot of fun, because I love working with bands.  The creative process is different than working with a film writer.  The artistic language that you use- some things are similar, some are pretty different.  It really works when the song is amazing because you’re connected on that- the rhythm in the music and you can see things based on the lyrics or instruments.  That’s been a lot of fun.

I love music videos so much. I think it’s because the first thing I wanted to be before film or writing or anything was a musician.  I love music.  It’s been a huge part in everything that I make, so it makes sense.

NJ:  As seen on social media, you also have a small business, Blood Moon Herbals.  Do you want to tell us about that?

BD:  Yes, I do )laughs) because I always have to be doing a million things at once- all over the place.  It started because I had an aloe plant that I brought from home and I love taking care of it.  And I love the fact that you could also use it for things, you know?  I was like, “I think I need another plant.”  So, it got to the point where now I have over one hundred plants in my house, including a pine tree in my balcony- yes, it was hard getting it up there but we did it (laughs).  I guess I got addicted to plants…there’s so many cool things you can do with [them], so I started making things.  Then I was like, “Oh my gosh, I could turn this into a business.”  So, that’s what I did.

It’s an herbal business.  I make bath bombs and beauty products.  It’s all made with herbs- a lot of which come from my garden.  I’m going to be expanding it into incense and candles and stuff like that.  All of [the products] are herbal-based.

I like it a lot because the other kind of work that I do, it kind of takes a mental toll.  You expend a lot of mental energy into stories, working through logistics of things.  When it’s not stories, then you’re figuring out how you’re going to make a production work.  Then to go over and like, make bath bombs it’s a nice relaxing break from that.  You need a break when you’re writing a lot; it’s just exerting so much energy.  Just having something you can do with your hands, it’s almost like healing, so I really enjoy it.

NJ:  Being a Catholic filmmaker- especially in the genres that you’re wanting to pursue- what are the challenges and advantages of being a Catholic in that industry?

BD:  The challenges, I think, are just acceptance as far as other Catholics.  Because that has already been a huge challenge for me, and it always has been in my artistic pursuits.  I think that there are more advantages, but it can be hard when maybe people close to you saying “Why are you making stuff like that?  I don’t understand it. How does this work with your Catholic faith?” I’m always open to providing answers for that, but it is hard because sometimes it is not accepted.

I could go on and on about the advantages. You walk into a Church and right up there at the front is this guy dying, blood streaming down his body, and it’s part of a beautiful message.  It’s like the macabre-it goes along with the beauty of the message of the beauty of humanity, almost.  You have saints that hold skulls on their prayer cards…St. Lucy, whose eyes are on a tray.  She’s just holding her eyeballs.  The aesthetic is really cool.  That’s part of the reason why it confuses me when Catholics are like “Oh, that’s too gory.”  I’m like…go to Church (laughs).  Another huge advantage is I think that Catholicism brings with it an understanding of humanity like no other religion I researched about or experienced.  I find that a lot of the Church’s teachings- they’re very human.  I think that learning moral theology, you learn more about human psychology and the way the soul works and why humans are the way they are.  [It] works a lot with the themes I like to use.  So, I love theology and philosophy for the same reason.  Both of those things have helped me more than anything in my writing.

I also think that religion is an interesting element to story.  I know for a lot of people- but also for me personally- religion has broken me completely, and it’s healed me.  It depends on your understanding of religion, too. You have people that have been indoctrinated and taught terrible things about humanity and themselves. For me personally, through learning more about my Catholic faith, I’ve found answers about myself that I needed, and I found the healing that I needed.  I think that religion is extremely powerful.  It can be an extremely powerful element in story, sometimes explicitly, but it doesn’t have to be explicit, either.  I love thinking of religion and aspects of using it in story.  I feel very strongly about my religion in connection to storytelling.

NJ:  Any closing statements?

BD:  I feel like this is the time when people are supposed to say like, “Pursue your dreams. Work towards your goals. That’s what I’m trying to do.”  I want to say that!  So yeah, pursue your goals.  Be realistic.  That’s what I’m trying to do.  I’ve fought to be as confident in my art as I am now.  It’s been a struggle.  One thing I’d like to say to other artists out there is you have to certain extent let go of what other people are saying around you and trust your instincts.  I’ve had someone say to my face, “Why would anyone listen to you?  You don’t have anything to tell the world.”  And not everyone is told that to your face.  A lot of people are told that by society.  I think that those are the things that not only you have to let go of, but those are things you have to replace with “What do I know?”  Because you know what you know, and you should be telling people what you know.

For more info on Beth’s herbal beauty care products, follow the link below:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/BloodMoonHerbals