Good afternoon, YouthMundees! At YouthMundus, we aim to not only be a platform for music, film and global change, but for the artists and global changemakers who create them. Our Artist Spotlight series aims to create a space for discovery of new, budding global talent, while simultaneously offering you an exclusive glimpse into their creative process. In this week’s edition, we’re extremely excited to feature Erin Frances Spiers, an emerging international filmmaker based out of New York City!
What inspires you and your creative process? “It's a little sad, but I think that a theme that runs through a lot of my work is loss. I always find myself writing after I've lost something, whether that be my pride; a relationship; a life; or a moment in time I wish I could have back. I grew up in a creative household and we'd often let our emotions show through music and art. I'd personally express my emotions at MGA, the theatre school in Edinburgh that I attended part time. It wasn't much of a surprise that, after Dad passed away when I was 14, I started writing plays and poetry. As I got older, this transformed into writing and directing. I'm almost a little ashamed to say that I take from my own life a lot. It's both a blessing and a curse that I've unfortunately gone through a lot of traumatic experiences in only 22 years.”
“I wouldn't wish what I've had to go through on anyone, but I have to admit it does make writing easier sometimes. The other way I go about creating ideas is usually actually just one image that appears in my ahead that appeals to me. It's usually something aesthetically pleasing. A freeze frame of a person that shows far too much of their lives. And from there I brainstorm ideas. I'm almost a little shy to say that I take from my own life a lot. It's both a blessing and a curse that I've unfortunately gone through a lot of traumatic experiences in only 22 years.”
“Something that I know isn't terribly revolutionary, that I used to do for characters when I was in acting school that I've recently brought into my creative process as a filmmaker, is creating Pinterest boards for piece I'm writing. I like to visual exactly what the frames will look like whilst writing, so having a mood board close by that I can refer back to if i get lost in my words or have a mental block has been incredibly useful for me.”
What is the connection between your art and social justice?
“The aim within every story I tell is to show to the viewer a raw human being. Human behavior has always been incredibly fascinating to me. The work I'm currently creating is about struggles that humans face.”
“I recently wrote a short about a young woman with depression during this quarantine we're currently living in. I've also written pieces about assault, abusive relationships and human trafficking. At the core of the screenplays is the person experiencing the pain, I prefer to focus more on the aftermath of the trauma, showing what those experiences can do to a person. Seeing an experience you relate to on screen and feeling that level of recognition is incredibly motivating and important and I hope that my work can do that for people.”
“Later in life, I would love to create an immersive theatre piece about slaughterhouses, I've always been fascinated in animal rights and have a minor in animal studies. For the longest time I wanted to create political theatre for animal activism and one day this will hopefully become a reality. Unfortunately, being an international artist, I do often feel like I need to work within the mainstream, seeing as it is so hard to find jobs as it is without a green card. However, being in New York City and during a time where people really are opening their eyes to the problems in the world, hopefully more people will be willing to appreciate art that challenges them.”
What inspired you to pursue acting and drama? What were the challenges you overcame in this?
“One of the biggest challenges I've faced in my career is being an international artist in America. Visas are incredibly hard to come by, even if you've been hired by a company who sponsors you - the experience I've just gone through and still failed to receive a work visa for when my current visa expires. It makes it hard to stay motivated when you feel like at any moment your entire life might have to move back to a country you haven't lived in in five years. The fear of losing all the work and connections I've made haunts me. I get through this by trying to keep my head on straight.”
“I've always been a very ambitious person, and when I put my mind to it I nearly always get to my goal. An obvious challenge that I've faced is being a woman in this male saturated field. I've been through my fair share of patronisation and I've definitely had projects been put on the back burner for other male lead films. I'm also painstakingly British when it comes to self-deprecation and politeness, so that doesn't help with putting myself out there in this field. I've found the way I present myself is a good tactic to being seen and heard. I dress quite 'goth' some might say, I wear a lot of black and from afar could possibly look a little scary to some. It's a funny parallel because I would never hurt a fly, but presenting tougher than I am helps me feel more confident in what I have to say and present.”
“Having confidence in your own work and abilities is the most important thing to have when it comes to being an artist, something that I've only been able to really grasp a hold of in recent years.”
What’s been the most rewarding part of being an artist for you? Do you have any advice for future artists?
“I love making people feel. I think that's what I do what I do. I love editing because even staying on one person just a frame longer can completely change the mood. It's exhilarating for me! Nothing is more rewarding to me than creating a film that makes someone feel better about an experience that they've gone through. I express my feelings through making and experiencing art, so i want to make art for others to experience.”
“My advice for future artists is to not be so set in exactly the type of art they want to make. I went from being a musical theatre performer, to theatre actress, to film actor, to editor to deciding that I want to get a masters in screenwriting.”
“Life is unexpected and I think if you love art, whatever type you make, there's a good chance you'll also love other mediums too. Dipping your toe into other waters can only make you more rounded and experiences. And maybe you'll find something you love even more.” Do you have any advice on how we can do our part in supporting emerging international artists like you?
“The best way people can support emerging international artists is to hire them. It might sound incredibly self explanatory but it's true. Finding jobs is very hard and very stressful for international artist. Those of us who graduate from college programs in America get one year of Optional Practical Training (OPT). This means we can stay in the States for an extra year on our visas, but must work within the field we graduated from. So, young international actors and filmmakers can't pick up jobs in retail or hospitality like most young artists do. Therefore, hiring freelance international artists is really the best way you can support us.”
“Also just support our work! Sending it to your friends, or inviting more people to come to our events. Everything helps when you're in a fight to create art and get a visa!”
Thank you for your continuous support and kindness in this extraordinary times.
Lots of love,
Interview by conducted & written by Veronica Velez