Each place in the world has its own unique flavor and soul. Whether a sleepy desert town, a bustling metropolis, or a quiet windswept mountainside – a place speaks in a voice rich with its own unique signature. Each individual moving through this space perceives and appreciates different aspects of that signature, like a receiver tuned to a specific frequency. As a creative team, we seem to always be drawn to contrasts in visual and aural landscapes. The fabric woven from both grit and chaos, order and stillness. Our work aims to explore and embody those facets which inspire us the most, translated through the medium of experimental film.
The Story Behind New Orleans from the Streets I An Experimental Film
We arrived in New Orleans just in time for New Years 2020. We were tired from four months of nonstop events, almost out of operating costs for the project, and we had a mountain of material to work through. Luckily, New Orleans took us in with open arms.
There is a spot near the French Quarter, a street where the city allows anyone to park for weeks at a time. For any city, that is very unique. Oh, the fellow travelers we met!
From that street, we had quick access to the French Quarter, as well as the riverwalk along the Mississippi. Nearby, we had a 24/7 grocery store, a funky coffeeshop with slow but reliable wifi, and even a laundromat built into the back of a cocktail bar (yes, really).
We set to work
During the day, we went to the riverwalk to play jazz standards. In the evenings, we dug into the mountain of footage, photographs, and recordings from the previous four months. After two weeks of playing music, we switched gears to building a campaign to grow our Patreon community, which would provide a much more reliable and ongoing form of support for the project’s costs. We also set to work on our website, which was woefully neglected and in need of a complete overhaul.
Time flew. Our excursions into the French Quarter involved either lugging instruments or heading hastily to a coffeeshop to upload a video. We rarely went on those romantic evening strolls we imagined we would. We couldn’t afford to eat out. We began to feel stuck, and sick with ourselves for not experiencing more of the city. Not going out to listen to jazz, not trying local cuisine. We were learning the cost of taking on so much in the past. We were in an amazing place, but broke and overwhelmed with post production and executing a new funding strategy.
Producing an experimental film
The idea to shoot an experimental film in New Orleans – much like the one we shot in the Himalayas – began to take form.
All the ways we had experienced the city – the views from the riverwalk, the sounds street musicians pouring their souls across the cobblestones, the chaos of Bourbon Street, the clip clop of horse hooves, the brass bands marching through the streets, the murals in the neighborhood that adopted us, the Natchez organ music sliding lazily across the river – this became the character and spirit we were inspired to capture in visuals and sound.
So in the final week before our departure, we both headed out. We went our separate ways. José with his camera. Cora with her microphone. And we captured. We took to the very place that had embraced and welcomed us – the streets of New Orleans.
An eery foreshadow
We left New Orleans on February 4. At that time, coronavirus was a distant thing. Just another news story of a problem in distant places, nothing close to home. Little did we know or understand, that it may have already begun circulating in New Orleans.
When we look back at this experimental film that we created, we cannot believe how uncannily prophetic it seems. From wide shots of empty spaces, to documenting the crowding in Bourban Street, to shots of unintentional social distancing – it almost appears we shot much of this during lockdown. In truth, the editing for this film had already been completed and we were in Texas when stay at home orders began to roll out.
Acknowledgements & Credits
Photography: José Luis Vílchez
Editing and Color Correction: José Luis Vílchez
Sound Design and Editing: Cora Rose
Sound Mastering: Cora Rose
Featuring street performances by: Wael Elhalaby and Percy Harrison