The Texture Of Falling: Q&A With Director Maria Allred

The Texture Of Falling: Q&A With Director Maria Allred

In what context was The Texture of Falling created?

The film’s themes directly, metaphorically, and somewhat satirically dramatize aspects of what it means to be a female filmmaker (or even simply an artist or filmmaker in general).  

I am the most powerful figure in the making of The Texture of Falling as the producer, main investor, writer, director, DP, editor, etc. I am also the most subjugated character within the film, playing Sylvia, the sub in an S&M relationship. Through practical and thematic means, I am breaking down the hierarchy intrinsic in the filmmaking process and industry. Simultaneously, I’m asserting my own sexuality outright as a female director, before my sexuality can be owned, used against me, or stripped from me by others in this “old boy” industry.  

This is adds to the increasingly honest conversation about gender inequality and abuse of power, but with a lesser explored perspective. Often those advocating for a more enlightened position can be more Catholic than the pope. I’m hoping to offer a perspective that goes beyond the binaries of powerful-or-subjugated and that illustrates the freedom of occupying both positions, as well as everything in between. 

Another important scoop has to do with a unique style of filmmaking I utilized in the production of The Texture of Falling that I have deemed “process-oriented.” It is based in Jungian principles and goes beyond dialogical improvisation in that subterranean interpersonal dynamics that arose in the creation of the film informed the content of the film. Due to this approach, in the making of Texture, and the end product, there was and is a perpetual dance with truth and fiction—life and art. 

What inspires you as a filmmaker?

I am inspired by striking, often humorous, moments where it seems that mundane life conspires to transcend the common perceptual duality of bad and good, the fear of death, and the weighted struggle for mere survival to unveil the poetry of existence. 

I find inspiration in philosophy, painting, and visual art history, those having been my primary focus in my academic and personal studies for many years. I’ve also been involved in dance and the movement arts since my teens, and consequently am inspired greatly by music, rhythm, and the corporeal immediacy of live performance.

Where did this story come from and why is telling this story so important to you?  

I could tell you how the story of how I am traditionally a love skeptic, but was finally turned upside down with this thing called “falling in love” that I had for years judged and deemed fantasy—mere chemicals and procreative drive. How our love was the star-crossed sort—as swiftly and powerfully as it came it left—leaving me like a wild animal running through the proverbial night, and how this then poured out into Texture’s script. But that would be the cliché that we have all experienced.

It was not a simple love story that I was compelled to write, but rather a multi-layered exploration of the nature of love and art, truth and fiction, and the intricate connections between. I felt I had stumbled upon a secret—that there is some fundamental correlation between the mythos that is evoked in both falling in love and being taken by the artistic muse.   

I was moved to write a story that was as much about the artist developing into her self with the milieu of the film industry as the backdrop—much of which is illustrated metaphorically through rich symbolism and some satirical melodrama. 

Further, through a unique method I used, process-oriented filmmaking, the process of making the film became material for the film’s story itself. 

We are living in a time of mimesis—an ever expanding blurring of fiction and reality—where replicas of the original and relationships between replicas are becoming increasingly complex. We live in a mimetic world.  My film is a reflection of this contemporary societal situation.  

I am attempting to offer the audience a well-crafted break in convention, whose mimetic style reflects, and possibly causes the viewer to reflect upon, the mimetic world they are living in. 

And so in closing, though the film is narrative fiction, it is also in essence tracking my personal evolution as an artist, lover, and female feature film director.  

Tell us about your very unique creative process.

I used a unique method for The Texture of Falling that I deemed “process-oriented style.”  

In applying this method, I drew upon the subterranean interpersonal dynamics that arose in the filmmaking process itself to inform the content and direction of the story. In particular, I implemented it in one of the two central storylines, as well as in a subplot.  The other central storyline was heavily scripted and served as an anchor. 

I began experimenting with this method through a 20-minute piece named, Awaken in the Dream, which was never released.  The method’s genesis lies in Jungian process groups founded and led by author Paul Levy, which I have participated in for almost a decade. 

Further as a part of this experimental style, I cast non-actors and actors alike. Part of the exploration was seeing what I could pull from untrained, but willing, actors coming in with beginner’s mind and reacting to the stimulus of creation without resting on formal skills. This resulted in fumbles as well as moments of triumph.  

What was the greatest challenge of making this film?

The greatest challenge of making my first feature was learning how to tell a story.  Because I tend to think more atmospherically than linearly and tend to be attracted more to riddles than conventionally structured stories I had a great challenge of learning that a successful story itself is a riddle. It is deceptively simple. Now that I have learned this I am going to approach my second film with an enthusiasm for the solving of the riddle of making an elegant, tension-filled, emotionally gripping story. 

Your debut film The Texture of Falling had a theatrical release in four cities across the US and is now available on Amazon Prime. How has the reception been so far? 

The reception to my debut film, The Texture of Falling, has been polarized. Throughout its theatrical release, audience members approached me after the premieres with sincere praise and admiration for the film, and there have been critics and online audience reviewers who have tuned into it and have been dazzled and inspired. On the other hand, multiple critics have hated it, haven’t understood it, or haven’t appreciated it—as Katie Walsh from The LA Times proclaims, “The Texture of Falling is more about the art of nothingness.”

I think both responses are valid. 

It’s a very unusual film written in a nonconventional story structure with unique ambitions and methodologies. It is labyrinthine, poetic, deconstructionist, and stylized. It has layers of satirical melodrama (which may not be readily apparent) and it pokes fun at itself as well as at cinema at large.

This type of work is not for everyone, but it is definitely for some. I have witnessed audience members who are hungry for what it offers, and critics who believe it is offering nothing.

One thing I will note is that I don’t think the critics were properly prepared for such an out-of-the-box type of film. The press release issued at the time of the theatrical run framed it more in terms of a traditional indie, but it’s very much not that. I think knowing going in that you’ll be viewing a film that’s attempting something quite different can possibly help in being open to what it is in fact offering.

The Texture of Falling has been your most ambitious project to date and also your first experience in the feature length format where you took on many roles. What are the lessons that you’ve learnt about filmmaking, and perhaps yourself, that have made you grow better and stronger?

I think that my naïve ambition and zealous drive in making Texture were both wonderful and terrible. I made something so singular, personally risky, and as some have said, “bold,” and I think that is commendable and maybe even admirable. Conversely, the more I learn about filmmaking, cinema, and the ancient art of storytelling, the more I discover how little I know and how vast the opportunity for growth within this prodigious medium is. I am more humbled than ever and hungry to learn.

While I want to keep my ambition and boldness, I also want to take in what the critics have offered and learn all that I can about storytelling and connecting to the human heart and mind. I am on a journey of discovery, not only mining the gems of wisdom of the tradition, but ultimately excavating deep within to discover my true voice.

With Texture I was interested in making something completely outside the cinematic box. I was more interested in creating a riddle rather than a linear story. However, at this phase in my artistic career, I am anxiously engaged in the riddle of telling a strong story. My second script, Mukbang: A Watcher’s Game (working title), which I have recently completed, is written in conventional three-act structure, and I’m just blown away at how much room for play and creativity exists within that.

What current projects are you working on? Tell us more about what’s next. 

Currently I am in development for my second feature film, Mukbang: A Watcher’s Game, a dark comedy tale of a Tibetan Buddhist teacher who kills himself in front of his followers, and the wild 48-hour journey that Joseph Altman, a Chicago Tribune journalist covering the story, takes as he interviews a colorful cast of characters from the community and ultimately is thrust into an existential expedition of morality and reality. 

I am also shooting a short film, Little Nations, this summer in Chicago, which I will be entering into the festival circuit. The story follows a piece of important mail as it travels through the hands and into the worlds of children from a rich array of cultures that constitute the diverse Rogers Park neighborhood in North Chicago. Ultimately the film will be about the true multicultural spirit of America. 

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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.