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The Mass Media

UMASS Boston Artist Spotlight : Chelsea Spear

Chelsea Spear, a student here at UMASS Boston, has created a short documentary piece currently up and WGBH Lab titled “Lock and Key.” Using the computers at our own Healey Library Chelsea shot and edited the piece within the past month. The work explores keeping a paper journal which, sadly, in this age of blogs and various other electronics, is becoming less common. I urge everyone to support their fellow student and visit this link, http://thewgbhlab.org/nova_video/lock-and-key-0, in order to view the video. Now, below, is an interview with the artist:

What is your Major and year At UMASS Boston?My major is English with a concentration on Creative Writing. I believe my year is ’11, but I started out part-time this semester and may be graduating later.

How did you find out about entering your documentary at the WGBH Lab?I found out about the Open Call through a mailing that WGBH Lab sent out. Typically, the Lab either only accepts pitches for projects, or they only extend their Open Calls to select groups of mediamakers.

(For example, the previous Open Call, which dealt with global warming, was only open to high school students.) In a video on the front page for Open Call, Lab director Chris Hastings mentioned that he wanted participants to make shorts with the personal feel of a video blog entry. The theme and approach sparked an inchoate enthusiasm in me, and I knew I’d regret letting this opportunity pass me by. The idea to make a short about journals came a few hours after deciding to take part in the Open Call. I’d initially written two drafts of a short portraying a nascent friendship between two journal-keepers, but it seemed too ambitious to which I could do justice in a limited period of time, so instead I decided to make a documentary about keeping a journal.

You describe Journal keeping as an almost cathartic experience. Do you ever look back on what you have written or is writing in a journal more of a way to let things go and moving forward?

I very rarely go back and reread what I’ve written. Many of the things I trust to the pages of my journal are cringeworthy, either because they document something that has caused me pain or something I find embarrassing. When I read the deluxe ten-year anniversary edition of _Ghost World_ this past summer, Daniel Clowes mentioned in a footnote that he rarely goes back and reads his journals, so I feel less pathetic in this pursuit. As I grow older, though, I do feel some curiosity about what I’ve written, and I know at some point I’ll go back and reread my journals someday. My boyfriend has pointed out that they could be a source for another short film, and if there’s any temptation I can’t resist, it’s the potential for inspiration.

Are your journals merely daily happenings or do they include other artistic content such as stories, poems and drawings?

Whenever I’m working on a new film, I give a lot of my journal over to trying to figure out the characters and the story. Many times, when I’m in a creative frame of mind, I’ll write less about what’s happening in my own life and more about my progress in a particular artistic pursuit. My friend Domenica and I are collaborating on a short film about a handsome, artistic young woman named Marianne Cesario, and many of my entries deal with how I imagine her. I also tend to write a lot about my knitting projects. Many of them are kind of boring, and sometimes just saying “This project bores me, and here’s why” allows me to find more enjoyment in it. Admitting my frustration with many things seems to help me find the good in it.

Do you hope one day that your writings to can be a legacy for your grandchildren to learn from and be inspired by or do you plan on taking those inner thoughts and turmoils to the grave?

Because I devote so much of my journals to my artistic pursuits, I definitely want to preserve them and make them available to future generations. HOWEVER. If I were to do this, I’d have an eye on judiciously editing what is made available. Many of my journal entries detail arguments I’ve had with friends or my momentary ill opinions of my family or my boyfriend, which I wrote safe in the knowledge that they would never read those. While I wouldn’t want to burn those entries, I wouldn’t want anyone else to read them. Additionally, I’ve blacked out several portions of journal entries, which sounds extreme…until you take into consideration that I wrote them while I was suffering with different illnesses. I wrote about those things because they were a part of my life on that day and I felt the need to address them, but I wouldn’t want them to be part of the public record about me. So I took a Sharpie to them.

Looking back over journals I kept, mainly when traveling, I find that I only write when something bad happened or I was having a shitty day. To you have a similar experience or do you diligently record everyday?

I make a date with myself every morning to write. When I started writing, I had the opposite experience from you — I had a harder time sitting down and writing if I’d had a bad day the day before. I think I felt as though I was living it twice if I had to write about it. As I’ve gotten more into the groove of keeping a journal, I’ve found that writing every day — even on the absolute worst days — helped stabilize me and let me find a way to try and solve my problems. This past summer I dealt with a great deal of upheaval (which eventually led me to pursuing my degree at UMass Boston), and one of the few things that kept me sane was sitting down every day and writing about how I was feeling.

If you could read the Journal of anyone is past History who would it be and why?

I’m of two minds about this. On the one hand, one of my all-time artistic heroes — the filmmaker Guy Maddin — has published his journals in a book called _From The Atelier Tovar_. While there’s some wonderful, inspirational insights on making movies, he also devotes a lot of space to a stomach bug he suffers while he attends a film festival one year. Thus, any desire to pick the locks of my heroes’ journals is tempered by the fear that I might read a phrase like, uh, “six or seven mini-poops”. On the other, ink-stained hand, the knowledge I gained from reading the filmmaking portions of Atelier Tovar has come to the fore of my mind again. Just for inspiration’s sake, I’d love to read the diaries of Maya Deren, an experimental filmmaker and choreographer who directed several short subjects in the 1940s and ’50s. She wrote a witty first-person account of producing “Ritual in Transfigured Time” for (of all places) Mademoiselle magazine, which has made me curious about her own diurnal entries. There’s a certain enigmatic artist who has inspired my character Marianne Cesario. I would love to get my hands on his Moleskines, just to see what makes him tick.

If you are a student artist at UMASS Boston and want to share some of your work please contact the Mass Media Arts Section at [email protected]. I would love to include more student pieces and create a dialogue amongst the artistic community on campus.