Though La Fe'e Rouge might sound like the title to an old French cinema classic, it's actually a new short film created in Mount Horeb. Produced and directed by Tashai Lovington and Robert Lughai of Tarazod Films, it is a fantastical first person look at Barbie dolls as they are transformed in an artistic rite-of-passage.
The film caught the eyes of the jury reviewing applications for the Independent Lens Online Film Festival, who selected it for inclusion last summer. Launched in early December, this online festival highlights ten short films, and is sponsored by the PBS documentary series Independent Lens and the Independent Television Service.
Viewers will be able to cast votes for their favorite flick in the Independent Lens Online Shorts Festival Audience Award until Feb. 1. Simply rate La Fe'e Rouge after viewing the film. The audience award will be announced on Wednesday, Feb. 7.
Taking a break from their personal and freelance work behind cameras and editing decks, Lovington and Lughai spoke with The Daily Page about their work. They discuss La Fe'e Rouge, their other creations for Tarazod Films (including something titled Mad City Chickens), and their plans in the wake of their Independent Lens experience. This interview follows below.
The Daily Page: Can you tell me a little bit about yourselves, particularly about how you came to be filmmakers? Robert Lughai: We both have always had an interest in storytelling and filmmaking. We each wrote stories and made short Super 8 movies when we were kids. But as adults, we found ourselves in other careers, and it wasn't until just a few years ago that we decided to seriously pursue our filmmaking.
What is Tarazod Films? When and how was it launched? What does its name mean? Tashai Lovington: Tarazod Films is our production company. When we both became serious about filmmaking, we formed a partnership, created a website at tarazod.com and went forward with our projects. The name Tarazod is something we came up with. Like the name Kodak, it's a made-up word, but since it is uniquely ours, it has meaning for us.
Where were you and what were you doing when you came up with the idea for La Fe'e Rouge and how did you get involved in the world of doll remakes?
Lovington: We were living in Boulder, Colorado. It was a time in ours lives when we didn't have a lot of money or free time. We were not making any films, but I started experimenting with makeup and wardrobe on dolls. I've always been drawn to archetypal images and characters from mythology. Whenever I had the chance, I would practice re-painting the faces, re-rooting the hair, and remaking the clothing. This went on for about a year at which time we moved to Wisconsin.
Lughai: Tashai had created quite a number of these doll remakes, and I first thought that it would be a good thing to document them on video. But as the idea developed, we added a fantasy storyline to it, a kind of mythological rite-of-passage.
How much did La Fe'e Rouge cost to make? How did you finance it?
Lovington: We already owned the camera equipment and editing software programs. The dolls, props & accessories we purchased second-hand from thrift shops and online. Including DV tapes and other costs, the expenses for the film came to under $500, which we paid for ourselves.
Can you tell me about the equipment you used to shoot and edit La Fe'e Rouge?
Lughai: When we first started to document Tashai's work on the dolls, I was shooting with an inexpensive Panasonic one CCD chip camera. But when we realized that this could actually become more of a short narrative piece, we switched to the 3 chip Panasonic DVX-100A. The film was edited on a Mac G5 with Final Cut Pro 4.5.
How long did it take you to shoot and edit the film? What changed during the process?
Lughai: We shot over a period of about two months, and then spent another 4 weeks editing while we worked on other projects as well. During the shoot, the story went through three changes until it finally felt right to us. In post, we laid down a temporary soundtrack song by a popular music group to create the feel we wanted for the film. Then we set about digitally arranging our own piece of music, which eventually replaced it.
Why did you submit the film to the Independent Lens Online Film Festival?
Lovington: PBS's Independent Lens is a highly respected television series, and we felt that if our film was chosen to be included in their online festival, it could only be beneficial to our filmmaking careers.
How do you think being accepted into the Independent Lens Fest will help you with getting your other works screened?
Lovington: Being accepted into any film festival helps to raise awareness of our films, which in turn, helps to attract interest and funding for future projects.
Where else do you hope to screen the film?
Lughai: This past November, La Fe'e Rouge won Best Short Documentary at the Melbourne Independent Filmmaker's Festival in Florida. We're also submitting it to Los Angeles Film Festival and the Seattle International Film Festival, which occur mid-year 2007.
How does La Fe'e Rouge fit into your artistic vision for Tarazod Films?
Lughai: Good story always comes first. Then, if we do our job right, something will stir within the viewer. The 'bust the box' theme of La Fe'e Rouge works for us.
Can you tell me more about the Mad City Chickens project you are working on?
Lovington: Mad City Chickens is a genre-crossing project that we've been working on for sometime. It documents the real-life backyard chicken owners in Madison as well as other chicken-related "occurrences" in the Midwest. It's a longer-term project; look to hear more about it in the future.
What's the most significant upcoming project you are tackling?
Lovington: We're in the developmental stages of a narrative project with the working title of The Edwardian Full Moon Encounter. An adaptation of a tale by one of the masters of Edwardian short story, it'll be the largest project we've ever undertaken.
What is the last film you saw that you would recommend to persons reading this interview?
Lovington: We recently watched the DVD of The Others starring Nicole Kidman. Not knowing what to expect, we found it an intelligent story that was developed well; real character depth. It worked for us.
How does your commercial and freelance work complement & impact your own narrative and documentary productions?
Lughai: Experience. The more experience we get working for others, the more enhanced our own projects become.
Who do you see as the audience for your work as Tarazod?
Lovington: Our films all have similar underlying themes, but the specific audience for each varies according to genre and the level of story depth. While the target audience for some may be family, others are definitely geared for the more mature.
Do you broadcast all of your productions on WYOU?
Lughai: As an employee of WYOU in Madison, I know my boss would certainly like it if we broadcast all of our films on the air. And while we have shown a number of them, the more recent pieces like La Fe'e Rouge have to go the route of the film festival circuit first before seeing airtime on Channel 4.
Note: Tarazod is also launching a late-night weekly program this month on WYOU Channel 4, where Lughai is the education director and program coordinator. Titled "Not Docs," the show will feature short, art, and experimental films by independent producers, airing at 12:30 a.m. on Thursdays.