There’s a word in German, “gesamtkunstwerk,” that means “total work of art.”
It’s an accurate term to use to describe Cara Stricker‘s video for music project DROOL‘s “Down”, fittingly shot in Berlin. Since DROOL is Stricker’s musical collaboration with musician John Kirby, the video allows her to fully flesh out her vision for her music, sliding effortless between mediums. The result is a pounding, drone-shot trip through the snow-swept European city, its eerily empty public spaces inhabited by almost feral-seeming young dancers.
Stricker’s work as a director, photographer and music producer have been published internationally including Nowness, Fader Interview Magazine, Dazed and Confused, Vogue US, I-D Magazine, New York Times, 25 Magazine, Oyster Magazine, VS Magazine, Riot of Perfume, Russh Magazine, Vice, MTV and Rolling Stone, while collaborations include, Chanel, Missoni, Mother NY, Alexander Wang, Parkwood Entertainment, A$AP Rocky, See Pictures & Sol Films, Terrible Records, Debbie Harry, Cara Delevingne, Kirsten Dunst, XL Records, Matte Projects, MiLK, Gap, Fools Gold, Vogue, EMI, Siberia Records, Kacy Hill and Modular Records.
We spoke to the multi-talented director and musician about her media-blurring work, starting her career in Australia, and her desire to represent more complex female subjects onscreen.
Cara on set in Berlin
Tell us a bit about DROOL and your role in the project, moving between music and film. How did this collaboration come about? How has music played into your creative practice throughout your career?
DROOL came about organically. I was performing and making music in New York for some friend’s art or fashion shows and collaborating with a friend, John Kirby. That rolled into an album after we were asked to perform an extended version at Sugar Mountain in Australia in 2015.
It was an 11-track dreamscape album that we recorded and produced together. I directed a 40-minute film piece that accompanied the intended one-off performance in Australia. I wanted to push the experience of creating film further and was continuingly inspired to take the story into the sonic space. Making my own music seemed like the best starting point. The first album was released and picked up by Terrible Records, and DROOL was born — a persona influenced by my past but separate from me entirely.
This second iteration of DROOL came from a desire to give a developed story in a trilogy release over the next coming months.
For this release, I wrote and produced the music. I really wanted to make a bigger sound with this piece. BOT shared a multitude of samples he makes, I reconfigured and reworked them as well as worked with Kate Levitt to make more beats underneath. Then spent time honing in on a vocal and track.
DROOL DEUS explores the chaos and end of humanity, toward rebirth and love. The first video follows artists in a city void of humans as they come together to explore hope in the dark. I wanted that hope to be vocalized in the repeating mantra: “If you want to keep me down, work it out.”
This first track is about this self-realization and strength, celebrating the cerebral artist angel. Moving beyond the ceilings in this dark present and searching for the near beginning, fearlessly. Running toward it.
The track DOWN takes from the industrial side and influence of my experimental music background in Australia and bloodline to Berlin. All the things that transformed my family, marked me and shocked me. Creating beauty out of that destruction, and resultant free thinking and creative individuality to spawn as it has in Berlin. That inspires me. All the memories in the past to create a new future. Allowing the visuals and music talk together.
I’m interested in this new dark space of what our new nature will be. A new love, a Homo Deus where our skin will be particles of another universe, built from our memories.
Throughout my career music has played a central role. I was full-time dancer for 15 years, and played every instrument landing on drums throughout my teens. After moving into film in my late teens, music and its experiential quality always was a huge influence when watching film, creating it, or experiencing visuals in the world in exhibitions and installations. I heard colors from sounds, and stories from the music… they are inseparable in my practice.
How did you originally begin work on this music video?
Initially, this film spawned from writing stories for other peoples’ tracks. Sometimes, the story comes first spawned from sound or visa versa. It happened quite rapidly. After we had shot the film, the sound took a new direction. I wanted to collaborate working with performers and artists who had shaped Berlin. Kiani Del Valle was key in this process, choreographing and working with the talent to shape the vision. We grabbed her from LA, and flew back to her home, with Meagan Judkins and Ilona Klaver to spend a week in pre-production before we shot for two days and flew into post… a sleepless blur.
Performers rehearsing on set
Were there any aesthetic influences that you had in mind while shooting?
I was very aware of the beautiful graphic composition of Berlin. I wanted to highlight the utilitarian architecture of the city, with the organic nature of a lone humane and how it would play off in this space, a concrete jungle. Particularly playing off the raw energy of the artists of Berlin, and the anti-establishment mentality that they came together to express. Norwegian cinema had a great impact on me in film school, and I just love the colors of “Let the Right One In.”
This video is focused on bodies moving through space. How did the location affect the way that you shot this project?
The starkness of Berlin was a character in itself. The desolate space informed where we shot, places that you wouldn’t never see quiet at 2am were empty. The symmetry of the city, with the snow on the floor, so impermanent and fleeting, across the neutral landscape of Berlin, highlighted the sense of aloneness of each characters, and their movements. I wanted the camera to be fluid and circular, with moments of rough camera movement, to be able to explore humane expression in such a dead surrounding.
Can you take us through what the experience of shooting was like? What were some particular challenges of this project? Any particular moments that stand out to you?
Berlin being minus eight degrees shooting outside meant that every phone died and the drones wouldn’t fly… that definitely cut into our time shooting! The dancers couldn’t stay outside for more than a short amount of time before freezing. We also were governed by the flow of Berlin’s schedule, waking up at 4am, after everyone hadn’t slept the prior night, to shoot in the empty train station… it was a week of lucid dreaming. That city never sleeps. Shooting was a dream… we basically road all over Berlin stopping the car to research each spot on a whim after finding our solid locations.
The talent was so incredible. They were so open to art above all, that was the most inspiring. That really stood out to me… meeting and working with all these inspiring people. We all became very close after this experience, perhaps because we were bundling together to keep each other warm. I wanted to make a film out of each and every one of the cast. Each film storyline seemed to have its own life and story. A particular challenge was to get all these locations on our tight schedule and budget. We really executed everything run and gun. The sunrise and sunset marking our in and out points of light, avoiding any “run ins.” Another challenge, although more seamless than I imagined, was post – ending up running across Berlin, Australia, New York and LA, but somehow seemed to work.
On location in the Berlin metro
Are there any differences between the final product and your original idea?
What are your goals with this multi-disciplinary project? Since you’re known for your format-blurring approach to content creation, what are some goals that you have for your career in general – any dream projects?
For DROOL, to release a trilogy that has a clear, filmic story—both sonically and visually—for now. Ultimate though, I see this conversation between sound and film, best expressed in feature films. I just finished writing and directing a 20-minute short film, which I scored in collaboration with and featuring my brother Daniel Stricker, Empress Of, Weyes Blood and Mind Gamers (Sebastien Tellier, John Kirby, Daniel Stricker) My dream project is the coming feature that I’m about to begin development on. And more after that…
What are some of your favorite projects you’ve gotten to work on?
As of late, my short film Maverick, which is nearly finished in post. It was incredible to write and direct it, and work with such inspiring talents as Abbey Lee and Rhys Coiro. I’m excited to share that soon.
Sonically, it also gave me the chance to collaborate and feature some of my favorite artists. It was a truly gorgeous project that I guess I’m nearly done with!
You’ve worked for years in the Australian and New York film industry – can you speak to the differences in your experience between working in Australia and the United States?
When I was just starting out, I predominantly assisted every single person I could in Australia shooting music videos and editorial, which I was pushed into quite young by my older mentors. I definitely felt a big shift when I moved to the states seven years ago and began shooting in New York. Australia is small, and I feel like it’s hard to break out from there to the states. I see many influential films in Australia that I wish had been able to travel and impact the States more. I felt like the shift to New York was far more commercially focused, with a faster turn around, in and out the door; whereas in Los Angeles, the dream of directing and writing features with longer content is nurtured here. At least that’s what I’ve found (or maybe looked for). I’m able to focus here more on larger projects, whereas in New York, somehow, I was pulled in every direction.
Cara and the crew
Congrats on your recent signing with Anonymous Content! What has working with Anonymous been like?
Thank you! It’s been incredible so far. I feel extremely lucky to be supported with narrative work, through to the more conceptual music video world. I was taken aback when they wanted to be a part of my short film, which focuses on a story driven by a complex female character–something I’ve rarely seen growing up on the big screen, and crave. That was quite a first project together… I mean fuck, a film on a shoestring, to get over the line took every ounce of energy, and with them, that was never a question of support. I never imagined the opportunity to sit with masters of their own right, and working with them to design, for instance the score in a 5.1 studio, or the color sessions to carve out a look for days.
As a filmmaker, so many projects I’ve worked on you pick up all the pieces, so mostly all films are based on you creating everything to finalizing the final piece. I mean, I began doing every step, shooting, editing, conceptualizing, coloring, animating, VFX, anything the project called for. For one piece, I spent a month teaching myself data moshing, to finalize a video clip. You’re ultimately alone in the process, which through necessity, teaches you all the technicalities to move quickly through a production. Working with them has been a dream and eye-opening process of relaying your vision to others, working across building treatments, visualizing and conceptualizing material with masters in their own right. It’s been a crazy support, one that takes a moment to get used to.
A beautiful and sometimes confronting process, so many people’s eyes on a project in development, you feel very vulnerable. It was initially quite new territory, and ultimately freeing! You really open up your private process to so many incredibly talented people and learn to trust them with your vision. Its inspiring, and allows you to make more, and work on projects far beyond my world. It’s just opened my eyes.
Free The Bid is committed to advocating for diverse perspectives and points of view. What do you think are some of the benefits to diverse representation on both sides of the camera lens?
Seeing all people’s perspective, and it being represented in what we watch on screen is so important for human development. The understanding and education of minority stories and characters, from individuals who came from this experience, can only further humanity, instead of having a caged identity that’s then shaped into an idealized mold. Being a child anywhere in the world, and growing up watching cinema, having ill-represented role models is destructive to human development. By having a diverse perspective, and stories written by minority groups and under-represented voices, young children developing do not shape to an ideal, but rather a reality and their best self.
I grew up, and still live, in a world where it’s rare to see an equal representation of a female complex driven character, and I feel proud to be part of a world that is slightly more open to showing that perspective, writing female characters that are like the women I know: complex, strong, vulnerable, unique and raw. I still see films in which women don’t talk, look a particular way, and act in a very particular vocabulary, spoke only when spoken to, are saved, are sexually objectified, and seem to not develop beyond that beginning note… that’s what represents a ‘women’ in most films today. This socialization only perpetuates how the sexes interact with one another, rather than celebrating the complexities of all sexes, and all experiences. Only through diverse representation on both sides will you achieve the exploration of these multitude of characters, and stories, in which allows a society to truly properly propel forward and open our eyes to celebrating nature and diversity, rather than socializing it. Whether the story is dark or light, it gives us understanding of humanity, without socializing to fit the mold. The visual industry that has tended to be heavily weighted on a cis male point of view, impedes our growth as humans, our children in their understanding of what is the ‘ideal.’ By diversifying, cinema in both industry and on-screen can support a healthy development of equal humanity and healthy society.
Dancers relaxing during the shoot
Director: Cara Stricker
Cinematography: Gerrit Piechowski
Drone Operator: Björn Baasner
US EP: Meagan Judkins
US Producer: Ilona Klaver
DE Producer: Sara Barto for Stink
EP: Nina Soriano at Anonymous Content
Choreographer: Kiani del Valle
Featuring Dancer: Jakob Yaw
Featuring Dancer: Tarren Johnson
Featuring Dancer: Rhina Raths
Stylist: Mindy Le Brock
Editor: Derek Fearon
Editor: Cara Stricker
Colourist: Houman Farahmand at MPC
3D: Anton Woll Söder
Compositor: Michael Bell
Compositor: Anton Woll Söder
Production Manager: Ali Ibrahim
AD: Julia Wilczok
VTR: Stefan Rücker
1st AC: Severin Strauss
2nd AC: Fabian Weigele
Styling Artist: Aimee Croysdill
Styling Assistants: Leonie Meyer
Make Up: Marcel Nestler
Make Up: Saskia Krause
Make Up: Silke Zeitz
Bus Driver: Frank Sonntag
PA: Philipp Neisskenwirth
PA: Sacha Pharaon
Special Force: Bert Silzner
Special Force: Issam Ibrahim
Colour Assistant: Tanner Hladek for MPC
Colour Producer: Rebecca Boorsma for MPC
Extra Dancer: Braulio Bandeira
Extra Dancer: Louis Machule
Extra Dancer: Cat Yen
Extra Dancer: Ron Hiibuna
Extra Dancer: Chantal Welker
Extra Dancer: Valerie Mevegue
Extra Dancer: Lorraine / Nuzia
Extra Dancer: Nela Mie Cara
Extra Dancer: Andrew Varhola
Extra Dancer: Jane Sheperd
Extra Dancer: Enrico T.
Extra Dancer: Iveta Rysava
Extra Dancer: Julius Jewels Petit
Extra Dancer: Luesa Reek
Extra Dancer: Mayra Wallraff
Extra Dancer: Bettina Losch
Extra Dancer: Jos McKain
Extra Dancer: Angela C
Extra Dancer: Angela Chamber
Extra Dancer: Luna Carlos
Extra Dancer: Nick Piesk
Extra Dancer: Madaleine White
Extra Dancer: Sapphira Little
Extra Dancer: Leni
Extra Dancer: Agustin Noguera
Extra Dancer: Kaspar Großkofp
Extra Dancer: Bertan Kurt
Extra Dancer: Irene Anglada
Extra Dancer: Viktor Herak
Extra Dancer: Maansi Jain
Extra Dancer: Josephine Paulenz