Building a Story Through Music: Q&A With Director Joey Ciccoline

Written by Brandie Peters

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About a year ago that Filmshortage.com featured the short film 88:88, which was written, directed and produced by emerging film talent Joey Ciccoline. 88:88 a unique sci-fi film about a girl who takes extraordinary measures to claim her freedom from her ominous alien abductors. The film, which was widely, praised for its mood setting soundtrack, was collaboration with musical ensemble Make Up and Vanity Set. In preparation for their next creative pairing Ciccoline is currently running a Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for his next short film endeavor ‘Eidolon’. We had the opportunity for a quick Q&A with Joey to find out more about this creative marriage and find out what fans of 88:88 can expect to see in Joey’s follow up short film “Eidolon”.

Watch the trailer to Eidolon
See The Campaign
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Your work appears to be highly influenced by the music of Make Up and Vanity Set in fact it your films and their album appear to be a collaborative effort. So, I have to ask what comes first the chicken or the egg? Is the film concept inspired by the music or is the music inspired by film?

Joey: The relationship is actually less linear than that, and it varies a great deal from project to project. 88:88 began with the film. The music came about during postproduction, originally just to provide a score for the film. As Matt and I became friends and talked more about the project as a whole, he kept working beyond the score. In the end there was an entire album based on the film, spiritually carrying on the story of 88:88 beyond where it ended. In the wake of 88:88, Matt began working on what became his next album, Wilderness. All along I was listening to demos and work in progress, but the idea of a film was nowhere in my mind. Later, as the album progressed, Matt shared the concept that the album was built upon. In this I could see a way to tell the story he was building through the music, and Eidolon came about as a result.

So, to answer your question, it goes both ways.

To help audiences better understand the connection between the music of Make Up and Vanity Set and your film can you expand on how this relationship has developed?

Joey: Back when my friend Sean and I were working on 88:88, we were looking for a piece of music to end the film. We were hitting dead ends trying to secure the rights to a couple of different tracks when the Makeup and Vanity Set album Never Let Go came out. The album was fantastic, and the track “A New Dawn” felt like a perfect fit. I got in touch with Matt about using the song and the idea of maybe doing a simple score for the rest of the film. We met and talked and realized that we had a lot in common, artistically. He was in to doing the score and we tried a custom version of “A New Dawn” at the end of the film.

As things progressed, the score was shaping up and began to really strengthen the tone of the film. The end always felt flat, though. I tweaked the edit and re-recorded the final line of dialogue multiple times, and somehow it just still wasn’t working. The music wasn’t feeling right, either. This point did the score and Matt had begun working on the tracks that became the 88:88 album. He sent me a couple of demos. One of these was an early version of “A Glowing Light, A Promise”. I immediately dropped it in the edit and then sent the film to Sean. We both agreed, the film worked now. It was like magic. It was all in the music.

From there, Matt carried on with the 88:88 album. Inspired by the music of the album, I created a series of promo videos. Since then, we’ve this sort if back and forth-creative relationship.

From a production stand point releasing a short film and an album that is intertwined is a relatively original idea, how do you think this will impact the reach of the film?

Joey: The symbiotic nature of the album and the film is such that anyone who enjoys one will likely appreciate the other. Ideally, this sort of relationship will help bring a wider audience for each component. One thing that’s important in this is that the film and the album are two separate, but related works. More often when a film and music are connected, the album is either a soundtrack to the film, or the film is sort of a glorified long music video. Neither is the case with Wilderness and Eidolon, and neither was the case with 88:88.

As a filmmaker, what goes through your mind when you listen to a music album?

Joey: For me, everything is visual. Listening to music is a very visual experience. Filmmaking has always been something that I’ve approached based on music, in some way or another. In the case of this project, much of the world and feel, and even specific shot or scene ideas come solely from the music.

Music being such a big part of your films, we’re curious to know what kind of music you listens to on a daily basis? Who are your favorite artists and how do they feed your creative mind?

Joey: That’s one of those terrible questions to ask someone. To narrow it down… when it comes to music in more cinematic terms, somewhere around thirteen years old, I discovered film scores and the idea that the music in movies might actually be worth listening to on its own. It was all pretty standard stuff, a lot of the great epic films of the nineties, like Last of the Mohicans, Braveheart, Jurassic Park, and Legends of the Fall. It was sort of the last gasp of the idea of great classic themes in film scores. Into college and the 2000’s, that was kind of replaced for me by a lot of electronic music. Just the other night, Matt and I were discussing how films like Trainspotting and Hackers had great soundtracks that introduced both of us, and many others, to the electronic music world. These days, there’s a less clear connection between film and the music I listen to outside of the Makeup and Vanity Set stuff.

I’ve been working with Sean on writing a feature film follow up to 88:88. As part if that process, I made a mix of music that serves as sort of a writing soundtrack. I’ve posted some of it as an example: http://open.spotify.com/user/wafflelad/playlist/719mGcqHZHg67WAjtyRDSy

Joey’s Indiegogo campaign for his latest short film ‘Eidolon’ ends in only a few short days. If you would like to show your support for this project please donate!