Visual activist Paige Polk talks transparency + accessibility in upcoming project Beautiful Things

, 1 February 2017

“I honestly think we can all succeed if we support one another,” says Brooklyn-based filmmaker and visual activist Paige Polk, whose work explores “the intersection of art and advocacy, where the political and the creative coexist,” and whose identity as a queer Black artist informs the way gender, heritage, and sexuality are unpacked through multimedia storytelling. 

Upcoming project Beautiful Things will be a QPOC narrative short and highlights creative work from women, queer people and people of colour who make up the international initiative. Applying a feminist mentality to the project, it will also be a “radical experiment in film transparency,” as described by the production team (Polk as the writer/director and Carla Tramullas as Director of Photography).

Paige Polk, ‘Beautiful Things’, (2017-ongoing). Teaser image. Photo Carla Tramullas

The aim of the project is to make independent filmmaking accessible. By providing an open platform and a behind-the-scenes look at each step of the production, it hopes to help others who may not have the resources, knowledge-base or community to realize their own potential.

The Beautiful Things journey will kick off on February 1 with a crowdfunding campaign to raise money, with a public budget alongside. Throughout the production, they will be circulating a series of newsletters from creatives in the film industry (including personalized written pieces from the crew providing diverse perspectives on their roles), as well as updates, tips and other content on both their Medium and Facebook pages.

We asked Polk to tell us more about what Beautiful Things is all about:  

Paige Polk, ‘Beautiful Things’, (2017-ongoing). Teaser image. Photo Carla Tramullas.

** What do you think is the biggest hurdle young and underrepresented filmmakers and artists are facing today?

Paige Polk: It’s a combination of accessibility and encouragement. Marginalized groups are underrepresented on screen, but also behind the camera, and the film world is filled with tiny pockets of people who know each other. If you’re not in one of those pockets, it’s easy to feel isolated and unmotivated.

Then there’s the know-how. There’s a reason some people go to school for this work; it’s a lot of information. So if you don’t have the resources to get in these circles or enter a learning community, you’re left alone, confused, and feeling like the ‘idk’ emoji.

** What made you want to embark on the ‘transparency’ project that differs from your previous ways of working?

Paige Polk, ‘Beautiful Things’, (2017-ongoing). Teaser image. Photo Carla Tramullas.

PP: I’ve worked at a lot of startups and the word ‘transparency’ gets thrown around a lot. It’s one of those things that is great in theory, but people are actually very afraid of visibility because that correlates with accountability. But there are some spaces that take it very seriously and are thriving. Take August Consulting for example. I’ve never seen these principles adapted to film, so I was excited to see my love for community and knowledge circulation manifest in the work I’m currently doing.

** Can you tell us a little bit about the new film?

PP: Beautiful Things follows Mona and Hazel, with a romance nuanced by motherhood and self-doubt with a Brooklyn backdrop. It’s a story about love, obligation, fear — all of these complex and beautiful things. 

** Was the project inspired by anything in particular?

PP: On the real, I was romantically involved with someone who was a bit older and I left the situation feeling very confused. This art was my way of figuring out my emotions for myself.

Paige Polk, ‘Redemption’, (2016). Film still. Courtesy the artist.

** Are you drawn to filmmaking because of the culture of community around it?

PP: Absolutely. I’m a self-described Storyteller. I’m fascinated by how knowledge is shared and the ways that communities form. My first adult job was at an art gallery engaging with the local Houston community, then I went on to community organizing in Lima, then found my way to filmmaking.**

The Beautiful Things crowd-funding campaign is running online at Kickstarter to February 26, 2017.