SHE SINGS TO THE STARS
The endless desert. A Native American grandmother lives alone tending her corn. Her half-Mexican grandson and a white, aging magician are stranded. No water. A river of stars. Everything changes: anything is possible.
About The Project
For indigenous peoples, everything is alive, everything is connected. A Hopi proverb says: “All dreams spin out from the same web.”
I was visited by Mabel, the main character of She Sings to the Stars, in a dream. She was small and very old, sitting on the back of a wooden cart, spindly legs dangling. She said, “It is time to sing the song. Listen. It will take four years.” Having lived in the Southwest for years I had come to know several elders from Third Mesa at Hopi in Arizona, and when I asked one of them about the dreams, he replied, “This happens.”
Dreams arrive, we don’t concoct them. And four long years later, the film had its first preview screening.
Mabel is not in a hurry. As a grandmother, she is the keeper of timelessness, as is reflected by the desert and the endless expanse of stars. She listens and sings with all that is around her. While little seems to happen in her world, it is a container of ‘now’, a constant now where anything (and everything) is possible.
In our 20s, my brother Jonnie and I wanted to create our own production company and began dreaming up stories. I had been trained as a director in the theatre and worked in documentary production, my brother had been schooled in business and marketing and was a serious cinephile. Life took us in different directions. We raised our families but made a promise to return to film.
In 2010, we agreed the moment was right. We created Circeo Films with the intention to produce a cycle of films about women. Innately feminine voices are too often missing in the story-telling world of film. And we seem to have forgotten the feminine nature of the Earth and our intimate relationship to it. It is a time when women all over the planet are stepping forward with their own voices — voices which have been silent for a very long time.
We dove in at the deep end with a feature-length film, She Sings to the Stars, with Jonnie as producer and me as writer/director. Writing and directing your own work is like trying to wake up inside a dream. Since filmmaking is such a fluid, intuitive medium, it can be the place where the waking and the dreaming worlds merge into one.
The script was two years in the making. I constructed three life-sized, newspaper-stuffed, dressed figures of the characters and lived with them. Sometimes they offered clues, sometimes they didn’t — there were days and weeks of nothing but frustration, then 4AM wakings where I could actually see a light inside my brain and ideas would scramble to get out. The story grew through 17 drafts.
I thought Mabel was telling me to “listen” for the story. During the years it took to craft the story, I came to realize she was telling me simply to listen. Listen deeply. One of the questions that ripples through She Sings to the Stars is ‘what does it mean to listen’? Can we stop long enough to actually listen to one other, and perhaps more importantly, to listen to something deep within ourselves? The desert offers a silence, a mystery, that compels us to listen.
As first-time feature filmmakers, we had to trust the process, take the endless stream of rejections from potential investors, potential actors, countless film festivals and dare to carry on. The process, itself, was how the vision came to life. On a tiny budget, we collaborated with precious backers and generous cast, crew, desert and stars. It has been exhilarating and exhausting, grueling and mystifying and ultimately indescribably rewarding. Along with the awards that the film has already received, the hearteningly warm response from audiences at film festivals has continued to buoy us onward.
Now in order for the film to be released in the US and internationally, it requires distribution. Across this varied world we share, in over 45 countries, people are following the film on social media, encouraging us with their enthusiastic support, eager for the film’s release. Once She Sings to the Stars has been distributed, we can begin the next film in the cycle that will be shot in Ireland with a 28-year old woman as protagonist.
The journey of creating this film, from start to (almost) finish has been a magical one. Magic is everyday. We seem to have created a separation between what we call magic or the ‘impossible’ and what we call reality, which is without magic. We knew this unequivocally as children, when in our world everything was alive, interconnected and we existed in a continual state of reciprocity. Indigenous cultures still know this. (And physics can now prove it.) We’ve believed in the magic of anything being possible, and now this possibility extends to you.