Jouissance is an award winning music video. The eclectic rock band The Collingwood has released a second cultish music video, “Jouissance”, from their upcoming album “You Lust or You Rust”. “Jouissance” explores the pulchritude and atmosphere of rural witchcraft and sympathetic magic in domesticity. Filmed on the lush Mielnikiewicz-Hearne estate in Newark, Delaware during the cicada-laden American summer, “Jouissance” buzzes with an ethereal electricity and occult sensibility. Akin to “Confetti”, The Collingwood’s previous video, the song features the emotive, chilling vocal stylings of guest singer Jules Corridori. “Jouissance” was directed by The Collingwood’s guitarist/singer Chris Malinowski, also a filmmaker. Ian Mosley-Duffy was the cinematographer on the project, with Colby Bartine editing. Both Bartine and Mosley-Duffy worked on Malinowski’s 2013 feature film “Yes, Your Tide is Cold and Dark, Sir.” Regarding the aesthetic choices of the “Jouissance” video, Malinowski states “I’ve always admired the quietude and attention to landscape inherent in Terrence Malick’s films. To add, I’m a fan of nineteenseventies supernatural cinema and London’s Hammer Films movement. I was able to marry these two disparate inspirations with the creation of the ‘Jouissance’ video. Because we featured Jules’ vocals more prominently on this track, having her as the Christ figure/divine feminine was a logical choice. The idea of witches eating watermelon comes from a lyric in English painter/musician Mark Fry’s classic psychedelic song ‘The Witch’, one of my favorite songs ever written. The cast, which includes my wife Chrissy, are a collection of my closest friends and their families, lending this work an endearing, warming quality. I could watch each and every one of them eternally and never get bored.” Traditionally, The Collingwood is Chris Malinowski (guitar and vocals), James Pennington (guitar), James Boruch (drums), and Jimmie Davis (bass). The full band is in the throes of recording their new record with engineer Rich Degnars of DaSa Studios. It is our pleasure to interview Chris Malinowski. His project was recently selected as the best music video of the 2021 Fall season of MIFF in Canada.
How did you start working on film and music video projects and what was the first project you worked on?
I went to film school at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. I made a 16mm short while I was there called “Son of a Fishlicker”, which got a bit of attention at the school for its innate oddness. I did my college internship work in Los Angeles and worked on “Phantasm IV: Oblivion” and “Mask of Zorro”. I finished in 1997 and moved back to Delaware, where I’m from, knowing that I did not want to work in the studio industry. Rather, I wanted to make my own films regionally. I worked in corporate at Amazon and Wachovia Bank. As well, I went back to instructing guitar, which is what I’d done most of my life, as the son of a musician. In 2007, I directed a 16mm experimental featurette entitled “’Alms’ You Say” with severance money I received from my bank job after being laid off. It got very little festival play, as the film is quite surreal and disjointed. I do love its imagery, however. This was my first film post-film school. I was 37. I’m a late-bloomer. I really wanted to continue to direct on film, exclusively, but a friend of mine convinced me to try digital video, so, in 2010, I directed my first digital music video “Fuck Yeah, Hollywood” for my band The Collingwood. I was okay with the look of the piece, so I wrote my first digital feature film “Yes, Your Tide is Cold and Dark, Sir.” as a follow-up to the video and received financing to produce the film from a local Maryland entrepreneur named Alan Burkhard. He is a family friend. “Yes, Your Tide…” is the story of a man searching for his eccentric, music teacher father whose disappeared with three of his teenaged pupils into the sand dunes of Cape Henlopen, Delaware. I played the film’s lead character and directed the piece for $150,000. The 2013 film is a streaming item on Amazon Prime. It did quite well on the festival circuit. “Yes, Your Tide…” was my first recognized project. Following, I’ve directed three music videos for The Collingwood: “White Deer”, “Confetti”, and “Jouissance”.
What was the inspiration behind the making of "Jouissance" ?
I wrote the song “Jouissance” about women in unfulfilling relationships who, metaphysically, tap into the beauty of the universe via wicca and the occult. Here, they find solace and satisfying company. At its inception, I knew the video would be rife with traditional witches. As well, my friends Barbara and Ziggy Mielnikiewicz own a lush historic property in Newark, Delaware where they often have pagan-themed gatherings and raging bonfires. I’ve attended quite a few over the years, and I always wanted to film something at their home. Both “Jouissance” and parts of “Confetti” were filmed on their property, which is near my home in Fair Hill, Maryland. I knew that I wanted guest singer Jules Corridori as the centerpiece of the video. She has a striking, deep presence which combines both innocence and shadow, akin to the video itself. Jules is one of my former guitar students. The aforementioned elements, as well as my love for the bucolic quietude of Terrence Malik’s films and England’s Hammer horror films, were the inspiration behind the “Jouissance” video.
What is the most challenging aspect of being an independent artist in the film industry?
Locating proper financing with no strings attached is the most challenging aspect for me. To boot, networking in a non-schmoozy/sincere fashion is also a challenge. I like to forge genuine relationships with fellow artists, and I just don’t have the time or ambition to sit and collect Instagram and Facebook friends on a daily basis with the hopes of having my work go viral. I have a lovely wife, a terrific home, an excitable puppy, and a teaching job which keep me busy and satisfied.
How difficult is it to fund indie projects?
Financing for “Yes, Your Tide is Cold and Dark, Sir.”, as I recall, came after three meetings with producer Alan Burkhard. It wasn’t a struggle. He was a grand believer in my vision and ambition. He instilled in me an incredible confidence and business sensibility. I was 41 at the time of our first meeting. I told him that the film would cost $75,000, but the budget soon grew to $150,000. I took many a tongue-lashing from him about the increase. He was tough but supportive. He stayed out of my way creatively. I dictated the story. He dictated the budget. Ultimately, he really cared about me and the project. It was quite a dream arrangement. I still meet with him from time to time to discuss life and business. I’m lucky to know him. My second feature film “The Last Time I Saw You Blessed”, which I also wrote, was a very different story. The film was budgeted at $750,000. An actor friend/financier generously put up $50,000 to help get the proverbial ball rolling.
For over a year and a half, I wrote to various national and international producers/production companies in search of additional financing. I also attended the American Film Market in Santa Monica twice. Further, we both attended meetings in Manhattan hoping to generate some interest. I was offered a few deals that just didn’t seem savory or sincere, so I turned them down. Finally, my actor friend/financier offered to put up $325,000 to make the film, provided I could direct the piece for that amount of money. I agreed, but he soon stated that he wanted “final cut” of the film. I would not agree to this, so I backed out of our partnership, and the film remains in limbo. I own the script, which is the story of a teenaged marathoner dealing with the mysterious murder of her boyfriend and the complications therein. Ironically, my financier and I split in January of 2020, a few months prior to the pandemic, so, although this was a very low point for me, we wouldn’t have been able to make the film in Spring of 2020 as we’d planned anyway. With my slate clear, I was able to find the mental clarity and time to direct the “Confetti” and “Jouissance” videos out of pocket. Beautiful things spring from negative situations. Another upside of this experience was having great conversations with actresses Mariel Hemingway, Robyn Lively, Evangeline Young, and Amber Frank regarding their possible participation in “The Last Time I Saw You Blessed”. I also got to work with Harley Kaplan, an amazing casting director from Brooklyn.
Please name three of your most favorite directors. How have they been influential in your work? I love the work of Luis Bunuel for his use of surrealist complexity and psychic-automatism within stories of a domestic nature. I can’t usually predict which way a Bunuel plot is going to unfurl, and his imagery is always dynamic, sensual, and uncanny. Robert Altman’s flawless use of understated cinematic flair and storytelling fluidity is unsurpassed. So much of his work seems like controlled improvisation. It’s so magical to me. I can tell he loves his performers, and I so dig the manner in which he dotes on their faces and mannerisms. Woody Allen is a master of dialogue. There is a verisimilitude in his writing that really nails the human condition. Akin to Altman, his stories seem to work only as cinematic manifestations, which is a deliberate choice. He writes for the size of the screen, the pop of the theater speaker dialogue, and the coziness of a darkened movie house. He understands the tumultuous undertow of emotion, be it subtle or severe, and he metes out situations in his films that allow us to embody every character, whether we wish to or not.
How did your project go into production and how did you finalize the cast and the crew? My process for “Jouissance” was quite simple, actually. I wrote down all of the key scenes/imagery/ideas for the video in a notebook. Following, my cinematographer Ian MosleyDuffy and I walked the vast property owned by the Mielnikiewicz family, and we fired ideas and logistics off of one another. Ian had just lensed my “Confetti” video a few months prior, so we already had a rhythm in place. He was also the assistant cameraman on my feature film. Casting merely involved me calling my friends and saying “Hey, you wanna do another one?”. At its inception, I knew that I wanted the children running around a maypole to open the video, so my wife Chrissy built the maypole for me. That changed in editing. I’d spent many hours on the property with the owners, prior to this, so I had a general idea of where every scene would take place. I always loved Dali’s version of the Last Supper, so I wanted a scene with the witches partaking in something similar, with Jules Corridori as the Christ figure. The idea to set the scene in a field of tall grass was inspired by the gatefold band photo for Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” album.
The idea of the witches eating watermelon is based on a lyric in Mark Fry’s classic song “The Witch”, which I adore. The flower eucharist scene was an idea I had gestating for a long while. It reminds me a bit of Robin Hardy’s “The Wicker Man”. Nature-based religions turn me on, as does the idea of ritual and the divine feminine, in general. That’s my wife taking communion with me and my friend Alessandra serving the host. All of the witches are my close friends with children. It’s an organic arrangement: Johanna and her daughter Gracie, my sisterin-law Jessie and her kids Shaed and Alex, and Jules’ mom Laura and her children Sammy and Ally. Jules’ aunt Jenny was also involved. Ziggy and Barbara, the property owners, make an appearance in the fire scenes. Aside from me, James Pennington was the only band member to appear. Ian was essentially the sole crew member other than myself, although Nick, the son of the property owners, aided for the first day of shooting. Ian is a tireless worker with a keen eye. Jules’ stepfather Chris helped wrangle the kids on set. We had a great natural flow, all-around. My mother and my sister Terry provided craft service and booze. This was a family affair, with screaming cicadas and searing temperatures in tow. We shot for two days. The following weekend, I edited remotely with Brooklyn editor Colby Bartine. Colby edited “Yes, Your Tide…” and the majority of our music videos. He is a patient genius. He also color-corrected “Jouissance”. Let it be known, my videos would not look as sleek as they do without Ian and Colby on my team. They are indispensable to me.
What is your plan for further distribution of the project in order to reach a wider audience? To further distribution of the “Jouissance” video, I will submit to various national and international festivals and visit any that invite me to see my work screened. To boot, when The Collingwood’s full-length album “You Lust or You Rust” is released, I will hire a publicist to shout about both the music and the videos. I regularly write to radio personalities and online music magazines to get coverage.
What do you recommend to other directors regarding the making and the distribution of independent film projects?
My advice to other filmmakers is to be a writer first and a director second. Make sure you’re crafting a story you simply can’t live without. Don’t create something with the sole purpose of getting into a film festival. Manifest your most visceral, creative desires because you are stuck with the final product bearing your name. Pad your cast and crew with people who are close to you and who care about you and your film. The process is equally as important, spiritually, as the finished piece. Do not pay a production company/producer money to aid you in getting further financing for your production. Put that money into your production. The right producer will always come along with no strings attached, if you’re patient. As well, have face-to-face meetings with everyone, and always have a family lawyer in your arsenal. Don’t utilize a distribution company whose library consists predominately of titles you’d never watch. Be nice, and help other artists find their path.
What is your next film project and what are you currently working on? Although I haven’t given up on the financing of “The Last Time I Saw You Blessed”, I am in the throes of writing a much simpler, shorter feature entitled “Gaches”. “Gaches” is the story of two estranged sisters, Kaytie and Gabby, whose newly-revived relationship is challenged by Gabby’s involvement with a suburban cult whose sole presence seems based on the anticipatory arrival of her distant young son Gaches, who may or may not exist. Ian, Colby, and I talked about producing a simple feature, over the course of a few weeks, working with minimal cast, crew, and locations. I like how Hong Sang-soo and Shane Carruth approach filmmaking these days. Their crews are almost non-existent, but their results are killer. Their films give you space to breathe. My first feature had a small crew of 17 and a cast of 56. We shot over the course of 30 days and utilized 25 filming locations. The production of “Gaches” will be a fraction of this, but the film will be more poignant and rich than my first feature. The videos for “Confetti” and “Jouissance” were made quite rapidly with stellar results. We have a vibe and an understanding and a solid work ethic. We’re a team who wants to create meaningful, realized, ambiguous cinema.
Why do you make films?
My father was a music teacher, so I’m a lifelong musician. As a boy, all I wanted to do was to write and perform music. My parents divorced in 1979. I lived with my mother and two sisters. At that time, I spent many nights with my father at local drive-ins because I was curious about horror movies, and he needed some place to take me on visits. He took me to see “Phantasm” at the 202 Drive-In in Pennsylvania on May 18th, 1979. I became obsessed with this film, namely the film’s lead character Michael, a boy my age who was experiencing some familial loss. The quiet, contemplative moments Michael spends in his bedroom are my favorite scenes from “Phantasm”. I could really relate to those scenes at that time in my life. The movie’s atmosphere was so incredibly dense, and the music stayed in my craw for months afterward. I was hooked, but I had no interest in filmmaking at that time. In the 1980s, I was in a heavy metal band named Freakshow. We rehearsed five nights per week, and when I’d return home after practice, I’d watch two or three films before bed. This became a ritual I enjoyed more than band rehearsal. At some point, I rented Atom Egoyan’s film “Speaking Parts” and Steven Soderbergh’s “Sex, Lies, and Videotape”. I was immediately smitten. The subtle visuals and the deliberate stillness of these films were captivating to me. Unusual feelings of hope and newness washed over me while viewing. These were mysterious Zen-like moments akin to what I felt when I watched “Phantasm” with my father many moons distant. I wanted other people/audience members to feel what I was feeling… this intangible, inexplicable thing. I still want that. Honestly, I think that’s why I make films.