RÊVE – The Making of “Maid of Heaven”
We’ve been keeping tabs on Athena Hiotis and her bandmates as they set out to create, not just a video, but a short film for their track “Maid of Heaven” from their latest release La Marionnette.
I feel like every time I talk to you, you’ve got something new and different cooking. You’ve released albums, music videos, you co-own a label, you’re a songwriter and now you’re working on a short music film. Where do you get the time? Haha, well thanks. I mean, yea time is definitely hard to come by these days but I’ve learned a lot this past year so I’ve got a much better handle on it now.
That’s good. So a film, that’s exciting. You’ve been working on this for quite some time, I heard.
Yeah. A little over 2 years.
That’s a long time. How do you feel now that the filming is done?
Ha…You know, if you ask me in an hour, you’ll probably get a different response. But pretty steadily I’m feeling a calmness. There’s really a lot to do so I don’t think I’m going to fully allow it to hit me until it’s completely finished, but what I can say is that I’m really proud of what we’ve done. The foundation and basis of this story, and the production in general was really driven by passion and a thought process that started with the question “Well, why not?” Let’s not just do a music video, let’s film a short movie! Well, why not? Let’s hire this actor. Well, why not? Let’s look into these locations. Well, why not? There was a point during one of the shoots where I looked around and I was really moved by what I saw. I saw a group of people, most of which had absolutely zero experience in the film industry coming together, eager to learn, helping with anything that needed attention. They were so into the story; they were diving deep into the emotional background of not just their own characters, but the society in this film in general. It was really moving to see. It was always incredibly empowering. During the wrap party, we showed the cast the intro to the film and you could just feel the emotion in the room. People cheered, a few cried, I mean how cool is that? In that moment, we all felt that we could do anything we wanted with inspiration, synergy, and a thirst for knowledge. I can’t really ask for anything more than that.
Tell us a little about the film itself.
“Maid of Heaven” takes place in a society where all art and self-expression has been outlawed and people have stopped dreaming. Anyone who’s caught creating is punished. The group of people that still create and dream are known as the Creatives and they want to rise up and stand up for their art. We are really honored and happy to be working with Steve Agee on this film. He’s just about the nicest and most professional person I’ve worked with. He’s outstanding. His character, Cole, is really the mentor and the leader of the Creatives and he’s trying to help Joan see that that passion that she’s feeling is stronger than any insecurity or fear.
Was it difficult to hire a Hollywood actor?
Well, it’s funny, out of everything, that was, surprisingly, the easiest part. I was a fan of his work for some time, so I made a phone call, expressed interest and sent them what we had, which at the time was the song, moodboard, and a synopsis. And they got back to me, I talked to his manager who was exceptional and it all worked out. It was insane.
So you would say you were pretty excited?
Beyond excited. I actually remember where I was when I got the email saying that they were in. I was playing a show in Baltimore. Checked my phone and I had gotten an email and I noticed that it was from the management company so naturally I was like, “Christ here we go. they said no.” I opened it and just started jumping up and down and cheering. I got some weird looks but it was well worth it. I was so excited.
How was meeting him for the first time?
It was rad. I was in LA and we had gotten some food. It was just cool, super chill. He’s a really nice guy. I think I was weird though because I just remember that particular trip to LA was just amazing and was the start of a lot of wonderful things. I was in a weird trance where I just couldn’t believe the things that were going on.
In this film you are on screen as an actor and also behind-the-scenes as the producer. Was one more difficult than the other?
Each had their own challenges. I wouldn’t consider myself an actor but my imagination game is pretty strong so I wasn’t too nervous about it. The thing I found most difficult about acting was keeping a straight face. Steve was entirely too funny and I tend to laugh a lot. He was doing this really funny thick southern accent the whole time and it didn’t matter how many times I heard it, it cracked me up. Producing though, in my opinion was far more difficult all around. Probably the hardest thing of everything during this process.
What do you mean?
So when I was preparing, I did a lot of reading on it and specifically watched interviews of female producers and what they did. I came across this awesome interview that Ellen Page did and she’s talking about these films she’s producing. And I remember her saying that producing is “constantly heartbreaking”. I didn’t understand that until I started dealing with locations in particular. Oh man. The best way I can describe it is that I couldn’t allow myself to being creatively or emotionally attached to a certain location until things were in order, which is hard for me because that’s exactly what I do. I just kind of let things hit me and use my energy meter to be the judge. In the beginning I had to learn very quickly that you could feel so strongly about a certain location and be dead set on it and then for whatever reason – sometimes no reason at all – they just don’t want to be apart of it. And you’re really left there going “Bu..but… this is.. Don’t you see how perfect this is!?” That was definitely when I appreciated that interview because I got it at that point. So, I think the struggle wasn’t so much having active jobs off and on screen, but learning to control my emotional investments. Definitely a learning experience.
Can you tell us anything about your character?
Joan is very conflicted and very angry. I think she goes back and forth at what she’s angry about and that stresses her out even more. She doesn’t know why she has this desire to create, she didn’t ask for it, and at the same time she doesn’t understand why something like that is so important for the Council to restrict. That’s where Cole comes in though. He’s trying to take that chaos and focus it into one place. She is very strong though and when things click for her, there isn’t much that can stop her.
So this is a film about art? Is art and music education important to you?
Definitely. The band supports art and music education whenever and however we can. Being able to take that and put it into this film was really nice opportunity to bring attention to how important art and music both are. Additionally, it also goes a bit deeper than that, I think. Yes learning music and art helps us in many ways but it also opens us up to the acceptance of a whole other level of connection: inspiration and our right to create, touch others, and be touched.
When can we expect to see this video?
What advice can you give musicians or artists interested in pursuing something big like this?
You can attract any result you want no matter how big the obstacle so trust yourself. Allow yourself to dream big, but take a realistic, and pragmatic approach to how to achieve those dreams. Do a lot of research and learn from people that came before you. Also it’s really important to trust the people you work with. Our crew really was the reason for how successful the production process was.
Genre: Alternative, Art Rock
Location: Baltimore, MD
Members: Athena Hiotis, Nicholas Kosmas, Lisa Ehrenspeck, Shareef Taher, Alejandro Fariña