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One Shot // Coney Island Circus

As an editor, I don’t have a ton of self-shot frames to wax about, BUT back when I was a clumsy film student, I made a documentary that followed the course of a season at the Coney Island Circus Sideshow. I like this shot mainly because I love this person. Ray was the first performer I met from the sideshow, and he was kind enough to show me around the place one wintery day in 2014 (and light a match off my tongue while I sat in an electric chair!) We hit it off and stayed in touch, and the following summer his endorsement led to an invite to document the full season, despite the show’s strict no-camera policy. That day in 2014 led to an electrifying epiphany: that I could artistically engage with all my niche curiosities without necessarily having to swallow swords or breathe fire with my own face. It was the first time I’d been given an academic assignment that I could put a personal spin on. I’d never been so excited to work on anything in my life. 

Like most burgeoning film kids, I spent those summer months cutting corners I didn’t even know existed – and made a documentary that now feels held together by glitter glue and gaff tape (I tell people I was going for a 90s “gritty” aesthetic by refusing to use a tripod to shoot the entire thing, but I think I was just lazy and didn’t want to drag gear to Coney Island every day!)  Technical flaws aside, the project made me fall in love with storytelling. And while I’ve since realized that hauling gear is not my bag, it was one of the first times I came to appreciate that my weird set of interests are their own asset, and that my membership in certain fringe communities could lead to some unique instances of honest storytelling. Really led me to consider what kind of art I wanted to be making, and I think as an artist you have to be constantly checking in with yourself on stuff like that: what kind of stories do you want to be telling? Who pushes your buttons, what sets your tongue alight!?

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