Emily Mackenzie and Sasha Solodukhina: Artists in Their Own Words
Who: Emily MacKenzie and Sasha Solodukhina
Where: 7th Ward (Emily) North Marigny (Sasha)
Artist’s chosen location for interview: At their studio in Bywater – outside and under a covered awning while it was lightly raining
Q: How do you know when a story is worth following and digging into?
SS: I think you feel immediately connected to the story and the subject, and you want to tell people about it.
That’s what is great about the Scar Story, the project we’re currently working on. I have no hesitations telling people about Paulette, the fact that she’s a breast cancer survivor and walking topless for 1000 miles from Biloxi to Washington D.C., and how we’re going to be documenting this walk while living in an RV.
A lot of times you are working on a project that you don’t really want to tell people about, but when it’s something you care about, you want to dig in more, and you want to share it with others.
Although, I did have a strange conversation yesterday because we are thinking about fostering a dog, and she would go on this adventure with us.
EM: She’s going to go in the RV with us. She’ll be our dog and mascot.
SS: We’re looking at the German Shepard rescue in New Orleans, and they have a dog named NOLA. It’s a dog that had breast cancer, she’s better now, and that seems to be a perfect fit. I called up Toby at the shelter and had to explain our project and why we want to take the dog on the road. The woman immediately wanted to try and make all of this happen.
That was a story I could just tell. I didn’t have to sell anything.
EM: For me, I’d say confusion is a big part of digging into a story. If I walk away from and person or a situation still wondering why? or how? then I know the story has not fully unfolded yet. Your curiosity is still there.
You may have answered questions in a superficial way, such as ‘Oh, she’s doing this because of X,’ but you may not understand the drive, or you may want to know more about that drive. You want to know more about how the person functions and why they’re making the decisions that they make. There is still more to unravel.
Q: What is something you’d like to simplify in life?
EM: In our little universe of freelance and production work it’s pretty crazy and hectic, so there’s a permanent effort that goes into hustling to find jobs for pay. Then you have to manage those against other projects, like Scar Story, where it’s your project and you are working crazy hours without any compensation.
I’ve figured out how to work on those projects and still support myself, but I wish it were simpler. You have the hustle to secure the job, hustle for all the sidepieces, and hustle to get the project done.
SS: We could just live in the RV.
EM: We’ll be roommates forever. For life.
SS: I could just move my cats in there. And the chickens.
EM: And the dog. We could have the chicken coop on top of the RV. Then they could lay the eggs and that would cut down on food costs. Eggs everyday!
SS: I think if I were to simplify something it would be my engagement with my phone and email. It will be 10:00 PM, and I’ll be going through and responding to emails, and I will have this realization that other people are at home, eating, hanging out, and this is not the time when they will be responding to me.
Cutting that down would probably also help the weird stress dreams I’ve been having, like the one where I’m tweeting—and I don’t really even tweet in real life—and it won’t post. It’s such a boring, bad dream. Nothing is happening.
Q: What is something very common to most people but drives you crazy?
EM: I hate the word ‘sure.’ I feel like it’s a really loaded and powerful word. When you use it correctly its intentions are clear, but when people use it as a simple ‘yes,’ I wonder, Are you doing me a favor? Do you really want to do this? because there’s an uncertainty with the word.
In a way it makes me distrust the person using it, even if I completely trust the person. My brother uses it all the time, and I feel like he’s always doubting me. I wonder why he can’t just be clearly affirmative.
And it does have its purpose when used in its right context. If someone asks, ‘Are we happy about going to dinner with so-and-so?’ and someone answers ‘Sure,’ that is a great use. You know exactly where they stand because there’s the subtext there. When it’s used in other contexts there is just this cognitive dissonance.
SS: I’ve thought about the word ‘sure’ a lot, too. People will say it because it’s a segue for them to talk. It’s often, ‘Sure, I know what you’re saying, but…’ and then comes the point that they had been waiting to make.
Something else would be that I don’t really like when people ask me to repeat things a lot. If I’ve said something twice and someone still asks me to repeat myself, I find that the point probably no longer matters. With that much time and confusion passing, it feels like I’m just saying words and what I’m saying might have lost its significance.
You get bored of that conversation because you’re already four minutes down the road. I no longer care about the trash that wasn’t taken out because my brain has moved onto something new.
Q: What is a question you wished you asked yourself more?
EM: ‘Did you sleep enough?’
SS: [Laughing]. Yes. That’s the thing, they are basic survival questions like, ‘Did I eat today?’
EM: That’s definitely one. Sasha will look up from her desk at me and say, ‘I haven’t eaten today.’ And her friends and sweet boyfriend come by frequently with bags of food, but we just forget about it.
SS: Three hours will go by after they drop off the food and then all the sudden I’ll remember that there’s food, and I can eat it. Questions of functionality are big ones we need to ask.
EM: Especially with sleeping. I wake up early, and I wake up in the middle of the night. I have terrible sleeping habits. And 3 AM seems to be my special hour to start writing emails or start making more tea. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Q: How do you know when you’re listening to someone?
EM: I feel like I get lost in time. And if I have a separate train of thought it is linked to what the other person is talking about. It’s like they’re painting a landscape, and I’m in there adding to it.
Also, I’m a borderline snoop, so with some people I’ll say, ‘Don’t let me pry, but tell me about this.’ That’s when I know I’m really in it and listening.
SS: And that has a lot to do with the speaker. If someone comes to a conversation with their own agenda then it’s hard to get super engaged with them. We usually try to stop talking to those people early on. We want to engage in a real way where everyone is listening and digging in.
Filmmakers Emily MacKenzie and Sasha Solodukhina are currently in crowd-funding to get on the road for Scar Story, a documentary focused around Paulette—a breast cancer survivor who is getting ready to walk 1000 miles to Washington DC, baring her mastectomy scars. You can find out more about Emily and Sasha and Scar Story from their website, and you can also find them on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, andTwitter.