SONIA BECKWITH COLE, WET (2018)
Weeda: The aesthetic style of Wet is so gripping and unique! I’m curious; what brought you into such a style that is so particular to you as an artist?
Sonia: I think it’s a pretty natural progression. I just start making things, and when things start getting me excited, I make more of it. A lot of my style comes from playing around with technology, such as video editing softwares. So all of a sudden when something surprises me, or there are unexpected results with the video software, I’ll try to make those results happen again—or try to control the results. I really play with what I can do with the different softwares. For example, with green screens, I got super excited last year and thought: “Okay, what can I green screen?”
Weeda: It sounds like you’re constantly experimenting. Do you identify with the experimental film community in any way?
Sonia: When I think about what I’ve been making up to now, it feels more like video art. I wouldn’t even call it film.
Adam: There’s something cool about glitch art and the whole community of video art in general. There are things that you can do with images now that were impossible before...
Sonia: I took a lot of experimental animation courses at OCAD and new media art courses. I was really inspired by a lot of those artists who are like: “What can I do with this crazy, new technology? How can I push it to its furthest limits?” I was really interested in building on that, and sometimes using that to go back and think: “Okay, how can I make this piece of work more traditional? How can I mix it up?”
Weeda: Going off that, if you were to describe Wet in one sentence, what would it be?
Sonia: When I had to write a little tag-line for it once, I wrote something like: Wet is about the physical interaction between a body and their environment, while playfully messing with tactile interactions between objects and a body—also using feminine stereotypes.
Weeda: I definitely felt that during the entire piece!
Adam: I love the sound design of your film, by the way. It's so simple—you’ve literally stretched one song, Jason Derulo’s “Wiggle”, and kind of made a mockery of it. But at the same time it’s hilarious, and it’s so fun to hear the song stretched to its limits. I love that you’ve taken a song that everyone knows, messed with it, and created a new experience out of it.
Sonia: I think I did it because the song just weirded me out so much when I actually heard the lyrics. I was like “Oh my god, I have to really dig into this…and see what it’s saying.” It’s really funny and absurd—that song. Another really funny thing is, I posted this video on Youtube once and it got like...ten views? Then, Warner Brother’s put a claim on it. I was like, “Wow, okay! Thanks Warner Brothers!”
Weeda: [Laughter] You’re famous now.
Adam: Someone over at Warner Bros is probably like, [Melodramatic voice] “How could they do this to our song!” Imagine if Jason Derulo saw it? That leads pretty well into our next question actually: What kind of emotion do you want the audience to feel when they watch Wet?
Sonia: I hope that they feel weird and funny...and awkward...and hopefully they laugh, too.
Adam: That’s the entire wave I felt when I watched the movie. The first minute I was laughing, and then I was like “Oh...it’s still going...the song’s still going.”
Weeda: It’s funny ‘cause my emotions went in an opposite direction. At first I was like, “What’s happening…?” And then I felt discomfort because all the weirdness didn’t seem like it’d ever end. Eventually, when I settled in the discomfort, I started laughing a lot.
Sonia: Wow, that’s a great reaction. I like “uncomfortable.” But, I like that it’s so long. It’s around five minutes. It’s the whole song!
Weeda: Going back to talking about experimenting with video programs, were there any challenges you faced in the making of Wet?
Sonia: Yeah, for sure. I had to learn how to green screen. I had to learn a lot of editing techniques that I didn’t know how to do. I also had a few After Effects learning curves to make the weird water textures, and all these different kinds of textures that I wanted to do. But then once I got all that going, it became really fun.
Weeda: Was there anything that you had to let go of?
Sonia: Actually, I really wanted to shoot Wet in nice, high-def video, but my school had signed out that kind of camera long-term to someone. So I ended up using whatever camera to film the whole thing.
Adam: On a purely aesthetic level, I think Wet is so interesting because you’re using textures that are beautiful, but also such crudely cut out green screen effects. It seems like those two shouldn’t be going together but it works so well.
Adam: So, is Wet your passion project? Are you ready to retire now?
Sonia: I think I’m gonna work again one day...one day I’d like to make another video or two. [Sonia laughs]. This was a passion project though. I actually made Wet last summer during a Drake AV residency, which was really nice because they really force you to do a bunch of videos to get you out of your comfort zone. And they’re really open to what you wanna do. So I was able to be really free, to just play around.
Weeda: Are there any projects that you’re working on now?
Sonia: The main thing that I usually work on is animation—more traditional, hand-drawn animation. This experimental video thing was just pure fun and enjoyment, and I would like to do more but...I’m working on an animated music video right now.
Adam: What’s your favourite moment in Wet?
Sonia: I feel like my favourite moment is near the beginning, when Derulo goes “Wiggle...wiggle...wiggle…” and there’s the image of me laying there in a conch-shell bowl, not moving, just dead, not wiggling at all. Hopefully people will laugh at that.
Weeda: Yeah, you used such a specific song! Are there any artists outside of film that inspire you?
Sonia: Yeah, I find a lot of local musicians inspiring. Like, Bernice, whose music video I did last year. [Sonia's music video for Bernice's "St. Lucia" played at last year's Insomniac Fest!] And then, the connection of music with video—music videos, stuff like that. I’m always inspired by weird, experimental music videos. There’s another local Toronto band called Tasseomancy, and they do really weird, crazy music videos that are really cool. Music always gives visuals in my head, and that makes me excited to try bringing it to life.
Weeda: Do you see yourself working on a lot of music videos in the future?
Sonia: I would love to! That’s the goal.
Weeda: Music videos are so fun. They give you the space to do whatever you want. There are no restrictions with music videos.
Sonia: Exactly, the music gives you ideas, and then you can feed off those ideas.
Weeda: In terms of your work process, do you find that there are things that trigger you to have ideas, or do you jump into projects sometimes without knowing what you’re doing?
Sonia: The thought is usually triggered by whatever I’m listening to or thinking about. Actually, with this project I kind of knew what I was gonna do in a very vague sense because I made four videos in total for the Drake AV residency. The four videos were about Water, Earth, Air, and Fire. And Wet was obviously the Water element. But with specifics, I usually let it all happen on its own. My favourite is called Dirty, and it’s all really weird. Mushing fruits with your hands—that kinda video.
Weeda: Give us links to everything!!!
I make animations and videos that talk about our bodies and how they feel and touch and live in their environments.