One of the best parts about SxSw this year was enjoying Ornana’s animated bumpers before each film. I kept reminding myself to write down the name, Ornana; I had to look it up. To my grave misfortune, I never had a pen in hand and I have terrible memory. It never really stuck until I saw their most recent work, Confusion Through Sand (2014), amongst the animated shorts program. I saw their name appear in the credits one more time, and this time, I definitely did not forget (I later read that Ornana was actually an ingenious combination between “orange” and “banana.” That would have been easy to remember as well, I guess). They are by far, the coolest kids on the block. So I knocked on their door and am now happily sharing with you our conversation, for your reading pleasure.
So, tell me a little bit about the history of Ornana, how did it come about? How long have you guys been out there?
Ornana started in Peachtree City, Georgia. Our director, Danny Madden, would make movies with his friends from high school under the Ornana name; and then when the rest of us met in college we continued to use it as a band name of sorts. We’ve been making movies since we were young but people have only been watching them outside of the neighborhood for three years.
Sound is clearly a very important factor in all your films. Is there something behind that or was it just a style you started with since the beginning?
Sound design is often a missed opportunity with filmmakers, which is a shame because the sound of a movie interacts with the audience on a different level by controlling the story’s attention. You can build an environment by creating sounds for the space that were never recorded, or create elements on set that were never there. We learned a lot about making an entire environment sound real while working with Pete Horner on Confusion Through Sand. It probably just came from all of us being really detail-oriented and not wanting to pass up another chance to tell the story. Definitely, the emphasis on sound will be carried into anything we do in the future.
What was the inspiration for Euphonia? Are there any personal elements in there from your lives?
Euphonia is interesting. Danny was a camera operator on our producer Jim Cummings’ first feature film in New Orleans and there are scenes where one of the characters carries a tape recorder around all the time. Will Madden, Danny’s younger brother and star of Euphonia, was acting in the film and they started thinking about sound recording as a part of a film’s story and aesthetic. So it became a little auto-biographical, almost in reverse. We built a story and then made everyone live it out for a while before we shot. Some of the frustrations (and shortcomings) in the story have a lot to do with who we are as people, or at least who we were at that point. That might be how art always works though.
Confusion Through Sand, an amazing achievement. Was it a premiere at SxSw? I’m curious to know what motivated the story… it’s clearly a war scene but you almost don’t know who the good or bad guys are. What’s the story behind the story?
SxSw was the official premiere for Confusion Through Sand, and it’s been great to finally get to share it with real audiences. The story behind the story is pretty simple. Modern warfare is such a complex issue and we wanted to spend some time diving in to the more personal aspects of it. After months of research we found a way to echo some of the particular details that struck us. We tried to create something that made the audience think and try to figure out what was happening to this nineteen year old. We also wanted to allow enough room for the audience to translate the story individually. Hopefully, it can become an invitation for some people to have important conversations that can be very difficult to start.
What’s next with Ornana? What are your hopes for Ornana’s future and how do you think your fans could support that vision?
Three of us are working on Patrick Wang’s next feature, The Grief of Others. We’re really excited about the opportunity of creating alongside someone with that caliber of artistic vision. It has been a real challenge and pleasure, so far—can’t wait to get the camera rolling in a few days.
In terms of Ornana, we want to keep working on new stories and finding new ways to tell them; new ways to share them with audiences. The best way for anyone who likes our work to support it is to be involved. Not just with our films, but with indie film in general. We’ve been blown away by the amazing films that are struggling to find an audience. That seems to be a really powerful role that viewers can take on. Everyone is looking to watch something interesting and hopefully impactful. We’d love to see people taking on the responsibility of sharing the films that they love. And that’s not just some social media thing, but to make that a part of the conversations you have with people. How excited would you be to get an e-mail from a friend you haven’t seen in a while with a link to something that they loved and thought about you when they watched? Let alone, a letter and a DVD. Both still exist! Films are these amazing ways to communicate, not just for the filmmakers, but for the viewers to show other people what they love, what they empathize with, what they are worried about. That’s a whole language of communication on its own, and it is no less important than the films. More of that, please.
Posted: March 31, 2014 at 3:07 pm