GRIND RESET SHINE Deep Dives into the Art World
06 May, 2019
At the 2019 Cinequest Film & Creativity Film Festival we caught up with ‘Grind Reset Shine’ writer/director Margarita Jimeno. The film, shot in Berlin, the Carpathian mountains, Paris, and New York centers around Peter, a struggling artist who moves from New York to Berlin to try his luck. When his career dreams and artistic business venture in Berlin fail, he loses faith in the art industry in search of hope and healing elsewhere–eventually stumbling upon a Catholic church and a nun. Worlds collide and an unlikely friendship blossoms between Peter and Alicia. Jimeno explores “two different people living at the same time, but in extremely different circumstances yet having the same quest for meaning, and belonging.” ‘Grind Reset Shine’ takes us inside the contemporary art world and the tumultuous emotional ups and downs of an artist’s life in which we see the contrasts and parallels of the liberal ideas that represent the art scene in relation to the conservative, restrictive values of religion and the church. Read on to learn more about the film, the filmmaking process and how Jimeno deeps dives into the lives, mentality and sphere of modern artists within the artistic circles of New York and Europe.Dig IN Magazine: Where are you based and how did you get into writing, directing and filmmaking, in general?
Margarita Jimeno: I’m based in New York, although I usually spend a lot of time in my suitcase. I was doing photography and video-art in art school. I did a series of narrative based photos. I started thinking more of image and narrative at that point. And I started doing lo-fi video art editing VCR to VCR. At that time Colombia was very closed, and it was hard to watch any films outside of the mainstream. We were culturally starving. A group of friends were subscribed to film and music magazines, and when someone’s relative would travel, a list of films, and music were requested. Once stuff arrived we would bootleg the films we liked from each other. I remember seeing films that were very inspiring like Lars Von Trier’s Europa and Naked by Mike Leigh. Simultaneously I had a silent film history class and a video art class so my input was very broad. I wanted to learn how to make film work, and also was curious how emotion is communicated in film. I applied to one film school, so there was a 50-50 chance, I got in, and I moved to New York City. One of the best thing for me at that time was walking into Kim’s video store and having access to all kinds of films whenever I wanted.Dig IN: Where was the movie shot and how long was the filmmaking process?
MJ: We went on a hiking trip with Eva Moari, who plays Alicia the nun and is our line producer, in the Carpathian mountains between Poland and Slovakia. We marked locations we liked in a google map, thinking we would come back the following year to film. But as usual funding takes such a long time, so two years later we came back to film. Luckily all the locations we marked were still intact as we first found them. So, if I count that first trip, re-shoots, and editing, that’s about 6 years total. We shot in Berlin, the Carpathian mountains, Paris, and New York.
Dig IN: How did you choose the cast for the film?
MJ: It was a mix of meeting people by chance, asking friends, and casting actors. For the non-actors I invited people with a unique way of being, and who have the personality to embark on a project like this, where everyone was required to do more than one job during the shoot. Specifically for the main roles everyone was working hard on and off screen, like Eva Moari our line producer, and Hanna Konarowska, who has helped with production and post production in Poland. Keren Cytter recommended actors she often works with in Berlin, Fabian Stumm and Lisa Marie Becker. In Poland, we had locals acting. The nuns are played by the local choir Szczawnicki chamber, the local pipe organist Marek is playing himself. We also had this magic encounter with this wonderful woman, Monika, she paints icons, and teaches folk music, she lives high up the mountains. We went to meet her to ask her if we could borrow one of her icon paintings, there are no roads that go all the way up, so we hiked for 2 hours. She received us with cake and tea and sparked a conversation, I asked her if we could improvise a scene with her, and she agreed. I had no idea how I would use this in the story, so I added a few lines to another scene to fit her in the story.Dig IN: What inspired the story?
MJ: I’m fascinated by pipe organ music and wanted to do a film with [that] for some time. Around the same time an artist friend was coming out of a major artist crisis. For sometime he quit making art and was working at H&M. I had done a short film with him acting in it, so I wanted him to be himself, but he was so hurt that he refused to do it. I wrote a treatment mixing these two ideas.
Dig IN: Why did you choose Europe as the location for the focus of the film?
MJ: When I wrote the story the main character ends up in Berlin, which is where every artist at some point ends up either spending time or moving there. The main pipe organ tradition comes from Germany, but I wanted the main character to have a more radical change so I chose the neighbor country as a better destination. I was living in Stockholm when I was putting the production together so it made sense for me.Dig IN: What drew you to focus on the art industry and what is your experience with the art industry?
MJ: I started taking photos and doing video art as a teenager. I went to art school, then film school, at The School of Visual Arts, which is an art school. So most of my friends are people in the art world. Early on I was exhibiting work in group shows in galleries and museums. But at some point I started doing documentary films and I focused on the film career path. I haven’t stopped having a photo and video practice, I share it with my friends on Instagram. That way of sharing something creative is very rewarding to me, because a film takes so long to make from start to finish, having a creative outlet without expectations is crucial to my existence.
Dig IN: The movie focuses on a struggling artist who in his mind has a failed career and looks elsewhere for solace. How did you come up with this character?
MJ: This was a mix of my friend’s artist crisis story, and while doing research I had conversations with several artists. By doing this I came across Philippe Hernandez, he plays himself in the film, who was one of the up and coming artists in the early 2000’s along side artists that today are huge artists. He quit making art and became a bar owner. Changing careers, is something that many people experience in life [and] is in a way a type of immigration. Most of my work tends to focus on belonging, so I wanted to explore two different people living at the same time but in extremely different circumstances yet having the same quest for meaning, and belonging. As I was writing and rewriting on set I started thinking more about exploring themes of rejection and failure. And I also wanted to explore contrasting ways of living the fast paced globalized city system and living in nature with nothing to consume.
Dig IN: How do you know so much about the path and struggles of artists?
MJ: My core group of friends are artists or work in the art world, we often speak about all the vicissitudes of being an artist. There are some recurrent stories in the art world, one is of the unrecognized struggling artist, who dies, big money, gallery comes by buys the entire estate and overnight the artist is recognized and sought after. Another story is of the unknown artist who posts images of their hobby in social media, an established artist loves it, recommends the “artist” to big gallery, and overnight the curator of the Venice biennale invites artist to participate. So besides talent, luck is a factor in a successful career in the arts. There is no linear logic to what factors influence people at the top when choosing the next big pony to bet on. This is something that happens in the film industry as well.
Dig IN: There is such a deep contrast between the sacredness of the church that Peter Bjorn, the main character, ends up in and the debauchery that represents the art industry and scene. What does this represent in the film?
MJ: I wanted to have a dialogue about parallel lives happening in the same era, but in completely different environments. The globalized endless and aimless consumerist bubble in contrast to nature and spirituality in a super non “hipster” setting. I also wanted to explore what it would be like to come out of our own bubbles.
Dig IN: Peter engages in escapism as he desires to retreat from the art industry and scene that he found so disappointing. And he attempts to explore new career paths in the church as an organ player and musician. Why did you choose a Catholic Church as the place Peter escapes to?
MJ: There is one Colombian artist who had a dramatic tragedy happen, I think one of his siblings was burnt alive by the guerilla, very horrific. He turned born again Christian due to these events. There is something beyond the comprehension of people operating under a system of intellectual discourse, on why someone would turn to religion or even worse the institution of religion for anything. I think religion is one of the big taboos in intellectual art circles, I wanted to poke a bit at that. There’s a moment in the film when I think to myself, with a sympathy for the devil smirk, ”now we’ve really lost him to the church.” I also wanted to show a parallel to early art history, the painting of icons, and the representation of religion or spirituality to communicate these myths. And how that circles back to the present myths in art.Dig IN: What is the significance of his relationship with the nun who gets ousted from the church?
MJ: I see it as two very different people who somehow understand each other at the core. Perhaps each one is the other?
Dig IN: Peter, who throughout the film is searching for liberation, is fully liberated at the end of the film when he dresses up in the nuns garb. Where did the idea of the scene come from and can you explain this scene and it’s symbolism further?
MJ: I would rather let each person have their own experience and connect things in the way they want to. This scene was written, but it was not intended to be the ending of the film, so it’s something that was rewritten during the editing phase, I think I had 3 endings at some point.
Dig IN: Where else will the film be shown?
MJ: We’re still working on it. I’m hoping that the film is also shown within the art context.
Dig IN: What are you trying to convey through the film and what do you hope audiences will take away from watching the movie?
MJ: I’m exploring the physical and imagined borders we have, and how to escape those forms of conditioning. I’m hoping audiences can be more curious about other social systems different from their own without judgements.