he said/she said: designing together

by Amy Azzarito

A couple of weeks ago, we started a new feature getting a little closer look at some of the creative couples we meet on Design*Sponge and learning a little bit about what it’s like to work creatively with your partner. 3M is exploring the humor that can easily arise when couples attempt DIY projects. They want to encourage couples to submit their stories of communication pitfalls to the tune of a contest with a $5,000 grand prize and a chance to win $250 daily. So, to inspire you to submit your own story, we’re going to take a look at how some super creative couples communicate. In the comments for the last He Said/She Said, Taylor Browning suggested we take a look at husband-and-wife filmmaking duo Mark and Angela Walley. The San Antonio-based couple fell in love at age 16 and have been working together as artists, musicians and filmmakers for the past eight years.

(I have some great couples lined up, but please let me know if there’s anyone else I should check out!) — Amy A.

*Brought to you by 3M Frameworks, the collection of 3M’s suite of home improvement products that can help you start and perfect any DIY project.

What’s been your favorite project to work on together?

He said: A short film entitled Journey of the Opportunist. It put our work on a higher level as far as the amount of ambition and concentration that surrounded the project. We received an Emerging Filmmakers Fellowship from Southwest Alternate Media Project to cover production expenses including the purchase of our first professional camera. The Fellowship also took us out of the country together for the first time where a sister program had occurred in Mexico City.

She said: My favorite project was our short documentary on artist Jimmy Kuehnle. It was the first in a series for Glasstire.com, so starting something new was exciting. We also got the chance to travel to New Mexico and Austin for the film. At our screening at the Dallas VideoFest I realized that our new direction towards documentary had been influenced by a conversation we had with filmmaker Albert Maysles in Dallas the year before. That film changed our focus to the art world which has kept us busy and inspired ever since.

Image above: Behind the Scenes: Mark Walley films artist Jimmy Kuehnle

What’s the first step in beginning a project together?
He said: Determining whether or not we will enjoy the process behind the work, learn and grow from it, and if it will inspire us to keep making new work.

She said: Being inspired and talking about it. We both just want to know that a project will be something new and interesting to wake up to each day.

How do you structure your work day?
He said: We are list makers. Each day we just try to scratch something off the list that weʼre interested in working on.

She said: We normally have the privilege if deciding what we feel most excited about working on. All of our projects have deadlines, so we structure our time on a weekly basis, but allow our days to flow depending on we feel like focusing on. Some days itʼs editing, other days itʼs just planning and discussing whats next for us.

Image above: Angela Walley runs a second camera, photo by Mark Walley

How do you resolve aesthetic differences?
He said: We ask ourselves if the aesthetic choice best represents the idea and if it will serve a larger purpose in the film.

She said: We aesthetically see eye to eye, but at times when we had imagined a shot, or a scene differently we talk about it on set and try both. Weʼre very visual and like to see which idea comes through stronger on camera.


What would be your dream project to work on together?
He said: We started out excited by narrative feature films and I think we are ultimately preparing ourselves for a major step in that direction.

She said: I would love to eventually work on a feature length narrative film based on real life experiences.

Do you have a favorite tool?
He said: An editing timeline that creates ideas and emotions that were only partially realized when we originally captured the individual elements.

She said: iCal. I schedule all of our shoots, meetings and project deadlines. It lets me arrange everything and then forget it, so I can just focus on the day to day without getting overwhelmed.

How do you structure your off-time so that you’re definitely not working!
He said: There really isnʼt a structure much of the time. Weekends are often days that we are most engaged in our work. We mutually will find a point in our work when weʼre not enjoying it and turn to playing music, or watching films for a new source of inspiration.

She said: Separating our on and off time isnʼt easy since we work from home. We mainly try to fill our off- time with things that will inspire us when we work. Watching films, reading books, and spending time with family and friends always keeps us interested and excited about our projects.

What’s been on repeat?
He said: Music is definitely a large part of the energy and inspiration behind our work. What tends to keep me engaged in developing ideas is Steve Reichʼs Music for 18 Musicians or the first track off Brian Enoʼs Ambient 1: Music for Airports. Iʼm also inspired by soundtracks from The Conversation and Me and You and Everyone We Know.

She said: We really love listening to albums over and over until we know them intimately. Recently my favorite albums have been Sharon Van Ettenʼs Epic, Atlas Soundʼs Logos and Animal Collectiveʼs Merriweather Post Pavilion.

Do you find that you each take the lead in different aspects of a project?
He said: I find myself comfortable and most excited in handling the visual aspects of our projects, working as both cinematographer and editor. I also enjoy the process of creating music for many of our films.

She said: We share the development and direction of our projects, but we definitely have established our individual roles. Iʼm responsible for contacting our subjects and clients, handling scheduling, and conducting the interviews in our documentaries. More recently Iʼve also been running a second camera on location and editing the interviews.

What’s your favorite aspect of working on projects as a couple?
He said: Working with someone who inspires you to do you best work, but also have fun doing it.

She said: Having someone I love and trust to inspire and guide me while I continue to grow and learn as an artist and filmmaker.

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