Interview: Jeremy St. James (Actor – ‘Marfa Girl’)

marfagirlMarfa Girl centers on Adam, a directionless, half-white, half-Hispanic teenager living in Marfa, Texas. The film follows the relationships with Adam’s girlfriend, his neighbor, a local artist, and a crazed border patrol agent. What ensues is a web of sex, violence and punk rock.

Marfa Girl made its world premiere at the 2012 Rome Film Festival and took home the Marcus Aurelius Award for Best Film and will open in New York City and Los Angeles on March 27. Other cities are set for April 2, 2015.  The controversial film also hits VOD this spring.

Marfa Girl was written and directed by renowned filmmaker Larry Clark, known for his award-winning films Kids, Bully, and Ken Park. The film stars Adam Mediano, Drake Burnette, Mercedes Maxwell, and Indigo Rael.

Anticipating the theatrical and VOD release of Marfa Girl we spoke with one of the film’s stars Jeremy St James about his experiences on the set of a Larry Clark film, filming in his hometown, and much more.

Prior to your involvement with ‘Marfa Girl’, how familiar were you with the work of Larry Clark? How did your involvement com to be on this film?
I was familiar with Larry Clark’s work from his film KIDS. I remember watching it and thinking how different it was from any film I’ve seen. With only some commercial auditions and a few acting classes under my belt, my agent sent me the character breakdown. It mentioned Larry Clark and it didn’t hit me at first. It read almost like a warning label on a pack of cigs. Continue at your own risk. I read that breakdown for 4 hours. Every description it gave of Tom took me back thru my own past. I related so strongly to this guy that by the end I knew I had to audition.

marfa-girl-stillLarry Clark comes from a prominent photography background which (in my opinion) is very evident in his films; what were the discussions like regarding the cinematography of the film? What was the approach to shooting you, as well as the location?
I didn’t get involved too much in the cinematography. I mean it’s Larry Clark and I was pretty sure he had that aspect under control. I believe the approach to shooting me was to simply just shoot me. He knew I had similarities to the character and like the character would be expressing them for the first time. I would walk around Marfa and observe the kids, parents, and border patrol to get some insight on my new surroundings. The town became a villain. A spiderweb that traps you.

As with many of Larry’s film, Marfa Girl does feature some rather explicit depictions of sexuality, as young actors, how did you approach the sexual dynamics in the film? How comfortable were you at first, as well as moving along?
To me it doesn’t matter what the dynamics or content is. I approach the character itself. My opinions, morals, and thoughts about the material are thrown out the window. Then I am left with only my emotions. Then I take these emotions and use them to relate to the character. For example, compassion. I think of times in my life when I expressed true compassion or intimacy. Then I thought how tom feels or expresses compassion. So in the scene when I do some inappropriate things to adam, I am expressing a genuine emotion and not focused on the physical action. So in essence it doesn’t matter the content, because the feeling is real. I was completely comfortable with the film itself. I was a little uncomfortable the time spent before the film because I knew I had to become vulnerable for the first time and dig up some past demons. Once I got to Marfa and started getting into the mind of Tom it made sense. Larry Clark is one of the most sincere compassionate people I’ve ever met and made sure every cast or crew member was comfortable throughout the film. He allowed me to go through my process.

Marfa_Girl_1As you know, the film was originally released via independent distribution on Larry Clark’s website. As this is still an emerging field of distribution, how have you noticed it in bringing awareness toward the film?
If I never worked on this film and never met Larry my answer would be this. Larry is an innovator and thinks outside the box. His films get criticized for the visual content and end up not getting the recognition. Releasing the film on his website and cutting out what Hollywood would do anyway, he was able to have his film seen without the hassle. But since I did work on the film and have gotten to know Larry my answer is this. It’s not about his films getting awareness or seen. He is an artist, a true visionary. He has nothing to prove. He simply does this to create a world he has in his mind. He is concerned if people don’t understand it. It’s his take on the world. So whether the film goes to theaters, DVD, his website, or just him in the editing room, the awareness means nothing. Unfortunately for Larry, his films and photographs are so raw and in true form they make society aware. And it scares the fuck out of them.

Describe the location of the film and, as you were unprofessional actors at the start, how did you find the film depicted the location? Have you encountered similar feelings/experiences as in the film’s plot?
Marfa is a diverse town. It’s got all these different cultures living there. And I mean this town is in the middle of nowhere. I swear time does not exist. As this was my first major role in a feature film, I am confused about your definition of an unprofessional actor. I felt the film really translated on screen to what Marfa is like. I have to give the cinematographer, David Newbert, major kudos on that. The train, sunset, and the way the film felt like time was not real. I think I got cast because I shared similar experiences and feelings as the character. I remember in the audition, which was more like an interview, I asked Larry if I should be answering his questions as Tom or myself. He asked how I was answering them. I said I don’t know because I feel like it would be the same answers either way.

In general, describe the experience working on Marfa Girl? How has the film affected your own lives, for the better?
In general this film was the worst and best month of my life. I faced my past demons and released them. I have met fear so many times on my journey that after a while you become immune to it. This film was my perfect circle. When Larry stated that I was the most fearless actor he has ever worked with, it was the most accomplished I’ve ever felt. This film has really made me respect myself a lot more. It hasn’t brought me fame and fortune. I didn’t move to Hollywood thinking this is my break. I am still a server making $2.13/hr living in a 570 sq. ft. apartment in San Antonio. It’s perfect. I guess I’m still an unprofessional actor, but with a better sense of self.

– Interview prepared by Steve Rickinson

larryclark.com/marfagirl

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