VIP - VideoChannel Interview Project

Toy, Silvia

Silvia Toy
US videomaker


Interview: 10 questions

1. Tell me something about your life and the educational background:

I have been producing drama all my life, ever since
elementary school, when I directed my brother and sister in Sunday
night biblical theatre. After choosing sculpture over theatre as the
discipline I would practice after college, I came back to theatre (of
course I did!) in 1990, when I entered the performance art world, also
studying playwriting for 7 years. I am a good writer and writing is
really easy for me, too easy for me to ever become a good playwright;
but I really had to struggle to learn the craft of acting, and my
orientation as an actor has a solid foundation that never fails me in
my work.

2. When, how and why started you filming?

There comes a time in every terrible playwright’s life
when she should buy a video camera instead, because the drama
happening outdoors is more interesting, better rendered and more
virtuous than anything that she will ever write. I started carrying a
camera in my purse, learned to shoot by shooting every day, taught
myself basic editing and then one of my TV pro friends hooked me up to
study with a master editor. After 2 1/2 years, I quit my day job so
someone would give me a video internship. Even though it was for
commercial video, I’m glad I did the internship and learned how to
collaborate with others in the moving pictures discipline.

3. What kind of subjects have your films?

I was trained by documentary videographers, and learned to
shoot from the hip what was really in front of me, without bias or
judgment, and let the real life situation happen on camera without my
interference. I have brought this mentality to my work as a video
artist, letting what happens in front of the camera just happen, not
manipulating in any sort of storytelling way until it’s on a timeline
in my computer.

4. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc?

As an actor, I had to learn the very basic principle of
the “beat,” which in my mind is to story what breathing is to living
things. I believe in the beat, and it is the basis of all my work. As
a solo performance video artist, my first rule is that when I am in
front of the camera, even though I usually am by myself, I must behave
with the same professionalism and decorum that I would do if I was on
stage in a theater with a paying audience.

5. Tell me something about the technical equipment you use.

I will shoot with anything available – including this
computer. However, I think I will never meet a Canon Vixia that I
can’t get along with. Since I planned at one time to be a commercial
videographer, I have decent sound mics. I have an odd collection of
photographic and work lights, but as I am pretty passionate about
natural light, especially reflective daylight in the middle of the
afternoon, and the artificial light that we use in the daily course of
things, I try to use available light sources as much as possible.

6. The field of “art and moving images” (one may call it videoart or
also differently) is manifesting itself as an important position in
contemporary art. Tell me more about your personal position and how
you see the future of this field (your personal future and the future
of “art and moving images”)

Since video has become a vital form of communication, as
vital as cave painting was to preserve history and ritual, or oral
storytelling was to preserve history and educate, or ancestral
statuary was to orient society and preserve history, well: video is
vital for the orientation, history, education and cultural tradition
of a world shaped by digital technology.

7. How do you finance your films?

Like every art form that I’ve practiced, my videos and
films would never happen if I worried about how to pay for them. Art
is on my path of life and always will be. The money is there if the
work is supposed to happen.

8. Do you work individually as a video artist/film maker or do you
work in a team?

Both. I work with a writer/shooter and professional actors
with experience in improvisation for my larger work. I work by myself
or with one shooter for my performance art.

If you have experience in both, what is the difference,
what do you prefer?

Team of collaborators = higher tech. Solo shooting = more
focus and usually, better truthtelling.

9. Who or what has a lasting influence on your film/video making?

Dreyer, Von Trier, Van Sant, Jarmusch, Murnau, Lang. Peter
Lorre is my favorite actor. I love graffiti – I don’t know why it’s
important, but it is.

10. What are your plans or dreams as a film/video maker?

To tell the truth, filmmaking is the most fun I’ve ever
had in my life as an artist. I intend to have as much fun as possible
before I die, mentoring other artists along the way, and maybe someday
be mentioned as an influence by an artist I admire.

Can works of yours be viewed online besides on CologneOFF or
VideoChannel? Where?

§ My first feature film is blogged @

§ My performance art portfolio is @

§ My documentary work about graffiti and urbania is blogged @

§ My portfolio is @

§ I have a lot of youtube pages and this vimeo page,