Hometown Heroes: Earcatcher

Back in March, I came into work one morning and TJ immediately demanded that I watch a couple of videos that a customer of his had made with a recently purchased BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera.

My first reaction was a mixture of maniacal laughter and childlike handclapping. My second reaction was that I had to find out more about these mysteriously joyful videos.

The customer who sent TJ the videos was Liz Roberts. I got in touch with her to set up an interview, and she invited me to hang out during her next shoot. Even better.

Liz Roberts
Liz Roberts

The videos above are from an ongoing collaborative project/art collective called Earcatcher that is Liz, Linda Diec, and Lexie Stoia, three very talented artists either currently earning or recently having earned their MFAs at CCAD. Whereas most films (and most humans, for that matter) favor visuals over sound, Earcatcher flips this concept on its ear (sorry) and makes the audio its point of generation. From there, Linda creates a concept “to focus the way the sound will inform the picture,” and then Liz shoots the video and edits it to the sound.

The day that I was “on set” was unique to Earcatcher: usually only Liz is there to shoot the video, but this time all three members were there. Not only that, but they were all going to be in the video, which never happens (the only time one of them appeared in the video was Linda, who appeared in the first video above).

Liz Roberts + Linda Diec + Lexie Stoia = Earcatcher
Liz Roberts + Linda Diec + Lexie Stoia = Earcatcher

Liz gave me directions to where they were shooting, but I had no idea that they would lead me to the famous (or infamous, depending on who you ask) Field of Corn (with Osage Oranges) concrete corn installation in Dublin. When I got there, I found Liz chucking ears of corn at Forrest, the featured actor in the video, who was protecting himself with a riot shield.

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I asked Liz what the concept behind this video was and I was surprised to hear that my being there played a small part in the development of the video. Inspired by the idea of being a “hometown hero,” and titled “Antihero,” this video was a tribute to being artists in the Midwest.

Liz told me she grew up in the Midwest, moved to New York for several years, and then returned to the Midwest to complete her MFA. When she was in New York, she said, people treated her “exotically” because she was from Iowa. There was a certain attitude held by the mainstream art scene in New York that artists in the Midwest were somehow less serious and less important because of where they were located. There’s a sort of underdog quality to being an artist in the Midwest, and that was what inspired the video.

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The first thing that really stuck out to me as I watched the group film their video was the joy that went into making it and how it was the same joy that I felt while watching the original videos. Their process was totally freeform while at the same time grounded by several key components and ideas. At one point during the shoot, Liz announced that there was 35% battery left so the shoot was almost over. “I just record until I can’t anymore,” she told me. “Otherwise I would be out here all day.”

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The other thing that really stuck out afterwards was the sound. Lexie says she uses Pro Tools to mix clips from different songs and found sounds to create the hypnotic, evocative, atmospheric sound that generates each particular video’s concept and determines Liz’s post-production of the video (for which she uses DaVinci Resolve Lite for color grading and Final Cut Pro 7 for editing). For “Antihero,” Lexie recorded herself playing the violin in a CCAD bathroom then added clips from an old country song, sounds from a B-movie, and other found sounds to create a rhythmically crowing, borderline catchy track for the video.

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Check out “Antihero” below:

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Midwest Photo

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