For Jamila Woods’ new single, LSD, the artist handed over the creative reigns to a high school student. Alongside Chance the Rapper who appears on the single, her label Jagjaguawar, Closed Sessions and VAM Studio, Jamila launched a competition — a dream for any young budding film director — asking students from Chicago public schools to submit a treatment which would become a full-production shoot.
The winner, Ashley Huicochea, a recent grade 12 graduate from Prosser Career Academy, created a treatment that won over both Jamila and the directors. “Ashley’s treatment stood out to me immediately because it felt like I was getting to know her and her vision of Chicago through reading her treatment,” Jamila tells It’s Nice That. “She focused a lot on the inherent beauty of Chicago neighbourhoods and the people in them, and also included unexpected details that showed a lot of personality.”
Ashley’s attention to detail also appealed to the directors: “Ashley’s was one of the few treatments that encompassed every aspect of production,” says Vincent Martell, who directed the video with Sam Bailey. “As a black queer director I am always looking for ways to bring elements of my community into VAM’s productions and Ashley’s treatment allowed Sam and I to do just that.” Sam continues: “I’m always looking for the heart of anything I film and I felt like Ashley’s submission had a lot of heart and you could tell she cared about the look, feel and message of LSD.”
Below, we speak to Ashley about her interest in film, the day of the shoot, and what’s next for the high school graduate.
Tell us about yourself and what sparked your interest in film?
I’m 18 years old, an indigenous Mexican-American girl from the West Side of Chicago and an aspiring filmmaker/director/artist. What sparked my interest in film was just wanting to share moments I lived and stories I’ve been told that I wished other people could get to see and hear. I feel like there’s not enough narrative in films that show the true complexity of growing up first generation and coming from a low income household; when there are, they’re very stereotypical and encourage negative stigmas. Through film, I’ve been able to create and share honest stories that show the depth and complexity of people that would otherwise be belittled, or even ignored.
What was your initial treatment idea?
My initial treatment idea was the same since day one, I just expanded on it the more I listened to the song. I knew I wanted to see a video that was very family oriented and united. I wanted this to be a video that offered an outside looking in perspective to people who aren’t from here, but more than anything I wanted it to be a video for the working class families and people of Chicago that come from neighbourhoods that are often scrutinised by the media.
What was your process in developing the idea?
I came up with the idea driving with my grandma and uncle to visit my aunt in Pilsen. I just put my headphones in, playing the song, and looked out the window. As the car was driving I saw all these different type of scenarios, glimpses of people working hard or kids playing in their front yards, or evening families hanging out with one another on their front steps. I thought catching moments like those were so authentic and cool.
It was kinda like I was peeping in their life for a second and that idea really went hand in hand with the lyrics of the song and the title. I felt like the song really did take you on a trip, although not necessarily a psychedelic trip, but a trip in the perspective of someone whose only ever known their city and that being their truth, which I thought was beautiful.
Can you tell us what the day of filming was like?
The day of filming I was a nervous wreck. I had a lot of fun though, the whole crew was fun, kind and hardworking. Everyone really inspired me, especially Sam and Vincent because they were so in their element being complete bosses and it was really awesome to see.
What I enjoyed most was literally just learning. As the day went on I would write things down about production and directing or editing on my phone notes. There were just so many things that I probably wouldn’t have gotten the chance to know if it wasn’t for this experience.
What do you think of the finished video?
I think it’s beyond what I could of imagined, it looks so great and it’s something really special that I think a lot of people will be able to resonate with, which was the intention I had, so I’m incredibly happy with it.
What would you like to do next?
I’ve been at The Remix Project Chicago working on music and film, and currently I’m working on a short film for a song I made that’s really special to me, about the symbolism Nike Cortesz played in Chicano Culture. That’s been so much fun to do, I’m really excited for that to come out.
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