I first met filmmaker and musician Mara Katria on the set of her first feature length film, Please Talk With Me, (PTWM) the true-life story of the paranormal occurrences known as the C2D1 Haunting in upstate New York. As the director, she was confident, in control, and knew what she wanted in every scene. When I saw the final result in a preview screening in Orange County, NY, where she did most of the filming, it was an extraordinary film which played at horror film festivals, garnering her high praise for directorial authenticity. After its release in 2014, Katria was honored with the Best Director award from the Wilson Horror Film Festival, and Best Feature at Spirit Quest Film Fest.
Years passed, but I continued to follow Mara on Facebook where she began to share a new project: the creation of an almost six-minute single, and accompanying music video, again self-directed, called Midnight Mind. Not surprisingly, having a paranormal film on her resume, this original single is hauntingly produced but one is left unafraid, whether of the unknown, of the darkness, or of feeling alone. It’s the perfect antidote to the current climate in the country and in our world.
Mara agreed to a Q & A session about the music video. The first question I asked is about the lyrics, and whether she realized how much more meaningful they are now, during the pandemic, when most of the world is in some form of quarantine or isolation. And, also, what was her inspiration?
MK: When I was a child, I stayed up all night waiting for the sun to rise for fear of the dark. In staying awake, I discovered a world of possibility – both beautiful and terrible. I’d sit out on my roof and watch the stars, afraid at first, but after the fear came thoughts of beauty, strength, and hope. Such themes surfaced again in PTWM which highlights the lifelong friendships forged during the terror of the haunting. There was light in the darkness. As the song’s lyrics state: “See our stars how they shine – bright within your midnight mind.”
Midnight Mind was created in layers, and chief among them was the hope that it would help even one person to feel less alone. The concept of reaching out from different frames of reference was pivotal in writing the song and video. The symbol of the glass bell-jar or ‘cloche,’ for example, was used to signify both protection during harsh times and the modern connections we maintain, even while apart, from behind the glass of our screens. Following spring 2020, audiences and festival juries have kindly shared that these ideas resonate with them. That means the world to me.
WAT: From a full-length movie to a 5-minute video: how do you compare the two processes, and with heading so much of the responsibilities for directing it and getting it out there?
MK: It’s a wonderful responsibility directing and editing a classic motion picture with a fantastic cast and crew, especially one about genuine events and people as with Please Talk with Me. Something I love about feature-lengths is celebrating milestones with a team. Producing Midnight Mind and now my upcoming album featuring Modern English has been equally gratifying, though the team is condensed. Planning and cutting a five-minute piece is also lighter, if not easier, than a feature. Yet I’ve endeavored to apply the same immersive storytelling philosophy to all these productions. Those who’ve seen PTWM and other films I’ve directed will find similar themes explored in my music. It feels like it’s all cut from the same cloth to me as a creator. Not to mention there are more feature films to come!
WAT: Because this is Woman Around Town, can you share anything about working as a woman in what is sometimes a “man’s” world — in the studio, working with engineers? Were you always feeling welcomed? Comfortable? Maybe it was a non-issue, which would be great to hear.
MK: As a woman and administrator in a creative field, I’ve worked with many excellent people from different backgrounds. On prior video game and film productions, my fellow administrators (usually males) often encouraged me to take the driver’s seat. We laugh to this day about how we’d repeatedly offer the leadership role back and forth to one another. It was always about the project – the story we were trying to tell. The same positivity has been true with Midnight Mind which features the artist J. Jeff Ungar. At my request, he added the track’s backing vocals as a nod to the balance between the ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ in our outer and inner worlds which is a topic I’m fascinated by.
To learn more about Mara Katria, visit www.marakatria.com. At present she is working on an original album with New Wave music legends, Modern English, whose hit “I Melt With You,” remains a 1980’s classic, and which is due in 2021. Born and bred in Orange County, NY, Katria credits her parents for fostering her love of the stories of myth and magic.
Photo Credits: Mara Katria Headshots, top and bottom: J.Jeff Ungar
Midnight Mind – Art Credit: Mara Katria