In 2008, I made a short film called “I am an Island” which was inspired by my dad’s life-journey from psychedelia to psychiatrist. A year later I directed an experimental piece about a girl just out of a coma and on an identity quest - which, happens to land her at an art show where she sees her image portrayed in the exhibited body of work. I married these two concepts and discovered the story of Billy, a man, an artist, a human being, just someone living doing his thing. Once that was established, I was able to freely write the rest of the script, which in turn became the portrait of Billy Bates.
In essence, this film is a multi–layered experience about the cycle of art and life, allowing the viewer to travel organically through Billy’s lucid, sometimes dark, but ultimately hopeful journey. It’s like watching Basquiat, or Warhol, or Pollack, or any artist whose embracing his inner-life in order to create. With Billy, we allowed him to be that artist while also being relatable and empathetic, while in the end not taking himself too seriously.
Given the nature of this film as a whole, we feel like the inherent conversations in the film - about the filmmaking process, about the difference between art and life, and what insanity really is - can push boundaries for the audience. As filmmakers, we are willing to be accessible and accountable, which allows for the bridge between art and commerce to be extended.
Another key component to the creative process in the film is the music. We worked with actress Savannah Welch, who plays Kaia and is part of the Austin-based band The Trishas. The Trishas contribute an original track entitled SO BLUE to the soundtrack, which is a song they actually perform in the film. This song is utilized throughout Billy Bates in different ways in order to illuminate Billy’s journey. Aside from The Trishas, the band The Little Death and former avant-garde artist Arthur Russell also contribute to the soundtrack and original score.
Julie Pacino, my producing partner on the film and partner at our company Poverty Row Entertainment, and I are proud of the dynamic mediums that come together in this project... from the art to the music, to Billy's world which is so authentic. As an emerging filmmaker, bringing this worlds together under one roof in celebration of the artists and their mediums, as well as in honor of the film, is a dream come true.
And we are excited to share this piece of work with an audience at Tribeca since Julie and I both consider New York home. Billy Bates will host a private screening at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival on April 19th, which is an opportunity we are extremely grateful for. Artist Burton Machen, who created the artwork that is Billy’s art in the movie, will join us. We hope that audiences will be inspired by the making of this film and by the exploration within the film, as we unveil the very fine line between art and life.
Jennifer DeLia is the writer/director of Billy Bates and is a partner at the production company Poverty Row Entertainment with Julie Pacino.