SLUG Style: Amanda Madden
As a nonbinary filmmaker, artist, educator, director, editor and community organizer, Amanda Madden’s creativity is guided by vulnerability, personal experience and a love for their community. This is represented by their work as the facilitator of Reflection Collective, a series of virtual workshops for DIY filmmaking and through Madden’s position as the Artist Foundry Manager at the Utah Film Center. To learn more about Madden’s ever-evolving creative work, visit their website amandacmadden.com and follow them on Instagram @amandawithamoviecamera.
Every month, SLUG Style features a distinct member of the community and asks them why they do what they do. Exploring more than just clothing, SLUG Style is an attempt to feature the people who give Salt Lake City flavor through personality and panache.
What are your stylistic influences? This could be a band, decade, fictional character—anything.
I really hate shopping in a store, so I am inspired by what I find in unusual and more personal places. I get a lot of clothes from my mom. I love a clothing swap with friends. I like a thrift store in a small rural town. I lived in New York for 11 years and that was really inspiring to me around personal style. There are so many beautiful people there, beautiful in every possible style and owning it and it’s accepted as part of the fabric of the city. It taught me to wear what I want to wear, to be playful, wild and experimental. I feel very inspired by queerness and gender play. For me, queerness is about being your truest self and deviating from the status quo, so I like thinking about how that can be expressed in style. And as a nonbinary person, I like to explore how to express that. Generally, I am more femme-presenting and that feels good for me. And I also use it as an opportunity to play with the idea of what a femme-them can be!
You have a really impressive catalog of work as a filmmaker, editor, director, artist and educator. What projects are you currently most proud of?
I think of my projects as living things and I am proud of all of them in different ways—they have all been meaningful and taught me so much. Currently what’s on my mind and heart is my most recent film, A Spell For Queer Home, which is an experimental documentary about what it means to be at home as a queer person and how we find and shape that sense of belonging for ourselves and the community. I released the film in March and have been showing it throughout the year and there has been such meaningful conversation and reflection around it. I really want to continue to use it as a tool for having radical conversations about community. So, right now I am dreaming up new ways to do that and new projects extending from the film: a podcast, video series, a zine, a tour, an archive. I think I might be working on this project for the rest of my life.
What are your interests or hobbies outside of your work? What is the hobby or interest that you have that no one would realize to ask you about?
I love hiking, camping, biking and cross-country skiing. I’m a runner and am currently training for my third marathon. I also love cooking, gardening, tarot and astrology. And I almost always have a jigsaw puzzle going.
Your work under Reflection Collective is very impressive, and the message behind that work is empowering for aspiring creatives. What is the motivation behind hosting these virtual workshops and what have you gotten out of it as a creative yourself?
I have always craved community around being an artist. It’s hard to be an artist and it comes with ups and downs and challenges and excitement and flow and stuckness and it’s a really emotional experience, so I wanted a space to explore that with others. I am also passionate about teaching, facilitating and holding space. For me, every creative project I have done has completely transformed me and offered me new paths to vulnerability and integrity. I wanted to use my experience around that to support others in using their creativity to discover things about themselves. I am also trying to support others with accountability with their creative work, helping folks map out projects, set and reach milestones and navigate the emotional experience of it all. I want to make filmmaking more accessible, experimental, playful and radical. It’s been amazing to grow the project and community this year through workshops and a monthly support group for artists called the Artist Solidarity Club. I will be continuing to offer these things next year and am curious to see how it grows. I know our creativity is a radical tool for introspection and change and I will keep pulling that thread.
Are you always “on” or would someone see you at the grocery store, for example, with less elements of your style?
I feel very strongly about being in cozy clothes at home and my partner even teases me about how quickly I change when I get home. I want soft leggings and old t-shirts and sweatshirts and big sweaters and fleecy socks. But I am a hard no on pajamas at the grocery store.
You describe your artistic approach as “explor[ing] evolutions of intimacy, identity, body and connection.” How does this mindset apply to your life outside of your work, including your expression of style?
As I mentioned, I get a lot of clothes from family members. I have a handful of things from grandparents and others. It feels intimate to wear these things. It makes me feel close to them and I love the idea of style as connection across time in this way. I am always interested in embodiment and in terms of style, this manifests as tuning into my body wisdom and wearing things that offer a sensory experience that supports my emotional experience in that moment. Sometimes this is something really soft and loose and flowy. Sometimes this is scratchy wool. Sometimes it is shoes that maybe even hurt a bit but keep me grounded in my body. Sometimes it is my partner’s shirt because I want them with me.
If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would those be?
creative, committed, dreamer.
How has your personal style evolved over time? Has it followed the evolution of your art?
My personal style has always been intertwined with my art. For example, a couple years ago I made a film about a radical artist from the early 1900s named Baroness Elsa. She was a gender-bending time traveler and my film was about me trying to channel her. So, I shaved my head for that film because she said “shaving one’s head is like having a new love experience” and I think she’s right. Or, I’m thinking about my most recent film where I wore two thrift store outfits—an oversized suit and a pink dress—to create characters for the film. I wore the suit to the premiere (even though it had been in a river!) and I loved the idea of someone recognizing the piece from the film and that creating a playful disruption of time and space. I think I will keep making personal films and so my personal style and the evolution of it will show up in that work.
How do you see your creative work continuing to grow and evolve over time?
I will always keep making films and art and doing it in the ways that are the most aligned with my integrity, the most vulnerable and personally transformative, knowing that my personal evolution is deeply interwoven with others’ personal transformations. I hope that Reflection Collective continues to grow. I want to keep building creative community. I’m thinking about a new film these days and I already know it will change me entirely. I can’t wait.