I first “met” Malea Moon on Instagram after being interviewed for Risen Mags, a website that she’s a contributor to as well. I began following her and watching her short IG clips, which then lead me to her YouTube channel; Malea’s films are intimate, sweet, smart, and beautifully edited, tender portraits of herself, her friends, and her environment. I hadn’t realized initially that Malea was so young– fourteen!– which is not to say that what makes her work exciting is her age; rather, I found it thrilling and moving to find this world where young women were using digital media to express themselves and the intimacies of their lives, something that requires a kind of dedication and continuous practice that I very much admire.
Malea Moon is a 14 year old filmmaker living in a rainy valley in Oregon. She’s got a passion for art, rain, Bernie Sanders, and lavender lemonade. You could probably find her rambling about her OTP, shoving a camera in your face, or drinking coffee when she knows she should be drinking tea. She aspires to represent marginalized voices through her art and travel the world in a beat up VW with her closest friends, going to concerts and swimming in the ocean while it rains. You can keep up with this human on her Instagram (@adolessent) or her YouTube (@ Malea Moon).
Gina Abelkop: The internet didn’t really “exist” until I was twelve or thirteen, and it was REALLY different for me then than it is now. How old were you when you started using it, and how has your relationship to the internet changed as you grew older? What are some of your favorite websites, and what makes them exciting/interesting for you?
Malea Moon: When I first started using the internet, I was super young. Around 7 or 8, at the oldest. I remember that I spent most of my time playing dress up games and looking at puppies as a kid, I suppose I just thought it was a fun way to pass the time. I didn’t really see the internet as a way to meet new people or to learn new things until I was at least 10 or so. Now, the way I view the internet is much different (enter: nervous laughter) I have to distance myself from it sometimes, honestly. I can get sucked in very easily. I spend a lot of time on YouTube and Tumblr, crying over new films and fandoms. I’m terribly introverted and I was born in a tiny town without much diversity, and so I began to use social media as a way to make new friends and remind myself there was more than just my small, sheltered hometown. That was something that made it kind of an oasis, a safe space despite all of its danger. I can’t really think of what I’d be doing without the internet, considering it’s been such a prevalent part of my life and aided me being able to connect with others.
GA: How old were you when you began making videos, and what inspired you to start making them?
MM: I began making films when I was 8 off of my mom’s computer webcam, and needless to say, they sucked. I’d started off making animations with a video game called The Sims. I’d taught myself how to recode the game and edit sequences of videos together and I believe that’s where it all started. There was an entire community of ‘Sims Filmmakers’ and I was so inspired by all of the work they were creating. As an 8 year old, my first reaction wasn’t ‘wow, these people are directing, acting, and writing their own short films.’ It was more that I enjoyed watching them and wanted to do it too. When I was near 10 or 11 I picked up my grandmothers old camera and started filming bad music videos and posting them on the internet. It’s all kind of just progressed from there. As I got older I fell in love with film, all types of it. I still have a ridiculously long way to go before I’m where I want to be, but I’d like to think I’m better than I was at nine.
GA: Your editing skills are excellent: did you teach yourself or learn from someone, and what are your favorite programs for editing? What kind of camera do you use to shoot your videos?
MM: Ah, editing! I resented it forever; thinking it was just a tedious technical thing. I was very wrong. I taught myself how to edit everything, save for the help of a few very lovely YouTube videos. My editing skills are still hella messy, but I’m always trying to learning new things and experimenting with new creative styles. In the early years I edited with ‘Windows Live Movie Maker’ which I believe is installed on most computers and when I was 10 I moved up to Sony Vegas Pro 12, which is what I use to this day! I’m not quite sure if I should say this; but I never actually paid for what I use, and I’m not entirely sure how I managed that. Nevertheless, it’s an older version so if you’re looking for a solid editor you could very easily find it for free floating about. I’d like to move up to editing on adobe after effects for animations and color tweaking as soon as I get the money, though. I shoot on a Nikon d3200 with an 18-55mm lense and a macro. It’s a solid DSLR, my first one actually. It’s still very new to me, but it is definitely an upgrade from my last point and shoot.
GA: Music is obviously a big part of your life: who are some of your favorite musicians currently, and what do you love about their work? How do you pick the songs that accompany your videos?
MM: Music is my oxygen, as cliche as that sounds. Naturally, I’m a very feeling person. I’m not sure how to explain it in few words and without sounding super pretentious, but it’s like at all moments of the day I’m observing and just taking it all in. Music helps with this. As a filmmaker I live for moments. I see everything through a metaphorical camera lens and I’m not sure if that comes from being an artist or a teenager. God, I sound pretentious right now. Anyways, music is another way of storytelling. Music makes the moment, makes you feel, makes you see something new, it brings everything together and draws you into the world. In way of taste, I love most genres other than country. I hate country. I adore indie subgenres than anything though. My favorite artists change incredibly often depending on my mood, but currently I’m really digging a song called “Mt. Washington” by Local Natives, as well as “Lavender Blood” by Fox Academy. Along with those Grouplove, Daughter, and The Front Bottoms will always be statements in my music collection. I’ve been on the hunt for new music lately though as there isn’t one band I’ve been particularly into as of late. As for picking songs for my videos, it’s always either a quick and easy process or something I search for for hours. Normally I’ll have an idea in my head, flashes of something I want to create, and my first thought is to go looking for music to accompany it. Without the right music, film will always lack a certain emotion that it has the potential to evoke so it’s very important to me to pick what resonates with me rather than what’s easy to edit. I listen to different songs and imagine what I could make from it, imagine how I could further my point by using this song and further create the world I’m trying to show people. Sound is so important, and having songs and scores that reflect the characters emotions or the mood of a scene is essential.
GA: What are you favorite and least favorite things about where you live? What do you consider your “safe” spaces (for art-making/having feelings/etc)?
MM: Last year I moved 3k miles from my hometown in North Carolina and settled in Oregon so I could go to art school here! My favorite thing is it’s rain. In the springtime the rain turns everything green and soft and the sky is always grey. It makes the whole world smell like wet earth. It’s absolutely lovely and makes for great photos and days hiking in the mountains or on the coast! My least favorite thing is probably it’s surplus of weird junkies. That sounds horrible, but coming from a small town I’d never really seen anything like that. Sheltered, I know. It’s hard coming from a place where the biggest school in my county had 200 students to Oregon and being surrounded by hundreds of strangers all the time. I’m still trying to find my favorite spots, but I especially love the coastal towns and the coffee shops near my house. I go there to write often. One time while exploring with a good friend of mine we found this bridge over a big river near the train tracks at the edge of town. It was all worn down and led into a thick cluster of spiky plants and trash. I like going there when I’m not in the best place, especially if it’s raining. We’ve never seen anyone else go there, but there’s always new graffiti and cigarette stubs so we know it’s a favorite for other people too.
GA: How did you get involved with Risen Mags, and what are some of your favorite writers/columns from the site?
MM: I heard about Risen through our co-editor! I followed Jazmine on instagram (@vangohoe) and one day she announced they were accepting new recruits. I wasn’t sure if I’d get in, really. I’m so happy I did, though. Everyone is so talented it’s insane. One of my favorite writers is a girl named Rue, everything she creates is electric. Don’t even get me started on the visual artists, they are amazing.
GA: Something I noticed about your videos is that they’re so intimate and personal in some ways, and really abstract in others: I feel like they show me a lot about the complexities of your life as a human (feeling, experiencing, loving) but few of the more factual, day-to-day details of life. Since the internet is a public space, what drives you to share yourself in the way you do?
MM: Like I mentioned earlier, I’m horrible at social interaction. I don’t feel comfortable around many people, and even then it’s incredibly hard for me to articulate anything. I wanted a space for myself where I wouldn’t have to worry about my family or my friends or what they thought of me or what I had to say. I wanted a place where I didn’t mumble all the time. Since I started youtube, my family and friends have all discovered it. They are incredibly supportive, but it does feel a bit less of my own now. I’m a dreamer, and I often space out thinking of magical worlds and aliens. I love being able to create a new world, my world, you know? It’s like being able to speak without saying a word. That’s why I’m personal. I spend all of my time being artificial, ignoring myself, and pretending I’m comfortable. My art is somewhere that is irrelevant. It’s an escape, even if I’m insecure about what I make. This got intense quickly, oops. The point is, art is supposed to personal. Art needs to be personal in order to mean something. In a way it’s giving pieces of yourself away, placing all of the hurt and happy bits of you into the world. Showing people your soul, or something like that. I like it. I feel extremely vulnerable but it’s a good kind of vulnerability. And honestly if someone has an issue with what I’m making that isn’t constructive criticism or respectful I just don’t care.
GA: Who/what are some of your favorite filmmakers/films? Favorite music videos? Do they inform your own videos at all?
MM: Okay, inspiration! I read a quote somewhere once, something about how you have to feed yourself good and substantial art before you can make good and substantial art. I think of it often. I’m always so embarrassed that I don’t know many directors, but I know movies. It’s something I’m working on, though. Recently I’ve been into the wildly known Wes Anderson! His work is phenomenal, to say the least. I’m in love with his film Moonrise Kingdom. If you haven’t seen it, you need to. I’m also an avid watcher of a TV series called The Walking Dead. The way they tell stories will make you cry for days, in a good way though. I’m also incredibly inspired by YouTubers like Igottalovecereal, Bertie Gilbert, Savannah Brown, and Elijah Emerald. I’m still very much in the process of finding my ‘style’, but watching all of these lovely humans makes me think of new ways to present ideas and create art and that makes me incredibly happy.
GA: What are your hopes for your Youtube channel/future film projects? If money/access were no obstacle, what would your dream project be?
MM: In the future, I hope to grow my channel as much as possible. I want to create a name for myself in the ‘art world’. First and foremost I want to improve in my technique, editing, writing, etc. This year I will (hopefully) be working on my first feature film! My “dream project” would probably be said film, just without all of the limitations I’m going to face. It’d be wonderful to be able to hire great actors and have access to all the equipment that I need. My biggest goal is to represent people that are often excluded from media. Being someone of color, who isn’t straight or white and struggles with mental illness, it’s hard to find media where I’m represented. It’s hard to find good movies with queer characters unless you’ve been looking forever. Who knows, maybe I’m looking in the wrong place. My goal though is to make features and create new worlds, pull people into them, and represent under-appreciated and under recognized groups. I don’t want that to be the forefront of the films though, I want to normalize above all. I want to inspire young people like myself. I guess that’s it. My dream is to inspire people via good film. Art is such a precious, important thing and I’m not sure why I’m drawn to it in the way I am but it’s a kind of need to make. I want to share that with others, I want to inspire and represent marginalized voices and encourage others (especially youth) to question society and the norms and labels we’re faced with.