Julia Kupiec & Nina Gofur direct ‘Liv: In Process’.
Liv, a 23-year-old NYC-based fashion designer, explores her creative process and ongoing relationship with self-questioning and self-invention.
Filmed in Brooklyn, New York, United States.
Words from Julia & Nina below.
When did you first meet Liv, and how did you arrive at making a film together?
Nina: I’ve known Liv for 5 years. We met at a Halloween party in my junior year of college but didn’t get to know each other until a trip upstate with a group of friends. I watched Liv bring two duffel bags stuffed with antique linens she picked up along the way and an entire sewing machine from home, and I thought to myself, “this person will be in my life for a long time.”
I spent the majority of the week documenting her process with my Super 8 camera and before I knew it, I fell in love with the way she pours herself into everything she makes. Her care for her garments also greatly reflected her care for her personal relationships, particularly her female ones. In the following months after the trip I began to photograph her process at her home in Greenpoint until one day she burst into my studio with a bottle of champagne, announcing she had just signed a lease for a store in Williamsburg. It seemed like a perfect moment to capture and immortalize.
I wanted to encapsulate that period of time when we’re all around each other, always making things, always dreaming up things in this kind of group-mentality way.
Julia: I honestly can’t remember when I met Liv but it must have occurred around the same time. She just sort of appeared in my life at some point in college and slowly permeated into my every-day. The night I first thought of this project was distinct, though. It was post-pandemic, after graduation. It was a very collaborative time. Everyone was always doing a photoshoot together or hosting a pop up event or what-have-you. This one night, Liv had invited over a handful of girlfriends to do a clothing swap. It’s the kind of night I think of when I think of Liv and it looked the way you’d imagine: a dream collaged out of a Sophia Coppola movie – all pastels and lace, dancing on mountains of clothes, loud music, shared confessions, teeth stained with red wine. Now, a few years later, It’s the kind of night I’ll look back on and feel is inseparable from the experience of my early 20’s – that time when your girlfriends are your most reliable compasses, the mirrors you hold up to yourself to find out who you are and who you’d like to be. I think I felt the inherent temporary-ness of that experience. This period of time when we’re all around each other all the time, always making things, always dreaming up things in this kind of group-mentality way. I just wanted to encapsulate that somehow, to put it in a treasure box and keep it forever.
In what ways did Liv’s process inform some of the creative decisions you took on this project?
Julia: There was an interesting throughline I saw between Liv’s creative process and this chaotic period of self questioning and self actualization all of us seemed to be going through in our early twenties. Liv makes clothes out of discarded, imperfect fabrics. In a heap on the floor, it really doesn’t look like her base elements go together. They’re contradictory – a mish mash of different patterns, time periods, styles and materials. But she binds these disjointed things together and creates new pieces which seem to find their value in their depth of texture, in their contradictory elements, in the disproven assumption that “this shouldn’t work” and then, somehow against expectation, it does.
Similarly, I felt like we were all at a stage in our lives when we were piecing things together. Somehow our identities weren’t fully baked and that itself felt like a defining feature of that period of our lives. I think we wanted to stitch something together ourselves to see if we could make something out of that.
Nina: Another element is that Liv literally incorporates the imperfections of the fabrics she works with and I think that’s a really beautiful way to look at the way we filmed it. We cast our friends in it because we wanted to really show the clothes being worn by real people that will spill and rip things and live their lives in these clothes. We wanted to show people who were “in process” so to speak, who were feeling growing pains and serving as mirrors to one another and just being gloriously imperfect in their own ways.
What are the dynamics of your co-directing partnership? And how did you divide and share responsibilities?
Nina: Julia and I started forming our creative relationship years ago, when we met in film school. Working with Julia over the last few years has, in many ways, shaped my own creative process. Our close friendship definitely informed our co-directing dynamic, at the base of which was absolute transparency, trust, and acknowledgment of the ways in which we tend to differ in our approaches. I had a lot of trust in this because I do believe Julia has the innate ability to turn anything she touches into gold. We have a lot of similarities regarding our tastes and where we find inspiration, but our differences are what made this process so meaningful. Julia leans more narrative and I compliment her with experimentation.
Our differences made this process so meaningful. Julia leans more narrative, and I compliment her with experimentation.
Julia: Co-directing requires so much transparency and trust. We didn’t really divide responsibilities in prep or in production. I asked Nina to do this project with me because I wanted to stretch myself. It was a project about girls and friendship and identity formation and it just felt right to try to dive into those themes head first with one of my best friends, without any real boundaries of responsibility. It was challenging at times, but that’s exactly what I wanted. In pre-production, we would throw ideas at each other and sometimes we’d initially reject them because they felt foreign, but then we’d walk away and digest and realize that if we each stepped into each other’s impulses that might lie outside of our comfort zones, maybe we could become better artists. I think we pushed one another to make the project something it couldn’t have been had either of us made it alone, and the ways in which we were both changed as filmmakers by that process extends far beyond this one film.
The VO throughout the film is as equally powerful as the images, could you describe some of your methods for capturing this, as well as your editing approach to build the overall narrative?
There were growing pains. It was frustrating and confusing and then at some point… it just wasn’t.
Nina: The process of recording the voiceovers was perhaps our lengthiest and most meaningful. We recorded each voiceover in my apartment, sitting on the floor of my living room. Each session felt like a very special event that opened up the space for us to talk through these very complex emotions we carry, as women in our early twenties. They also felt like much needed therapy sessions. At a certain point, we forgot there was a microphone between us, and that’s what really drove the VO to become so real and powerful. We wanted it to feel like you were listening in on a very universal, yet intimate thought process. We wanted it to be relatable.
Julia: The amount of VO we recorded for this project is comical. I think we recorded 6 hours of interviews for what would become a 2m 30sec video. But also, like, when else are we going to get to do that! I think we were both just overwhelmed with sentimentality about the experience we were having and we just wanted to keep digging and talking and not let it end.
Unexpectedly… editing was hard. I don’t even want to admit how long it took us to cut this project. There were too many potential versions of the edit and I think we were paralysed by all of them. At first, I tried to make it too serious and overtly sentimental and that didn’t work. And then it went too true-doc, and then it went too comedic and all of it felt wrong. Eventually, the cut found its way back to itself and, like everything, suddenly it went swiftly and things fell into place as if there’d never been a struggle at all. In a way, I kind of love that the cut itself had its own identity crisis. It felt appropriate. There were growing pains. It was frustrating and confusing and then at some point… it just wasn’t. And maybe that’s just the thing. Maybe that’s always going to be the thing. It’s hard, it’s a struggle, and then it isn’t.
What are you reading at the moment?
Nina: ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’ by Joan Didion & “Blow-Up” by Julio Cortázar.
Julia: Infinite Jest’ by David Foster Wallace & “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen (I agree that the combo feels odd. It is odd.)
- Owen Lazur, Jeremy Truong
- Executive Producer
- Jonas Berry
- Director of Photography
- Production Company