Brenda Lien is a director, composer, feminist and YouTube consumer. As a child she played the piano and violin and was at the Frankfurt Conservatory at an early age. After realizing that she had to practice at least six hours a day to be truly successful, she decided to study art. At the Hfg Offenbach she applied with drawing, painting and photography. A few semesters later, she got stuck with film. In her films, Brenda Lien deals with socially relevant topics such as ideals of beauty, surveillance and exploitation. She is interested in how old patterns of consumption, power and thought shape the new narratives. In the short film trilogy "Call of Beauty" , "Call of Cuteness" and "Call of Comfort" Brenda took a critical look at popular internet videos and wonders why certain videos are becoming so popular and what it means for our society. She also writes the music for her films herself.
You deal with film and music. Which medium is actually more important to you?
For me, colors, shapes and sounds are directly linked to one another and I try to match the music with the content of the films. My music not only reflects the emotions but also adds another level of meaning. I would like to see that I can continue to drive two-pronged. That I can continue my education when it comes to music. The thing is, the movie business is so patriarchal and so dependent on money. Human is very much involved in this festival cycle and in this stark hierarchy. Of course, I've already had my first successes, I've already opened certain doors, but I wonder if it's something for me in the long term because I don't know whether I will fit in there. On the other hand, I have the feeling that film is a potent medium that triggers a lot in other people. Sometimes I think that social change can happen through a film rather than a theoretical book.
Can you change our society with art?
This is a crucial question: Why do people make art at all? I do think that art can change something because other people's art has often changed me. And I've had many film screenings where the viewers have been inspired. Perhaps they had never thought about the subjects in my work, or were unable to properly articulate their feelings or thoughts about them. Still, I often have a problem with the fact that everything in art has to be political for me. That blocks me sometimes because I can so seldom do things that are “only” beautiful. When I make music, for me it is an outlet without judgment. I just think, okay, that sounds great, even if it's pop music, it doesn't matter! It's different with film.
Maybe you remember when you became a feminist and why?
I only embarked on my feminist way shortly before “Call of Beauty”, because before that, as a cool-girl, feminism was not that cool or it took me a long time to really understand it. I also read the statistics that women get less funding - if at all - and that they are discriminated against everywhere, especially in the cultural industry. I asked myself: What am I actually doing in this industry? Why am I even studying this? Then I noticed that while I was struggling with political activism, my male fellow students just kept making films. What kind of fail is that? How can I concentrate on my artistic work and still remain activist? That's why I came up with the idea that I would only talk to FLINTA people <on"Call and Beauty"/ a> I'm going to do the film, which was a good experience.
How was that experience?
Frankfurt is not a film capital. That means that a lot of people from this area are in Berlin, Cologne or Munich. For my diploma film “First Work, Then Play” (where we were about 25 people on the set) it was difficult (especially as a low-budget project) to find a FLINTA crew. We always had to bring in a lot of people. That means - more costs. That was also a lot of effort. We had an actress from London, a camerawoman from Zagreb, a set designer and sound engineer from Barcelona. That was a blatant mood because none of us had seen anything like that before. Everyone was really reflected on the annoying mood that often reigns on other sets where you have to constantly prove yourself. The guys don't listen to you. The guys patronize you or question everything you give in terms of instructions. They don't take you seriously.
The set was great caring. Errors were not judged, but asked how they could be helped. My camerawoman hugged me once. I don't mean to imply “FLINTA people work better”, but at least the working atmosphere was better and very effective.
Have you already experienced sexism?
It is difficult for me to talk about individual experiences because it is a structural problem and not just an individual one. I experienced sexism both in the world of work and at the HfG. I also didn't get a camera job because a guy from acting said he had bad experiences with camera women and he didn't think I could wear a camera for two hours. She only weighs three kilos! Sorry, but don't overestimate your muscles! When the rejection came - it was in the second or third semester - I was super frozen on the phone and couldn't defend myself at all. I had no means of defending myself at all, but after that I thought: THIS WILL NEVER HAPPEN TO ME AGAIN!
In 2015 I joined the group "Pro Quote Regie". It is a political grouping of directors and FLINTA filmmakers who have campaigned for a quota for film funding. You made a study of the representation of FLINTA in different professions in the film, which blew my mind.
At the exhibition Brenda Lien shows the gallery version of her new film “Work In Progress”. It's about a young music producer who moves in the field of tension between hustle culture, burnout and perfectionism.
Text: Olga Inozemtceva-Appel