Eye of the Story

The Evergreen State College

Author: pieisa23

Hiya, my name is Isabella and I love making and watching films! (:


CLOSE VIEWING – Winter’s Bone

When we watch films, we enter another time and space. We enter a world we may or may not be familiar with. We travel someplace else without even moving our bodies. When we watch films, we suspend judgement, allowing ourselves to believe what we’re seeing in order to enjoy what’s unfolding before us.

To help the audience participate, the filmmakers have some things up their sleeves that they can do. Things that are subtle, small, that melt into the scene, quietly aiding in building the world the audience is experiencing.

It’s all in the details. How the characters dress, what they’re occupying their hands with, the objects of their life, the small details of their world. Details let us further into their lives and help us relate to them, believe they’re real. Those details might not be apart of the main storyline; they provide no obvious obstacles or aid to the characters, but rather help to flesh out their world. Nevertheless, details tell us about the characters in one way or another.

In Winter’s Bone, the wardrobe hugely lets us into Ree’s world. It tells of the kind of people who are in the story. Lots of plaid, jeans, boots, heavy coats and sweaters. Earth colors, browns, greens. Their clothes are worn. They could have been handed down though the family, or worn down from working. One gets the impression that the people of Winter’s Bone are hardworking, doing what they can to survive. Even Ree’s necklace she always wears speaks of survival, a tribal-esk tooth of some sort hanging on string. Wardrobe can also tell of status. The head honcho probably dresses differently from those under them.

Often in art-house or independent films, there are shots that are geared towards world building, supporting the story by showing us what else is happening in that world. They aren’t exactly inserts or establishing shots. The filmmakers have taken a moment to peer closer and observe. These type of shots show the cluttered world of Winter’s Bone, the quiet force of nature, what characters do in their free time. Through these shots the audience feels as if they’re actually there, observing the goings-on of this place.

Props. Belongings. They speak of the characters, giving them life and believability. Throughout the film, Ree returns to the closet full of her dad’s clothes. His scent and memory linger on though his coats and shirts, and Ree goes to them when he’s on her mind. Although he has left Ree and her family, Jessup is still her dad. You can feel the conflicting emotions going on inside of Ree as she looks at her father’s clothes.

Or Ree’s little sister. Her toy horses tell us of her childlike nature, her love for animals. But also of a special connection between her and her father. A small handmade horse, crafted especially for her. Or in the end, Ree sits with her brother and sister, and they cradle baby chickens. They chirp, swaddled in blankets. They are young and full of potential. Ree’s sister plucks at a banjo, once belonging to her father. And there is a feeling of new beginnings, and comfort.

The wardrobe, the shots dedicated to observation, the props, they all immerse us into the world of the film, adding to its believability in little ways, bringing the characters to life. In this way it’s the details that matter the most, that allow us to enter into another time and space.



Screenshot of my video essay in Final Cut Pro:

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 12.18.29 PM




Close Reading On Art & Fear | “Ordinary”

I had been wanting to read Art & Fear since I watched an interview with Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez last year. Rodriguez had said, “There’s a really cool book you should read- it’s called Art & Fear. It says as an artist, this is probably what you’re thinking, ‘I’m no good’, ‘They’re gonna figure me out’, ‘I’m a failure, I’ll never do anything.’ That’s the process, that is what it means to be an artist. Everyone has that, no matter how successful you are, you’re always gonna feel that, and you should feel that. If you don’t feel that, it’s not worth doing.” To which, of course, Tarantino gives his side, “Well, the thing is, I grandiose my way out of fear.” But most artists are not like Tarantino. To say the least, he’s a pretty unique guy.

Art & Fear is written for the rest of us: ordinary people, who make ordinary art. Though, as the book makes clear, ordinary does not equate to trivial. Realizing the fact that we’re ordinary actually provides a lot of comfort in art-making. To understand our normalcy, we must separate ourselves from the title: artist. (Or at least not identify with it too closely.) We set expectations that will only get in the way of our art-making, setting standards for ourselves that hold us back from finding our work. We look outside of ourselves instead of looking inward, to what we truly care about.

When we identify too closely to being an artist, we wrap our sense of being with the term, so tightly that we may not be able to distinguish between the two. Being an artist is a piece of ourselves, not the entirety of who we are. If we see ourselves only as artists, what are we then if our art disappoints? Do we even matter or exist if we cease to make art? Our art represents the state of our art-making capabilities at that moment, but it does not tell of our self worth. Art & Fear makes it clear it is normal for our art to fluctuate- we actually will make more crap than anything. This is the process that allows for our work to get better. Being an artist is a part of you, and it carries no esteemed position in the world. Yes, it’s a wonderful thing to create, to express yourself, but in doing so does not make you better than others. If you think it does, then a fear will live in you, perhaps quietly, but it will be there; the fear that you might not be good enough to be an artist. That fear will haunt you every time you set out to improve your work. And it will be that fear that will stop you from doing just that.

“Unreal expectations are easy to come by, both from emotional needs and from the hope or memory of periods of wonder.” (Bayles, Orland 35) If you have the expectation that once you’re an artist, magical perks are included, then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. A vault of endless ideas will not be created in your mind. Things do not become effortless. That’s not to say that the work will never feel fluent, but don’t be expecting the heavens to open up all the time. There is no moment when you harness all knowledge about art-making- you will always have to work for that knowledge, through experience. And experience means a shit-ton of art-making. That knowledge can be found if you look to your work. Where else would you learn what makes your work work? “The best information about what you love is in the last contact with what you love.” (Bayles, Orland 35)

“The only pure connection is between you and your work.” (Bayles, Orland 47) Personally, the most devastating thing I can do to my work is compare it to others. Because when I’m comparing, I’m looking for acceptance. I’m looking for the work of others to tell me something about my own art. It should be obvious that the only thing their work will tell me will be about their work, but it’s easy to think silly things like that. It doesn’t work to look outside of yourself to learn what will help your work progress. Seeing what you last made is accurate feedback on what you did and didn’t do. You must look inward to find what you care about, or look to your art. So pay attention to what grabs you, what interests you, what stories or emotions are begging to be expressed. You’re the best person to express what you feel most deeply.

Being ordinary doesn’t mean you’re unable to make significant art. Being ordinary means your fears and false expectations about art-making are shared by other art-makers. Being ordinary means it’s okay to fail, that it’s a part of the process. If you accept that process, you’re art will be the better because of it. Being ordinary and making ordinary art means that you look to yourself and to your art for knowledge of where to go next.

In summary, don’t freak if you can’t find too many similarities between you and Tarantino.




Isabella C.P. / “Exploring”

I visited my Abuelita’s house the past weekend. It’s the place I miss the most of my hometown. 

“Let’s explore,” Nathan said. Quinny and I stood, agreeing. When the three of us are together we are in middle school again, thirteen. It’s easier to be together if we’re thirteen; we can pretend everything is simple like it was when we were younger. 

We went upstairs to the third floor. Once at the top, there’s only two ways to go, left or right. We turned into the room on the right. “It’s still a film set,” I told them, opening the door. I had turned the room into the bedroom of a character for a film I didn’t finish getting footage for. The character was slightly gothic, and it felt like we were really entering her space, her real bedroom. There was a chair beside a small coffee table, a few books on the tabletop, waiting to be read, American Psycho being one of them. On her desk there was a glass bottle with a fake rose, small Halloween finger puppets, a few film canisters, and a journal. It lay open, a journal entry written halfway down the page, ending in mid-sentence. I opened the closet to find her large coat and her black and red striped shirt. Another one of her heavy coats hung on the door to the room, waiting to be grabbed on the way out. 

We went into the room on the left. It was bigger then I remembered; all the cardboard boxes had been neatly stacked against the walls. The room echoed our footsteps, bouncing off the bare walls, the sound hardly cushioned by the boxes.

I reached into one of the boxes, feeling something cold against my fingers. Sounds of glass against glass. I pulled up a glass bottle, filled with black marbles. It had been broken, a large chunk of the glass taped back into place. I wondered the significance of the marbles in the bottle, how it must’ve been special enough to tape back together. It rested in the box belonging to my aunt Graciella, but we call her Tia Beatle. I pulled out a black and white photo of her, high school age. Calling over the boys, I showed them the picture, but it was obvious that it didn’t present the same shock and interest that it had for me. They nodded politely and wandered to other ends of the room, peering into other boxes. 

I felt like I better understood my family by snooping through their childhood. They kept unfinished journals like I do, they wrote letters to friends that would’ve been emails and texts now, they had little knick-knaks that they might’ve placed on their desks and windowsills like I do. 

I stole two strips of film negatives from Tia Beatle’s box, which I’d later use as bookmarks. If held up to the light, one could make out the small images of candid photographs, pictures of people in action and closeups of ordinary household appliances. 

“I’ve got to go, guys.” My bus was leaving soon and I didn’t have a car, so some walking was in order. 

We left the house and Nathan walked with me awhile until he had to head back home to rejoin his brother in packing. They were leaving for Idaho the next day, and by that time I’d be back in Olympia. 




I didn’t get all the footage I wanted for the film that had the gothic girl, but after some months of letting the project sit around, I put what I did have into a music video type of thing. 

Here it is: 

Isabella C.P. / “Blame”

My project is finally finished. It’s different from what I’ve made before. I’m not sure if I’ve ever tackled a social justice issue before, but this was one close to home. Until being in college, I had never before heard so many stories of sexual assault from other females. They all seemed to have their own horror story; being danced on without consent, taken, drunk, into another room at a party, catcalled while on a run, stalked, unwanted hands on inner thighs… and worse. 

A rage comes up in me. I feel rage that these sorts of situations have become “the norm” for women to experience. And it’s most often the women who are blamed for someone else making the decision to sexually assault them. Women are being blamed instead of men being educated on this subject. Boys need to be taught how to respectfully treat girls. I also feel frustration at how unaware men are to this issue, to the injustices women face. Good dudes, who’d never harm a woman, are still extremely unfamiliar to the issues of sexual assault. So many guys unsure what feminism actually means. It’s still treated like a dirty word; many women even shy away from the term. 


A week or so after I’d been at Evergreen I went into the woods at night with two new friends I’d made, both guys. They had only shown me kindness since I’d known them, but as we went deeper into the woods, I became increasingly afraid that they might do something to me. I eventually voiced that I wanted to head back, because of a fear of the dark. They walked me back and apologized, wishing I’d feel better. We still are friends, and they’re very lovely people, but that night in the woods I was almost convinced something terrible was going to happen. My situation had provoked fear: I was in the dark woods, alone, with two guys I didn’t really know, who could overpower me if they wanted to. I’d heard about situations like that, and they all ended badly. 

After that night, I was interested in the fact that’d I’d become so afraid of two perfectly good dudes. I decided to make a film about it. I realized that if something bad had happened, I might’ve been blamed for even putting myself in such a situation. “You shouldn’t have been with two guys alone. You should’ve been more aware of your surroundings.” It was “to be expected”. I could’ve been blamed for the decisions of two other people to harm me. Victim blaming is a huge issue. Thankfully nothing bad happened, not even close, but the whole experience made me think. I’m not so sure I would’ve made the film if that experience didn’t occur.


Isabella C.P. / “Stranger”

He turned to look at me.

“Please just tell me.” I told him, searching his face, trying to glean answers from his expression. 

My anger vanished and was replaced by something else. Confusion followed swiftly by fear.

He was looking at me, but I almost started when I gazed into his eyes for a moment or two. He was there, but wasn’t. I was looking at someone that looked like him, in every detail and aspect, but the way he looked back at me wasn’t right. It was different, and unnatural. It was not right. 

Something was leering at me. It grinned at me, watching. It wasn’t gazing at me, it was watching me. There’s a difference between the two; gazing at someone implies a connection being created. We gaze in admiration, steadily, intently. Watching someone is not gazing. Watching implies observation occurring, formulating thoughts about the watched. Watching implies a secretive gathering of evidence. 

It wasn’t him, he couldn’t have looked at me that way. It wasn’t a he, or a him. It was an it. 

Fear grew in me as I realized wasn’t familiar with what was watching me. And whatever it was, it had his face on, his face, worn as a mask, while whatever was behind it grinned, lurking. 

It began to dawn on me that I was alone with something that looked like my husband. 

I backed away, slowly. 

There was no way for me to describe what was watching me, how I knew, with all my being, what was looking at me was not my husband. I can’t tell you what it could’ve been.

It leered and leered.    


Recently I watched a film called Enemy, and it reminded me of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, as well as the Double by Dostoevsky. Enemy also reminded me of my project, of being assaulted by someone you thought you knew. The idea of someone you love not being who you thought they were is terrifying to me.

After I saw Enemy, I was inspired to write the short scene above, somewhat sci-fi, about a husband and a wife. I wanted to capture the fear the wife felt while realizing something off about her husband, realizing something was terribly wrong just by how he was looking at her. 

enemy-poster1 the_double_by_dostoevsky_by_goran_vejanoski-d4ep1hx image00

Isabella Pierson / “Traveling”

Reading the Rings of Saturn gave me a particular experience a book has never really given me before. It gave me a strange feeling; I felt as if I was exploring with the author, traveling the eastern coast of England, traveling through different periods of times. 

I have a deep longing to travel alone. It started when I was in 5th grade when my class went to a camp named Mountain School. We spent a week out in nature, hiking and having campfires. Near the end of our week we had a ‘nature walk’. I walked alone along a trail in the middle of the forest, passing by pieces of paper that had been left on the ground, things written on them like “enjoy the silence” or “look up”, simple prompts that heightened the experience. It was my favorite thing I did at Mountain School. Until then, I had never walked alone in nature, exploring a place I’d never been before. It was extremely liberating.

Since then I’ve been longing to travel on my own, to experience that freeing feeling again. So I’ve been planning on a trip to Valencia, Spain. I know I will stay there a month at least, with my boyfriend, but I intend to stay the entire summer. My mother’s side of the family is from Spain, and my Abuelita owns a cozy apartment in Valencia that I would stay at. I’ve never stayed so far from home on my own, so having some relatives there for support feels like a good baby step. 

I would like to take the opportunity of staying in Spain for several months to make a film. Rings of Saturn has shown me another route for how to tell a story. I fell in love with the stream of thought writing style Sebald used, and I’d like to create a film that emulates that form of storytelling; that dreamlike, lucid quality, seamlessly floating from one memory to another. The film would be about my wanderings in Spain-  finding my independence through traveling.

I would shoot footage constantly, capturing everything, not thinking about how it all will come together in editing. The real fun part would be post production, solving the puzzle of how I would organize the film; I want to let my mind wander and let the film flow as if the audience was witnessing my train of thought. Of course it will have structure to it, but I want that to remain hidden to whoever is watching. 

Lately that’s all I can think about: my trip to Spain, making a film, exploring, feeling things I’ve never felt before… So I couldn’t help but write an entry about it all. 


In my journal I copied one of my favorite parts from Rings of Saturn and drew a little image of what was being described. 

Isabella Pierson / “Nervous”

It was sometime during middle school. I feel like it was during the school year. I remember that the weather was pleasant, either spring or early September.

I was walking with Quinny, Nathan, and Elsa, my closest friends then and probably today. We all lived in the same cozy neighborhood of middle class families, five or so minutes apart from each other’s houses. Naturally we spent time together as a group and we were walking down to the park to the small coffee shop that had been recently established there.

After crossing the busy road, we headed to the wooden bridge that went over the train-tracks which separated the rest of the town from the park. The bridge connected to stairs which curled down to the ground.

I don’t remember what we were talking about, only that it was light and cheerful. Maybe Elsa and the guys were laughing about people they knew while I tried to understand the context. They had known each other since early childhood, and I joined their group in third grade. But they could usually make me feel included.

In the back of my mind I had something to look forward to. I’ve been that way, where if there’s something exciting waiting for me in the future, I can be more engaged in the present. Elsa and I were going to see a romance film I’d never enjoy now.

We had begun to descend the spiral of stairs and I noticed a man, mid thirties, at the bottom of the stairs. He seemed like he was waiting for someone. I had a funny feeling and as we descended and I caught him looking up at us, watching. Immediately I wanted to go another way. But I didn’t say anything. Once we reached the ground he was there, facing us. He stepped forward.

“I’ve just lost my dog. Have you seen him?”

I didn’t hear the rest of what he said as a cold wave rushed over me. Alarm bells were ringing. When I was taught about ‘stranger danger’, asking about a lost dog was the classic line of the abductor. I became instantly very afraid of him, and unthinkingly I backed up to the stairs. My friends calmly talked to him, but I hurried up a flight of stairs, staring down at my friends, willing them with my eyes to come with me.

It was strange. I was completely consumed with fear, only wanting to run away from the situation, from that man. Funny enough, I recall one of the thoughts that went through my head was I won’t be able to see the movie with Elsa (if that man abducted me of course). I didn’t register that I was with three of my friends in an open space- a safe public park. For some reason I don’t know, I had been terrified that something awful was going to happen.

Eventually I couldn’t will my friends with my eyes anymore and I called to them, yelling at them to hurry up the stairs to where I was. I remember being scared at how shrill and panicked my voice sounded as I yelled to them.

After a moment, apologizing to the man that they hadn’t see his dog, my friends came back up to me. At that point I sat on the stairs and broke down, crying. I’m not sure what I was crying about, but I couldn’t have stopped it. My friends comforted me, telling me it was okay. They saw I was afraid and didn’t judge me. They made sure I was fine before we continued to the coffee shop once more.

I had calmed down when we were in the coffee shop, talking and laughing with each other again. I looked out the window and saw the man. He was standing beside a woman and he had a dog on a leash. There had been nothing to be afraid of, I thought. I felt embarrassed, but said nothing to my friends about what I saw out the window.

Today I still don’t know how I was able to forget how safe my situation was, even if the man had been a dangerous person. The fact that I was with friends in a safe park had disappeared completely from my mind.

In the end though, I was able to go see that silly romance movie with Elsa.

© 2024 Eye of the Story
The Evergreen State College
Olympia, Washington

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