April 10, 2013

Spotlight: Cassandra Lee Hamilton

Director and member of Cowabunga Babes, Cassandra Lee Hamilton, 
shares her experiences with filmmaking and being in a band.

What do La Sera, Deep Time, G A L P A L S, The Lovely Bad Things, Cowabunga Babes, and Ringo Deathstarr, all have in common? The answer is Cassandra Lee Hamilton, an artist who's made a name for herself in both the filmmaking community and underground music scene. Cassandra has directed one or more music videos for the above acts; many of which are known for their dreamy DIY aesthetic. Highly saturated pinks are everywhere in La Sera's "Break My Heart," electric yellows and fiery reds reek of summer in GAL PALS' "For Our Sake," retro filters and weird camera effects trip us out in Ringo Deathstarr's "So High," and this list is nowhere near complete. Not only does Cassandra make videos for bands but she has her own band, Cowabunga Babes (who are awesome!), that she makes videos for too. We were super excited to have the opportunity to learn about her most exciting film experiences, what it's like to be in a band, and more:

THE LE SIGH: When did you first start filmmaking?

Cassandra Lee Hamilton: Thats kind of a tricky question to answer. My parents are both filmmakers so I've been shooting little videos since before I can remember. I think I started taking filmmaking seriously when I was 17. I moved to London and worked as a filmographer touring with bands for a few years.

TLS: We know that you have experience with creating short films, music videos, and documenting live shows. What was your favorite thing to film so far?

CLH: I lived in Morocco for a few months making a documentary on the West Saharan Polisario conflict. That was probably the most incredible experience – feeling like a spy working with different governments, having your life threatened, and not even caring because 50 miles away you know there are 100,000 refugees in an internment camp that have it a billion times worse then you could even imagine. It was totally insane but absolutely incredible. Not in that Birkenstock I went and helped build houses for those poor third world country folks, sort of way. I wasn't trying to "save" anyone. I just wanted to give a voice to the kind of people that risked their lives walking through mind fields to be free.

TLS: Are there any projects now that you currently have in the works?

CLH: I just finished shooting one of the most fun videos I've ever made actually! The video was for the band The Lovely Bad Things, their record just came out and they are about to go on tour with Best Coast! They are all the sweetest kids in the entire world.

TLS: You've filmed music videos for your own band Cowabunga Babes. We're big fans – we included your track "Lydia Lynch" in our "School Sux" Monday Mix. How did you guys start up?

CLH: Well I had just moved to Austin, Texas and I didn't know a soul. Mike Bova drunkenly came up to me at a bar and asked me to be in his band. I had never played music before but he just told me I'd learn on the way. We had a show the next week and that was it I guess. I totally fell in love with the rest of The Babez and now half of them live in LA with me.

TLS: Are Cowabunga Babes recording anything at the moment?

CLH: We don't really have any plans to record, the Babez' side project, The Vomettes (me, Beth, Mike, and our friend Katie) have a tape out with Burger Records and are playin around LA.

TLS: I've noticed that a lot of the music videos you've filmed were for female-fronted bands (La Sera, Deep Time, Ringo Deathstarr, GALPALS, Hatchet Wound, Agent Ribbons, etc.) Was that a coincidence?

CLH: Haha! It was indeed coincidence but I will say it's a very happy accident. I LOVE all the bands I've done videos for so any new girl friends that I can make through creative collaboration is always a plus. The funny thing is though, almost all of my crews are female for the exception of this last shoot for Lovely Bad Things. I like hiring women because I feel like they don't usually get the chance to work in positions that are primarily male dominated (ie. cinematography/gaffer/grip etc).

TLS: If you could have brunch with anyone (dead or alive) who would it be? 

CLH: Oh totally Werner Herzog. I'm fantastically in love with him and on the off chance that he sees this, Werner, I will be available next Monday until forever!

Cassandra Lee Hamilton's portfolio can be viewed here.

Written by Diana Cirullo