Puspa Lohmeyer's Short Film Anodyne Offers A Cure

Is it the massive Precambrian quartz crystal deposits—and the subsequent energy vortexes created—that account for the wellspring of creativity that emanates from this dusty old mining town?

Or was it the French champagne during the initial brainstorming session that served as conduit?

From the enchanted hills of Bisbee, photographer Puspa Lohmeyer assembled a cast from a creative group of friends—artists, musicians, burlesque dancers—with virtually no acting experience, to embark on a first-time foray into filmmaking.

The result, Anodyne, a 17-minute film noir comedy.

XOXO caught up with Lohmeyer and cast members Tiffany Alexander and Ryan O’Rourke for a confab.

Originally from Germany, Lohmeyer came to the states after marrying her husband in 2001.

How did you get into art?

Puspa Lohmeyer: Growing up I was always interested in art. In high school that manifested itself mostly in drama class. But my immediate family isn’t really an artsy family. Very practical people. After high school I traveled a bit. But I didn’t allow myself to be an artist because I felt I had to be useful, contribute to society. I didn’t come from a place that had any appreciation or use for art. Art was considered a hobby.

When did you start shooting your own work?

Puspa Lohmeyer: It wasn’t until about eight years ago that I began doing my own photography and making art. As a photo retoucher I was bottled up, doing what the client wanted me to do. (After moving to Arizona), I meet all these creative people in Tucson. Stylist Sydney Ballesteros being one of them. So, now you are taking someone who came from the suburbs of Germany where art wasn’t appreciated as lifestyle. And then coming to Arizona and being immersed in this creative soup. …

I thought it was going to be easy. But it turned out to be much harder than I ever expected. But it was a medium that I understood and loved. Because I am creative and quirky and, well, weird, I started to art direct.

Anodyne being your first venture in filmmaking? How did that come about?

Puspa Lohmeyer: I had a very persuasive friend who pointed out one day, “You know that camera of yours [a Canon Mark II DSLR] takes amazing video...” … While I was doing these elaborate, imaginative photo shoots, I started taking these 30 second video clips.

And the initial idea for Anodyne?

Tiffany Alexander: I've loved robots for as long as I can remember. Ryan and I were throwing around the idea of making some kind of short video or performance art piece with the robot concept.

In a short film where there is almost no dialog, who wrote the script?

Puspa Lohmeyer: Nobody. I was doing music videos here and there. Al Foul and others. And my friends approached me to do a little 5 minute music video—Tiffany Alexander and Ryan O’Rourke who are the main characters in the film—in there living room where they would put on robot costumes. I got so excited about the idea. … I started writing and adding all these other scenes. … The whole build-out came in like 10 minutes.”

What was your experience like co-writing and acting in Anodyne?

Tiffany Alexander: This production came together fairly quickly. I think Ryan, Jackie Ayd Oatman and I wrote much of it just days before filming, pretty much everyone involved had ideas in terms of the script and some of the actors choose to improvise on their lines. We had no rehearsals, no run-troughs. The acting was very raw and looking back I sometimes wish I would've been more prepared, but I also think that that raw and somewhat off-the-cuff energy is what makes the film feel the way it does.

What was it like co-writing, acting in and scoring Anodyne?

Ryan O’Rourke: It was a fun process. There wasn't a specific end goal, so there wasn't any pressure to deliver a masterpiece.

Is there a time and place to the film?

Puspa Lohmeyer: No, not really. It’s old-timey. It’s all shot at night. So, the idea is that it is an alternate time and world that never gets the light. But, you can’t your finger on it.

Where did you shoot it?

Puspa Lohmeyer: Mostly in Bisbee. I shot a scene in Naco, across the border. There is a place called Lowell—it used to be a city section in itself—80 percent of Lowell is the Copper Queen Mine. It’s an open pit. They basically destroyed the whole neighborhood. It is now just two streets. So it has a weird vibe to begin with. Old store fronts. It’s a ghost town.

Is there a storyline?

Puspa Lohmeyer: The film is unconventional. Part of that is how my brain works. Part of it is that I didn’t really understand how to make a film. There are different ways to interpret it. I get different things...Like technology is destroying the world and so on. To me, in my mind it’s a love story. … It’s very raw. The robot costumes are made out of cardboard. This is not professional CGI. It is nothing like that at all.

What is the message of the film?

Tiffany Alexander: For me, the message of the film is about the power of love and the power of collaboration. In the end, I think true love can overcome anything.

Is this a one off venture, or does Puspa have plans to make another movie?

Puspa Lohmeyer: It might be a one off...It was really hard to make this movie. We shot for three days. The first day I didn’t feel like I was in my body. It was literally an out-of-body experience. I didn’t know what was going on. I had never been to film school. I was playing the role of director and cinematographer. I made an insane amount of mistakes. After everything was shot, it took about a year to sort out all the mistakes I made with the audio. I was working my other job saving a bit of money. I didn’t even know what overdubbing was. That shows you how naive I was. I bounced around trying to find a sound person I could afford. Someone who wasn’t going to make fun of me for not knowing anything about sound. Sound engineer Jim Waters actually kind of rescued the film. He was so nice. He listened to me and understood what I was hearing. Adding sound effects, overdubbing the dialog and audio design. I don’t think that I would have been able to finish this project without him.

Tell me about the music and its composer?

Puspa Lohmeyer: Ryan O’Rourke is from Detroit. He was in a band called Fur. He was written music for TV shows under the name Mannequin. The music is amazing. Darkwave. We had a storyboard. Ryan had music in mind for different scenes. But I would switch the music around. It was a dance that neither of us had ever done before. The film is music centric, the soundtrack integral. It is basically 17 minutes of music.

What was your idea for the music?

Ryan O’Rourke: The film has a sort of post-war film noir feel; I wanted to juxtapose that with a lo-fi, ’80s-inspired score. So I borrowed a Yamaha DX-7, the quintessential keyboard of the 1980s and ’90s, and limited myself mostly to that and a couple of other cheap Yamaha and Casio keyboards. Only towards the end of the whole process did I start using better analog gear. Most of the ideas for the songs came before shooting. Puspa would describe a scene and, based upon that conversation, I'd try to work up something that would fit the mood of the scene.

The soundtrack is going to be released on a local label. Can you elaborate?

Ryan O’Rourke: Yes. Wooden Tooth Records in Tucson is going to release the score on cassette. Most of us are ’80s kids, so we're still nostalgic for that funny little piece of technology.

And the inspiration for the title of the film?

Tiffany Alexander: I'm not sure who tossed Anodyne into the ring as a suggestion for the title...We were looking for a single word to use to convey the mood of searching for an antidote to the apocalypse.

Do the main characters live happily ever after in a post-apocalyptic world?

Tiffany Alexander: Absolutely.

And who doesn’t love a happy ending.

Currently on tour, Anodyne will make it’s Tucson premiere on Sunday, Oct. 27, at Exo Bar, 403 N. 6th Avenue. (520) 777-4709. Admission includes a cassette of the soundtrack.