Jennifer Juniper Stratford Talks New John Maus Videos, Past Collaborations, Future Ladies of Wrestling, and More
Jennifer Juniper Stratford's video work has been held in well-deserved esteem here at WMF for quite some time now. Geneva Jacuzzi's "Do I Sad", John Maus's "The Believer", and public access TV phenom Dungeon Majesty are just some of the highlights in Jennifer's body of creative work that have especially intrigued us in the past. With the recent release of the brilliant John Maus "Touchdown" video and the upcoming Future Ladies of Wrestling project, it became clear that a pleasant brain-picking chat with Jennifer Juniper Stratford was long overdue. Jennifer graciously shared insights into her creative motivations, past work, and current projects.
Bobby Weirdo: Are you the sole proprietor of Telefantasy Studios? Of course you work with crews on the shoots, but is the production company essentially just you?
Jennifer Juniper Stratford: Telefantasy Studios began in 2004 as a collaboration amongst friends. While we still work together from time to time, I’m the sole proprietor, director, and HBIC. Most projects require a full on production team of valuable talents who are all part of the Telefantasy Studios crew/family.
BW: Congratulations on the new batch of videos you've created. The video for "Touchdown" by John Maus is exceptional. Visually, it seems so correctly locked into a conversation with his music - the technology, the humor...it's all there.
JJS: John and I have been friends for many years and collaborated on several videos in the past. We share a lot of interests - especially when it comes to film and television. We both feel strongly about how we digest and regurgitate the media we have consumed.
BW: John makes an actual appearance in the "Touchdown" video. How much time did he actually spend on site during the taping?
JJS: John was on set during the entire video, laughing hysterically when the football player was doing the victory dance, but he also took his role as the coach extremely seriously.
BW: What is your connection to him, and how did these new videos "Touchdown" and "Teenage Witch" come about?
JJS: John is one of Telefantasy Studios earliest and biggest supporters. You should ask him about Telefantasy sometime! He is a part of our crazy family. John and I first became friends out of our fandom of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The first video I ever did was him was for the song about TNG & DS9 called “Enterprise”. This then led to me doing videos for "Believer", "Head for the Country", "Teenage Witch", and "Touchdown".
BW: When you work with an artist, what is the process like leading up to a video, generally speaking? Do you pitch a concept to them, vice versa, or is it always different?
JJS: Usually an artist will write to me and ask me to do a video for them. From time to time I get asked by record companies to submit treatments for big time music videos, like Blondie last year, but those never seem to work out.
BW: According to the website, Telefantasy Studios uses "analog communication technologies scavenged from the ruins of the post-digital-apocalypse".
JJS: Telefantasy Studios grew out of the HD/digital boom when people started to shoot on 5Ds, Red Cameras, and Alexas. I could barely pay my rent let alone rent one of those cameras for a day. Plus I tried digital once and it tasted gross. The resolution it provided was super commercial to me and looked nothing like what I had in my head.
Meanwhile I had been producing shows via public access for years before “the post-digital apocalypse” so I knew my way around analog video cameras and a television control room. Using analog broadcast tools erased all my obstacles because with the shift to digital all these tools started appearing in junk yards and money was no longer an obstacle for me. Production companies making the switch to digital would drop beta decks, tapes, switchers, and cameras off to my studio for free.
The path was clearly laid out for me after that. From there I started taking cues from early video art and the concept that analog television technology could be used for more than just commercial enterprises. It was something that could have a whole other lifespan once it was discarded from the mainstream.
BW: Is there significance or insight that might be experienced by using analog or older visual technology in 2017?
JJS: I chose analog tools because it matches the ideas in my head. I'm not looking to recreate an era or to entertain nostalgia. In many ways I think using this stuff is the most futuristic thing I could do because it’s thinking beyond the digital wave…beyond the now.
BW: Gumby and Z Channel were parts of your early viewing. Growing up, were there any other visual influences (either still, film, or video) that were especially informative or important to you, whether or not you were conscious of it at the time?
JJS: I'm thankful I grew up in a time where experimentation and far out ideas were being broadcast on regular television. I loved the Z Channel, cable TV, video stores, MTV, Night Flight - I ate it all! I consumed so much television as a child that I think I might be a mutant of cathode ray tube poisoning.
BW: You've created several videos with Geneva Jacuzzi. Is the process different when working with Geneva, since she herself is a video artist?
JJS: I love collaborating with Geneva for this very reason. We have so much respect for each other as individual artists that we love to join heads and bounce ideas off of each other.
BW: You've produced public access TV like Dungeon Majesty. Is that just a gig, or is there something about public access (or Dungeon Majesty or The Multinauts) that is of particular interest to you?
JJS: Telefantasy Studios original intention was to make underground cult television programs. We created Dungeon Majesty from 2004-2009 and The Multinauts from 2010-2012. We made those shows purely out of love of concept, with not one penny of funding beyond what came out of our regular job paychecks.
Both projects were super ambitious - especially The Multinauts. It was all miniatures and green screen with lots of crazy special effects. Eventually it became too overwhelming to make a show like that without any outside support so we let it drift off into limbo space. It’s too bad because those shows were way ahead of their time.
BW: Both Geneva and Ariel Pink appeared on Dungeon Majesty, right?
JJS: I met Geneva originally because of Dungeon Majesty. She saw it on public access in Los Angeles in 2004 and wrote to our Youtube page. She said something along the lines of “I love your show and want to be on it. I would play a good succubus.” I phoned her up and we talked on the phone for a really long time, cracking each other up. From then on we became really good friends. That's how she ended up on The Multinauts. She played a succubus named Terracotta who feasted on Menergy.
Ariel was also a big Dungeon Majesty fan and wrote a song about it. He also cameo-ed in a double role in The Multinauts as a saga rock star and also as a sewer dweller. He took that role very seriously.
BW: Do you still have the Ariel Pink track "Dungeon Majesty" that he gave to you on cassette?
JJS: I do! Somewhere…..
BW: What became of the Odd Future/Adult Swim collaboration?
JJS: That was the most awful experience of my entire career. We stopped making The Multinauts and I was super broke and kind of depressed. I was offered the job of Production Designer on this new show for Adult Swim starring Odd Future. I gave it a shot because I had mounting student loans and no way to pay the rent. I also thought it might be a way for me to get my foot in the door as a person who created television programs.
Unfortunately, working on that show was a total nightmare. Every day I had to endure verbal abuse, homophobia, and sexism from [not only] the cast but also from members of the crew. The production company offered me no protection from this kind of treatment. Day in and day out I was told to deal with it and I was dependent on the paycheck.
Plus the content of the show drove me nuts. Ideas and scripts would come across my desk that would make me furious because they were so dumb or because they were totally offensive and it was my job to make these ideas a reality. In the end, working on the show was beneficial to me because it made me believe more strongly in the mission of Telefantasy Studios and in my own directing career. I walked off the set one day and never looked back and from there things started to really take off for me.
BW: In general, have you already been familiar with the artists you've done videos for ahead of time? Were there any you weren't familiar with until working with them?
I had heard of Beach House before I worked with them, but I had not listened to their music. They sent me a bunch of their records and I totally fell in love with them. They take the dream pop sound to a whole other level. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Alex and Victoria. I love how much work they put into their music and the experience of going to see them live. True artists in every way!
BW: You have a new baby! Will you have time for any exciting upcoming projects in 2017 and 2018? If so, what are they?
JJS: I was nine months pregnant when I directed "Touchdown". My daughter was born five days after I turned in the final cut. I’m super excited about bringing her along on my adventures and seeing what she brings to my life too.
But don't expect me to slow down because I have a child. I have a new show out, the first since The Multinauts. It’s called Future Ladies of Wrestling. We have a show coming up at the Hammer Museum this month and will be doing more live shows, tapings, and screenings all throughout 2018. It's a project that speaks for itself.
Learn more about Future Ladies of Wrestling at www.futureladiesofwrestling.com