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“Catching the Light” with Haroula Rose
Music has always been the backbone of Haroula Rose’s creative world, but her journey took a different note when she discovered her passion for storytelling. From musician to filmmaker to musician to…well, with creativity in her system, she started to see the bigger picture, and her filmmaking career was born.
A native of Chicago, Haroula holds a BA and MA from the University of Chicago. The LA based writer, filmmaker, producer, and musician, who also divides her time between Nashville, always wanted to tell stories. Initially she thought journalism may have been her calling, but, at the time, she was working in various aspects of theater and film. She found that type of storytelling more congruent with her light speed. She wanted to visually capture the light and shadows of telling stories. “Being a filmmaker”, she believes, “allows a lot of creative muscles to be flexed, from writing to casting to filming to editing to the music and sound, etc. All the details coming together to form a whole is something I deeply enjoy.”
She knows it can be challenging at times, but it’s worth it. She enjoys all genres of filmmaking that revolve around a compelling character or story, and circumstances that draw you in. Music videos and short films are fun for her, less costly, and provide an ideal way to explore a different style, theme, or people. Notable shorts include As they Slept and Lost & Found. Still she finds herself most drawn to human stories to which people can connect, providing a mirror about how we can reflect, empathize with each other, and find ways to be inspired.
Her first feature film Once Upon A River is just that – a human story. It is an odyssey story, told from the perspective of a heroine’s journey. As Haroula puts it, “Much like Huck Finn, Margo Crane is someone who takes her boat on the river to find someone…ultimately to find herself. It is a very intriguing set of characters and unique plot based on the best-selling novel by Bonnie Jo Campbell.” Drawn to the beauty of the story itself and seeing its cinematic value, Haroula was inspired to make this film. She knew that musically it would be a unifying project for her, being able to collaborate with colleagues in the music world and connect her visual art to music, which was her first creative love. She co-wrote one of the songs and produced the soundtrack with original songs from Grammy Award winners, along with old gems, and a score with her longtime collaborator, Zac Rae, at the composer’s helm. The film, released in 2020, won 19 awards at over 40 festivals around the world, including some sold out screenings. It’s available on DVD and streaming. Richard Roper of the Chicago Sun-Times touts it as “Beautiful. Shocking. Moving. Haunting. Lovely. Lasting.”
With music at the core of her soul, she’s taking the time to focus on her music career right now. Her new LP “Catch the Light” is a series of nine songs that were recorded throughout 2020, with musicians she admires and has longed to work with for some time. She was inspired to write and to record these songs as we were all forced to stay inside during the pandemic: “Each song is about internal life being illuminating in some way, the way you can watch light move in your life, along the walls, across someone’s face, the cycle of day and night, how you recall the light in a memory, the nature of light and darkness…how they need one another to exist. Catching light also refers to what you do in cinema, since it’s all about how you cast your light and how that can play such a major role in the tone.”
Both a talented filmmaker and musician, she admits that she will always be a musician first. With her films, she is able to also use her music skills collaboratively on set: “Film and music compliment each other.” As a performer, both onstage in music and in acting, Haroula wants to provide a sense of trust with her cast. She’s always ready to improvise when a situation calls for it with her crew. And as any filmmaker knows not everything goes as planned. The beauty is often found in the magic of a moment that can be challenging if it needs to be altered, yet still remain effective in evoking the intended message and theme of the film.
So what does Haroula prefer? Filmmaking or music? Her answer to that is both! She will always continue to put out albums and go on tour, and keep finding human stories she can present onscreen that also allow for the type of creative union where music is a focal point. She doesn’t feel the urge to choose. Though a film can take longer, from the pre-production to post-production stage, a song can be written in a day and recorded overnight. It’s a different process but equally as rewarding for her as an artist. She is excited to get started on her next two films, which will have bigger budgets. She’s also been lucky enough to receive grants and fellowships for many of her projects.
We look forward to seeing much more of what Haroula can do onscreen and onstage as a musician, but for now we really look forward to her new LP, Catch the Light”, which she’s very excited about. No Depression magazine describes her singing as “the spirit of a gypsy soul, always searching for meaning or a seed of truth in each fleeting moment. Her voice is at once intimate and solacing, its gentle reflections betraying a subtle, plaintive sway that enriches moments of guitar-driven folk with the pathos of classic country.” Her new LP will be released in both vinyl form and digitally in 2022. Keep an eye out for her coming to your city or town as she goes on tour with new album, while juggling several film projects at the same time. Many of Haroulas’ songs can also be heard in several films and series including How I Met Your Mother, American Horror Story, and Still Alice.
When it comes to casting light and shadows, Haroula certainly flips the switch from going behind the scenes to being part of the scene, always bringing her dynamic creativity and vision to the forefront.