By Lynette Carrington
Loyola Marymount University Film School student Janette Danielson marked the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the R.M.S. Lusitania in a most reverent and beautiful way-on film. Two of her great, great aunts were killed when the British ocean liner was torpedoed by a German submarine on May 7, 1915, propelling the United States deeper into World War I. Her short film "Troubled Waters" is entered in the Short Documentary category at the Jerome Indie Film & Music Festival that takes place September 3-6 in Jerome, Arizona. Grammy Award-winning songwriter, composer and musician Gardner Cole scored the short film and the collaborative effort was a unique one for both Danielson and Cole.
Danielson says, "I was encouraged by my professors at LMU to pursue the story since I had a family connection." The filmmaker traveled to Ireland to visit the Cobh Museum that features much information about the doomed liner and its passengers. "Even though I was unable to return to Ireland to make the quality documentary that a story like this deserves, I am very grateful for the time I had there and for the short interviews that I was able to do." Most cleverly, the women who perished have the family's last name of Waters and the title "Troubled Waters" certainly fit the short film.
Danielson's great, great aunts Margaret and Katherine Waters were nurses who were traveling to Ireland from the United States when the Lusitania was torpedoed. At the Cobh Museum Danielson found valuable information and was able to do interviews there that helped her gather more facts in the making of her film. Additionally, she interviewed her great aunt Kathy McGuire to get her own recollections of stories surrounding the sad events of the ship's sinking. Once she had the film in place, it was time to consider music.
"Working with Gardner Cole was an incredible experience!" says Danielson, "I was so excited to hear that he had interest in creating music for my short. After showing him my film he was able to create a beautiful piano piece in just a couple of days and it was everything I could have hoped for."
Cole had a positive experience in coming up with ideas for music for the short film. "It is such a compelling story that the ideas started flowing immediately. The archival images, mixed with the historical fact-finding were quite inspiring," says Cole. "It's a melancholic narrative, so I wanted to create a tone to support that sentiment. At the same time, I didn't want the score to become too sad or distracting."
As a veteran of the music industry who has also worked on several other film soundtracks including "Days of Thunder," "Grand Canyon," and "Coming to America," Cole notes the differences between working with musicians and working on films. "In film and TV you're presented with a predetermined storyline, which can give you a great starting point, but can also create a challenge to support the director's pre-conceived visions. With bands and singers you have free reign to experiment more. I enjoy both of the creative processes equally," Cole says. The songwriter won a Grammy for penning Madonna's song "Open Your Heart" and has also written hits for Jody Watley, Tina Turner and Cher, among others, in addition to being a touring member of the 1980s super group, A-HA. Cole now resides in Phoenix.
Cole is happy to have been able to work on "Troubled Waters" and looks forward to doing additional film soundtracks in the future. "I absolutely love creating score and source cues," he explains. "The immediate gratification of seeing your work unfolding in front of you is very invigorating. I hope I'm blessed enough to be included in many more film and TV projects in the future."
Danielson plans on expanding on her filmmaking expertise once she graduates. "I've had so many different opportunities and internships so far in college that I'm still not entirely sure what I want to actively pursue for a career. After working at the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival, I found that film festivals are incredibly difficult but rewarding experiences and hope to continue my work for festivals not just in L.A., but abroad as well." She will be focusing more on her writing in the coming years, but is hopeful that she can work with Cole again in the future.
In addition to her film "Troubled Waters," Danielson has also entered short film, "Querbeat" into the festival in the "Student Film" category. "Querbeat is a German ‘Karneval' band based in Cologne, Germany and is comprised of 29 band members and crew," she explains. "I was fortunate enough to go to school with the sister of one of the band members and after she put me in contact with them it was just a whirl-wind of following them all over Cologne getting as much footage as I possibly could. I was able to film them at five or six gigs and an audition gig while travelling around with them on their tour bus. It was insane. What was different for me filming in Germany was that people didn't really ever question me running around with film equipment following this band around. In L.A., I could have never gotten away with filming as much as I did. I would have been stopped and questioned all the time."
"I'm really excited and grateful to be involved with the Jerome Music and Film Festival and for their support of the arts," finishes Danielson. To learn more about the Jerome Indie Film & Music Festival visit www.jeromefilmfestival.com .