VADA Jewelry's 'Immersion' Film Captures Environmental Heartbreak
How does humankind begin to reconcile with a planet it has helped to destroy for generations? There’s no question that Earth is in desperate need of rehabilitation, but becoming environmentally conscious through tangible action can feel intimidating (or worse, pointless) and near impossible to address in our everyday lives. Enter VADA Jewelry: with a new film entitled Immersion, they’re honing in on one ecological disaster that’s been overlooked for far too long: California’s largest lake, the Salton Sea. The film follows Roman goddess Venus (wearing VADA’s aptly-named SEA collection) as she awakens to the wasteland that is the former Salton Sea, and through her grief we witness both the tragedy that is climate change and the effects of manmade destruction of which we all play a part.
Immersion ends on a hopeful note for a better, more ecologically responsible future, and VADA walks the walk off camera, too; a portion of the proceeds from Immersion’s spring release in LA will be donated to the Salton Sea Action Committee. For this digital release, we sat down with co-directors Alexis Sepkovic and Pele Kudren to talk more about the inspiration behind the film, VADA’s SEA collection, and what you can do to help; check the full interview below.
Tell us about the concept for the film—what drew you to Venus as your protagonist?
Mythology has long been used in storytelling to convey the greater subjects of human existence, and this sort of ancient symbology lies at the very core of VADA’s own brand story. The Roman goddess Venus is so often referred to in popular culture as the image of romantic love and beauty, however her significance can also be attributed to divinely feminine characteristics like fertility and conception. Out of the substance of woman’s very being life comes forth. By making this film, we wanted to depict Venus as she is represented in Sandro Botticelli’s Renaissance masterpiece but with a post-apocalyptic, cautionary twist. In our version, The Daughter of Heaven and Sea awakens from her shell into a barren wasteland and becomes sick with grief for her beloved kingdom. Her eyes well with a deep river of tears and then spill out into the parched earth. The film transitions through emotional costume changes as her feelings of emptiness soon turn to anger, reflection and finally a wave of transcendence.
What is VADA’s relationship to preventing climate change? Has that always been a driving force for the company?
VADA, named after the founder & designer’s grandmother, is an independent line of modern heirloom jewelry built to endure generations of love. Each piece is designed, responsibly sourced, and handcrafted in Austin, Texas from start to finish using artisanal and small-batch techniques. Katie Caplener’s localized decisions to use long-lasting, conflict-free and often recycled materials has remained a top priority since the brand’s inception in 2014—an antidote to the disposable fast-fashion industry.
How are the themes of water and immersion reflected in the jewelry design?
Historical works of art, literature and creed bear incomparable fascination to any other gemstone than that of the lustrous pearl. Almost all other gemstones are formed by mineral deposits that must be mined, cut, and polished to reveal their beauty. Pearls, on the other hand, are derived directly from the mollusk and, for these reasons, have become a symbol of purity and the sea—just like our film’s protagonist. These insights, based on Katie’s background in dealing antique jewelry, inspired us to focus the project on the context of sea/water in today’s modern age.
California’s Salton Sea, where the film was shot, is just one of many examples of the effects of climate change. What drew you to that location specifically?
The idea of capturing a respectively fashion-focused product collection, with motifs surrounding water ecology and beauty, in the depleted setting of a toxic lake was excitingly disconcerting to us and the rest of our team. Pele Kudren, our director and an avid John Waters fan, had been adamant about scouting the location (three times to be exact), over which period of time we became more informed, and thus horrified, about the existing state of California’s largest lake. Once a resort paradise for vacationers referred to as “Mecca”, The Salton Sea now continues to evaporate and decline; its shrinking wetlands are expected to repeat the fate of Kazakhstan’s Aral Sea which resulted in plains covered with salt and toxic chemicals, dust storms, and numerous cases of infectious diseases that would similarly spread via wind from San Diego to Los Angeles. The location’s man-made environmental catastrophe has been a topic of concern for local ecologists and politicians alike, since its creation as a result of an irrigation failure in 1905.
The environment is such a vast issue that it can seem tough for individual people to feel like they’re making a difference. What would you say to people who are discouraged or unsure of how to start?
The current zeitgeist has shown that humans have the ability and understanding to realign ourselves and the world around us. So, acknowledging our mistakes and then making little decisions to be effective wherever you are can make a huge difference if that sentiment is rippled. This project has already greatly affected the way each of us treat the food we consume, the products we use and buy…even how we manage reducing our daily waste habits. When in doubt, volunteer with local groups that share your values and call your representatives regularly.
In what ways do you hope that the film resonates with viewers? What message do you want to convey?
We hope that our film leaves the viewer hopeful for humanity’s rehabilitation of our planet. We’re finally listening to mother earth’s call to action but now she needs our response in order to restore its harmony. The creators behind IMMERSION will soon offer a limited-edition t-shirt design with all proceeds donated to the Salton Sea Action Committee in order to offer assistance for revitalizing the area.
Producers & Directors: Alexis Sepkovic & Pele Kudren
Co-Producer & Stylist: Katie Caplener of VADA Jewelry
Cinematographer: Cristina Dunlap
First Assistant Camera: Rachel Fox
Second Assistant Camera: Walter Dandy
Photographer: Katy Shayne
Muse: Carson Lewallen as Venus
Production Designer: JC Molina
Art Director: Patrick Mitchell
Set Decorator: Tatiana van Sauter
Makeup Artist: Francie Tomalonis
Hair Stylist: Erin McKay
Editor: Megan Thorne of Cut & Run LDN
Colorist: Yoomin Lee of Jogger Studios
Title Design: Simon Diago
Original Score: Nico Turner of Cat Power, Jade Summers and Kenneth Storz
Screenwriters: Alexis Sepkovic, Pele Kudren and Jennifer Salinas
Production Assistant: Reilly Gorma
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