INTERVIEW WITH DANA BOULOS
MARCH 2016, LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
par EVÀNGELINA ROSE
Inside the café of PaliHotel, on Melrose Avenue, comes a waft of spices, flowers and brewed coffee. Outside, the first rays of dawn are illuminated on the surface. I find myself under a canopy of pastel trees and palms, from which indolence shines into my eyes.
It is 8:00am. Dana Boulos isn’t due for another half hour. I don’t know why the panic is rising up inside of me, why my palms are sweating, why I feel so nauseous or why I can’t think of a single decent question to ask her. It’s not as if I don’t know anything about her. And that’s the problem. I know. Fashion photographer and filmmaker Boulos roars so loud, her name reverberates through culture’s radar. From working with Sky Ferreira and Lily Rose Depp to directing short films and music videos, this femme is far from dizzy.
I am surreptitiously rubbing the sweat off my hands onto my vintage blouse (from a thrift-store down the road, since you ask, over black bell-bottoms). “Is there anything you need?” the waiter interrupts my thoughts. Yes, a decent question to ask Boulos perhaps.
At precisely 8:35am, an eclectic presence is breezing into the café, where I am currently seated.
Suddenly this stupor that enslaved my mind, vanishes. The woman, herself.
“Evangelina? Hi, I am Dana Boulos”, she greets me warmly before ordering a green tea.
Boulos’ beauty is not the orthodox type. As a matter of fact, nothing about her is conventional: the polka-dot jumpsuit; the total lack of make-up; and the grin that jumps to her lips connecting it to a pout. “I come from such a cultural family. We are all from different parts of the world. I am Lebanese but I was raised in London and moved to Los Angeles in the late nineties”, she tells me with bright, dancing eyes.
But it is not just her appearance. There’s something about that magical, indefinable aura that prompts the question – what’s beyond this cultish exterior?
“I was this weird 7-year-old with a disposable camera, taking pictures of anything and everything that astounded me. It was really strange”, Boulos recalled. She became obsessed with the desire to capture movement on camera. So much, that she caught the eye of musician and record producer, Steve Aoki. “He saw how interested I was in photography so every Tuesday night, he would have me take pictures of musicians that would come to party at the nightclubs”, she tells me while soaking up the nostalgia.
But when Canadian photographer, Petra Collins asked her to be a part of an all-girls collective, Boulos burst into the public consciousness. “Communicating something visually has always been a thing with me. I am not a good writer. I am better with visuals and showing you different images. That’s how you would understand me”.
Meanwhile, Boulos was developing her love for film, citing Larry Clark as one of her main influences. “I think he is so real and his work is so authentic. And oh my, the casting is always on-point. I love how he finds the right people to be in his movies. It’s not even acting at all, it’s just the way they are”. But due to a male-dominated industry, she had a few reservations. “A year ago I read this article about how there aren’t enough women in filmmaking and said to myself maybe this is a sign.”
So she took a cinematography course at a local college instead. Despite living in Los Angeles – a city, that as she tells me, you need to know someone from the industry to be successful – she promised herself that she was going to direct a movie. “I wanted to create something and prove to myself that I can actually do it. And I did. Months later, I directed my first short film, entitled CamGirl”. This single statement is worthy of note because you can tell of the kind of person she is. It’s the way to make sense of it all: In a world filled with educated derelicts and unsuccessful people with talent (or not) – persistence and determination are omnipotent. And that’s what makes Boulos so special – her restless spirit.
“What are your inspirations, when it comes to your work? I ask. “The word dreamy always pops up. I have a dream and somehow that comes true. I’ve always liked that fuzziness of something – a moment with someone or even just bad experiences could lead into a great scene for a film, you know.”
You would expect from a girl this talented, to be oozing confidence, to be sashaying her way across the room. Yet she is poised and down-to-earth. This attitude is also reflected when it comes to her choice of characters. “I don’t really care about how many X amount of followers someone has. If I like the look and the person is genuinely inspiring from the way they are then I will work with them. It has nothing to do with a certain status someone may have”, she says. That’s something that everyone should admire and covet.
“How do you maintain your authenticity, living in a city of interlocking corporations?” I ask. She looks momentarily alarmed. “You know what, I do get inspired by LA and the different characters I meet. I either come across the weird creatives of Malibu and Venice or the Suburban skater boys who just grew up in the Valley and never want to leave. Surely, there are things that I like and dislike but at the end of the day it’s my home. I grew up here so I consider everything an inspiration.” Boulos is currently working on her first horror film, called Crimson Rose. “Everything is super-detailed – from the soundtrack to the lighting. And at the end of the movie, we are creating a book. That should be really exciting.”
Nothing is not possible is her mantra. And this is possibly one of the greatest advices I’ve ever been given: “I’ve always been the type of person who writes down my goals. Don’t type them into your phone. Physically write down everything. They could be the most 10 ridiculous goals ever but every single one of them has happened. It’s literally writing things down on and just taking it seriously. That's how you prove everyone wrong. Never giving up, writing things down and just executing them.”
As we proceed to the photo shoot, Boulos is standing offside in ripped jeans, a camisole and a tiara adorns her head. The look intended 90s Courtney Love. But it also said icon, because in front me is a woman who is far too talented, far too inquisitive. █
All rights reserved. No commercial use without express permission. © 2018 Evangelina Fysa