We had the good fortune of connecting with Leanna Kaiser and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Leanna, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I’ve always wanted to be an artist and tried many other jobs but always ended up coming back to art and music and being happiest that way. So I decided to just put all my energy into art.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m a multidisciplinary artist but work primarily in film/video and music. This includes my own projects, as well as music videos, film scores and videography for other artists as well. I feel very lucky that so far I’ve been able to work with others who’ve allowed me to just create what I want and have sought me out for my own voice. I tend to use a lot of 16mm film, and analog video effects in my video work. I connect more to these formats, and am not super into digital video. It’s too crisp and predictable and I prefer mistakes and texture.
Currently, I’m recording an album which will be released through a label, which has been a goal of mine since I was a teenager. It’s my first solo album and I’m very excited but nervous to show an intimate side of myself to the world, as these songs are simple, guitar and voice based interpretations of my inner life, as opposed to the music I usually share with the world, which is more experimental/synthesizer and loop based. But I think it’s a side of myself that I’m finally ready to share and be proud of.
Being an artist is a challenge, especially the older you get. It’s hard to justify spending time being creative against things that seem more necessary and responsible in life; housework, appointments, jobs. It’s hard to convince yourself art is as important. Especially when our society seems to only value art as branding or marketing tools. As a way to get ahead instead of just be. I think social media is a double edged sword in this regard.
I’ve struggled with severe depression and anxiety since childhood and this often prevents me from focusing on my art, because everything else seems more urgent. It’s been a challenge making myself create art when I don’t “feel” like it and would rather watch reality TV all day. I recently started taking medication for this for the first time in my life, and it’s helped me a lot in my day to day life, but it’s been difficult because our culture elevates tragic artists and art that comes from dark places. I have connected deeply to artists and musicians of this type because I related to them. But most of them died very young or suffered with addiction their whole lives. It’s true, these works from suffering souls is poignant and beautiful and deserve to be elevated, especially when the people making them didn’t get what they needed out of life. But who wants to live like that? After 30+ years it gets old being miserable all the time while being praised for that quality in your work. Now I’m trying to figure out new sources of inspiration. This includes raising awareness about talking about these things. About encouraging people to take medication if it helps them. And not being ashamed or trying to be happy.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Hmm…I would probably say let’s drive up to Big Sur and stay in a cabin for a few days, because that is the most inspirational place to me. I live in Echo Park and love my neighborhood but spend most of my time out in Los Feliz because I love the old Hollywood remnants there. Plus it’s fun to pretend to be rich and important for a few hours.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would be nowhere without all the support and encouragement from so many people. I would say my mentor at CalArts, Betzy Bromberg, who is an incredible filmmaker and person has helped me so much by always looking out for opportunities for me and pushing me when I was afraid. Also my bandmate, ex, and great friend Andy Kahn who has been by my side since the start of my journey, and always believes in me even more than I believe in myself.