Melissa Sorrell: “These days, my practice has become much more experimental”

We spoke to Future 20 Artist Melissa Sorrell to find out more about her artistic practice and what she’s brought to this project.

What’s your artistic background?
Before graduating with a Filmmaking degree in 2018, I would avidly watch films and had a keen interest in capturing improvised plays with my friends on camera, and would enjoy spending a few hours editing the footage afterwards. I also loved to document anything I found interesting (mainly the pets I had growing up) and our family holidays.

Since University, I have been taking every opportunity I can to develop my practice; I used to think I wanted to be a cinematographer, but I have discovered my passions lie within Producing, Sound Design and Writing. Last summer, I attended a course where I was mentored on becoming a Producer and whilst it was intense, it was a really rewarding experience and I made some friends along the way, whom I am sure I will collaborate with again.

Tell us about your practice now – what’s the most satisfying thing? The most challenging? How has it evolved?
These days, my practice has become much more experimental and I have been pushing myself creatively due to working within the confines of lock-down. The most satisfying thing has been to create content to support the climate change movement with an incredible bunch of individuals- this past year has been a constant learning curve and I have taken away so much from collaborating with my peers. Future20 has also given me as much creative freedom as I have ever had on a project, so it’s been a real opportunity to learn about Sound Design- not just about its uses within film, but also in a physical space and I am excited to carry on learning about it after Future 20 comes to an end.

The most challenging thing has been finding new things to film whilst being restricted in terms of location. It’s funny I mentioned that Future 20 has given me complete creative freedom because since the emergence of COVID-19, my physical freedom has been restricted in a way I have never known. Finding the balance between coming up with new, fresh, exciting footage and not being able to stray far from my house has been extremely difficult, and at times my motivation has taken big hits. However, I feel that throughout this whole experience I am in an incredibly advantaged position to make content and whilst in some ways I have felt limited, in others it’s been the perfect time to test myself.

What made you want to be a part of Future 20?
I’ve always felt passionately about the environment, and after graduating, this seemed like too good of a chance to pass up to create art in response to a cause I care about. I am not a particularly confident person when addressing political and important issues as I don’t always feel well educated enough to debate and discuss matters with people. From the beginning, our group agreed we wanted this exhibition to be a positive response to the climate change issue without forcing our beliefs on people, so by being a part of Future 20 I felt that I have expressed my views in a way that people can appreciate and enjoy.

What’s the most exciting part of this brief for you?
Initially, I was excited by working with artists from different backgrounds in order to bring a vision to life for a cause that is important to me. This is one of the reasons I have still been able to get out of bed and capture film or sound for ‘Last Place On Earth.’

As time has gone on, exploring experimental film and sound has also been exciting as whilst I touched on these subjects in University, I am learning first hand more and more about these areas from this process.

What do you think art brings to your life?
Art gives me a sense of purpose; I’m not the best at expressing myself through words so sometimes it is a reflection of my thoughts and feelings at a certain point in time. I also like to think that I make art that at least a small proportion of people can enjoy, remember or relate to.

Also, in my lifetime I have only known my Mum to ever practice stained glass and kiln fused glass as a career. Growing up, she encouraged me and my sister to explore art as a hobby so even if I didn’t follow a career path in the arts industry, it would still remain a big part of my life as I know that I could turn to it in times of stress or use it as a method of relaxation.

We’re living in very unusual times – how do you think art can help us deal with that?
In these uncertain times, humans need some sort of a constant to stay grounded. Some people may take to running, or reading, but for some, fixating on art can be an equally healthy way to convince ourselves we have stability in our lives. I’ve found art gives my mind something to focus on and it can be both relaxing and painstaking. I have found you can have a burst of energy and channel it into creating something quick and in the moment or you can spend hours or months committed to a piece that you want to perfect (although it will still never look quite right in your eyes). For some, art can be a mild distraction and for others it is a way to channel their energy into something they can manipulate whilst everything around them is changing in a way they can’t control.

What’s your biggest artistic ambition?
Currently, my artistic ambition is to become a successful film producer ideally in the Wildlife film industry. However, the past few years have shown me I that as well as animals and the environment, I have a real passion for Sound Design. If a career in Wildlife documentaries doesn’t quite pan out, I would be equally happy in creating Foley sound or working on the sound design for independent films or exhibitions/ installation pieces.

Future 20 is a year-long project – how has that affected your practice?
I’m now more confident in my practice and I’m not scared to try new things in case they fail so I’m making content a lot more often than I have done in the past. This is also the first project I’ve had where I’ve had a year to focus on it and in a way I feel this is a better way of working as I don’t feel rushed and have the time to carry out research on my own terms and develop my own ideas as well as working closely with other people.

It’s also shown me that a lot can change in a year! What started out as intentions to create a huge physical structure in a public space, completely got turned around. Despite this, we decided we didn’t have to come up with completely new ideas, we just had to adapt and refine our current ones and see how we could make them accessible to as many people as possible in this Covid-19 conscious society.

What role do you think the arts should play in building the future?
To remind people that there are so many ways to artistically express themselves, that they can make an active change in their lifetime and positively influence the future for the next generation- try not to doubt the strength of your own voice otherwise nothing will get done. Remind people that art is subjective and personal to the individual who is either viewing or creating the art. What might be relatable to someone now may not be further down the line, but that shouldn’t diminish the meaning of why the art was originally created.