We have always enjoyed both the wit and creativity involved in the work of Motke Dapp (@motke)! His casually gorgeous photographs paired with bizarre and beautiful dashes of the digital pen genuinely make for an entertaining experience. Beyond that, Motke is a renowned storyteller and filmmaker and incredibly interesting in ever manner of speaking. We had a really wonderful time catching up with Motke and talking about everything from films to photography and beyond. Read along!
I'm Motke Dapp. I'm a writer/director (filmmaker type guy) based out of Nashville, TN. I've never drank from the Candy Corn Lake, nor have I perfected the art of invisibility. I have made a good number of films, though. I started my filmmaking journey in 2007 by directing a film for the 48 Hour Film Project. Before that, I was a painter, amateur photographer, musician, graphic designer, and I had written a novel. It wasn't good, so I wrote it again. It still wasn't very good.
And then I found writing and directing movies. For whatever reason, this blend of story, visuals, sound, and music was the perfect culmination of everything I had attempted creatively since graduating from college with a degree in creative writing. I recently finished my 16th film, and we're deep in the process of making a feature film called Other Versions of You, which we shot part of in Iceland and France in May of 2015. No, I did not see a unicorn while in Iceland. Yes, they do live there.
Most of the things I love in life (images, words, music) have strong ties to making films. Except eating delicious food and drinking bourbon, which I'm still trying to tie into filmmaking somehow.
What was it that really nudged you toward filmmaking and photography?
Several years ago, before everyone carried a super fancy phone-camera-game-playing device around with them, I grew a beard. On the internet. With a bunch of other dudes. It was an event that happened every other year called Whiskerino, and we did it before "social media" was even a term used by people or robots or fictitious creatures.
Here's how it worked: You would shave off all of your facial hair and then grow a beard over the course of four months, taking a photo of yourself everyday. The more creative the photo, the more "votes" it got. The only people who could vote were the other people growing beards. Several professional photographers were participating, and the bar was very high. You had to be creative with your photos to be noticed. It was kind of a part-time job for a lot of us.
So from the first day of November until the last day of February over the course of a few years, I took photos of myself. Everyday. There were even theme days. This is also where I started writing mini-stories. I would write a caption for each photo, and everybody's photo had a comment section, so I would write odd little stories on their photos as well.
Right around that time, I started making films with some of these guys. We were all creative people looking for new ways to express ourselves. DSLRs were starting to shoot video. Every summer we would do the Nashville 48 Hour Film Project. We won "Best Film" in 2009, then did the 2009 Whiskerino (which was the last one), and that's when I decided to take the idea of making films serious. From the summer of 2010 until the summer of 2011, I made 7 films, one of them being a feature film. I'm currently working on my 2nd feature film, which will be my 17th film.
In summary, growing a beard on the Internet was kind of how it all began.
Do you have any sort of editing process? If so, what does that typically look like?
I've been using Mextures since before there was an app. When I started taking photos, I knew I didn't have the best lenses or equipment, but I was good in Photoshop, so I would do too much to the photos to overcompensate. Most of those photos were not good, but they were a gateway into me figuring out what could be "appropriate" for each shot.
The first thing I do is pull a photo into the Mextures app. I have about 18 formulas I've made (all with clever names, of course), and I usually see if any of those are good starting points. If none of those feel right, I'll peruse the "Guest Formulas" and see if any of those inspire me.
I try to let the photo itself dictate what I do to it. Some photos lend themselves to doing all sorts of crazy stuff to them, and others want to be gently caressed by adding a Landscape Enhance and a Vintage Gradient with some tweaking of the levels and done.
Recently, I've been returning to the hundreds of shots I took in Iceland in May, and most of those haven't needed much. Mextures, like any other photo app, is a tool to help you make photos more beautiful than the originating camera image captured. On occasion, I'll take the photo into VSCO, but I find myself doing that less and less these days. The Mextures app is rich with features.
Would you care to share a few of your formulas with the Mextures crowd?
ICELANIC HILLS - ZTXTESC - This is a pretty clean treatment, but I love the way it crisps up a photo before I go in and make some final tweaks.
OWL ROBOT PEOPLE - GJALJLY - Whenever you have a photo of your child's (or your) creepy dolls, this is perfect. Unless those dolls bite. Beware. I have scars.
UNDERTOW - ZTHXNCP - A little more processed and thick, like being trapped underwater with your best friend's best friend while drinking soap.
EARTH HOLE - ZRUDLSW - A little red. A large hole in the ground. Great for when you encounter something that looks like it's from another planet.
Do you feel like Mextures offers anything unique to your editing process?
When Mextures first came on to the scene, I was using four apps to get the look I wanted and integrate the Mextures overlays into my photos. Then the app arrived. If I remember correctly, the first version of the app was layers only. Then Mextures unleashed the polishing and preset pieces of the magic. Once this happened, I could layer, edit, sing, dance, and do everything but add words over my photos, which I rarely do anyway.
I used to spend over an hour on a photo edit. Sometimes more. I love that I have a pile of formulas I've created, as well as access to several others, so I have a starting point. It trims so much time off my process.
When I do open another app, I find myself often not saving the photo and going with the product I exported out of Mextures.
What inspires you to create? Whether that be art or film or photography.
Inspiration is an odd animal.
I like stories. I like beautiful things. I like the process of creation and the fact that you can share your creations with the world so easily these days. We have communities of people who are able to find art they like and interact with it via social media. It's a fascinating time to be an artist.
For film, it starts with an idea. What inspires that idea? Who knows? Inspiration comes from everything around me to some extent. I'm inspired by other people's art, or my daughter, or something someone says. Sometimes I wake up, and I have an idea, and I write it down, and I ignore it for a year. Sometimes I start writing notes. Sometimes those notes turn into a script, and that script turns into a movie.
For photography, it starts with something beautiful, and after editing that capture, I add a story. The stories are usually something quick that I hammer out as a stream of thought, which is how I write most of the tiny stories I write.
I find I'm inspired by so many things. Ultimately, I just want to make things I like, and if others like them too, then everyone gets tacos.
Who are some of the people from Instagram who have most inspired your photography?
What I love on Instagram, as far as photography, tends to be a lot of water shots, bokeh, cityscapes, stunning nature, and things that are very location specific. I think, in this case, that inspiration is an odd thing. If I don't live near water, but 60% of the photos I like are taken near or under water, am I inspired or just in awe? That being said, here are some of my favorite Instagrammers:
jnskrlsn - Great tones and creative goodness.
micahsimms - He has an eye for beauty no matter where he is.
cedricdasesson - So much water. He lives in a perpetual state of being near or in the water, but his tones are so sick.
cucocuervo - I love how he edits his photos.
leahminium - She's doing something special. I can't imagine how much time she spends on her feed.
waterproject - Beautiful water shots. What can I say?
frozen_light - Mood and edits are so very nice.
There are several others, but after combing through a ton of my likes, these are the people I seem to heart often.