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In Conversation: Margot Tanjutco

Hello Margot! Would you like to introduce yourself? Who are you, what do you do, you know the drill!

I’m Margot, I’m a writer, performer, comedian and recent wannabe filmmaker. I recently wrote, directed, designed, and acted in my Melbourne Fringe show psyche404error, which is a digital perversion of the Eros and Psyche myth.

How did psyche404error come to be? What was the writing process like?

When my live show for Melbourne Fringe was cancelled, I decided to make a totally new digital show to keep me company during lockdown. The Eros and Psyche thing was originally just a song idea for that cancelled show but I just kept adding more dot points under it…

Initially it was just supposed to be a thing I shot on my phone but you can only watch so many films and start spending too much time on Letterboxd during lockdown before you start deluding a filmmaking career. Suddenly I was buying a camera, lenses, lights, and watching all these tutorials.

The writing process was unhinged, romantic, and frustrating. Because I was adapting this Ancient Greek myth to be performed alone in my bedroom, the strangeness of that endeavour gave me permission to explore every stray path of interpretation. The tone and meaning of the Eros/Psyche’s relationship changed constantly. It was as time-consuming as it sounds.

I was also very much influenced by Audre Lorde’s Uses of the Erotic: “The erotic is not a question only of what we do; it is a question of how acutely and fully we can feel in the doing.”

The story was initially more straightforwardly satirical but I found what I really wanted to talk about was how hard it was to feel desire for life, art, and other people when I was so psychically beaten up by the gig economy.

It all clicked when I read about how the Hellenic religion often approached mythology as pure metaphor. It sounds obvious now but it was mind-blowing to be able to let go of so many of the myth’s plot points to make way for my own spiritual interpretation.

Just like Psyche, my own tired soul needed to believe in a greater force like Eros as a healing source. I also made sure to write their interactions with some humour to remind myself to enjoy this absurd situation.

Appropriately, it was an indulgent and obsessive time. I had to shorten the show so that I could finish something kind of coherent but I’m slowly working on a much longer version that I hope to release in less strenuous circumstance later next year.

What influenced the aesthetic of the show? What were your visual references?

Whatever I could get delivered to my house in less than two weeks influenced the aesthetic of the show!

My walls were already dark teal so I decided on a big pink aesthetic because it would make a bold, satisfying colour palette. For all the fake greenery, I love those images that show technology or buildings being reclaimed by nature so I incorporated that.

Jim Jarmusch’s films Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) and Paterson (2016) influenced the show’s slow, happy-to-be-alive-and-making-art mood. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love (2002) influenced how I approached storytelling with character-driven subjectivity plus it made me obsessed with using dissonance in the musical score.

Andrzej Żuławski’s Possession (1981) and Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck’s Messiah Of Evil (1973) were my aesthetic horror influences which encouraged the intensity of some moments and just allowed me to enjoy the B-movie ethos. Spike Jonze’s Her (2011) had a purely practical influence in terms of studying how I could shoot a romance with a digital being.

psyche404error is a one-person show, what did you learn along the way while producing this work?

I learned everything the hard way but oh, it was all so fun!

I had to face my own limits and regularly renegotiate my expectations in that tight timeframe but I also learned to have faith in my taste and ability to problem-solve.

I certainly learned how much bloody effort it takes to do production design and learn basic filmmaking! I used to tune out when I tried to learn camera things before but something just clicked for me this time around. Perhaps it was the fear of god (a deadline).

In saying that, this time frame was genuinely the hardest I have ever pushed myself – so much so that I barely had time or inclination to market the show at all. It didn’t worry me though because my goal for this project was always to make something new for myself, regardless of how many people saw it. It was a welcome change in attitude after putting myself out there all the time for comedy gigs.

This has obviously been a terribly hard time for artists. How do you take care of yourself – your body and your mind?

I am very bad at taking care of my body! I take these meds for ADHD which make it hard to be excited about food, so when I am super absorbed in something, I will simply forget to eat. But I am now trying to restore my body by going for runs and eating actual meals.

I am slightly better at taking care of my mind – I try to make sure to do something unrelated to my work whether watching a show I can’t pass as “research” or reading fanfic which has been my saving grace in this last lockdown. Some days I will not feel like doing anything and I have to let myself not do anything without feeling guilty about it.

Would you like to tell us a bit more about what else you might be working on and what is on the horizon for you?

I’ll be directing a fabulous play called And She Would Stand Like This by Harrison David Rivers next year. We’ve got an incredible team and I’m so excited. It’s a re-telling of Euripides’ The Trojan Women set in a hospital waiting room during a mysterious plague…it’s a modern observation of HIV/AIDS and re-contextualizes the Greek characters as Queer people of colour fighting for survival. It’s also quite funny.

We’re currently casting so if you are a trans/non-binary POC performer who might like to do a play – please check out our casting brief here or feel free to DM me for any questions.

What are you reading/listening to/consuming right now?

Reading: A collection of short horror stories called The Strange Thing We Become and Other Dark Tales by Eric LaRocca and Working On A Song: The Lyrics of Hadestown by Anaïs Mitchell, which follows a genius lyric writer at work.

Listening to: Jim Nopédie’s Another Childhood is my favourite album to write to at the moment. I’ve also been loving to BIA’s FOR CERTAIN and Katy Kirby’s Cool Dry Place.

Consuming: Just finished Brand New Cherry Flavour on Netflix, which is an utterly genius, gorgeous, and disturbing horror show. Still recovering from it.

Where can we find you online?

You can find me at @margotxmargot in too many places.