The Math of Collaboration

This is not legal advice. I am not a lawyer. This reflects my personal choices as an artist.

Yesterday, a musician/singer friend I made on Vimeo told me he would like to use some of my work in his videos. I told him I am at an age when collaboration causes me stress and makes me unhappy, but that as an actor, I’d work free for a friend and if he sent me a story idea, we could talk about that. If that happens, the finished project would be his project and as an actor, I donated my work and all I would claim is a credit and a line on my résumé.

That’s what I tell him or anyone else, but that’s not the whole story. It’s the only story I can tell because I am not a lawyer.

I am 65 years old. Longevity is not rampant in my family and I will likely die before I’m 90. In the past ten years, I have created a huge body of video art/movies – about 600, or 60 per year. Most of those were made while I also had a dayjob, was actively exhibiting as a sculptor and was working as a theater artist. Now that I am a full time video artist, I will probably make about 100 videos per year – in 20 years, that would be 2,000. Huge portfolio, lots of intellectual property.

If my portfolio has value when I die, I don’t want my family to have to worry about anybody else’s rights to it; or anybody else to have to worry about my family’s rights to their portfolio.

Like I said, I am not a lawyer. I am just methodical, compartmentalized, mathematical and pragmatic.


VOICE, a performance art web series: Episode 3 (complete), free streaming thru September 2016


Voice Part Three 850013436In September 2016, I turn age 65. I have been trying to decide what special thing to do or acquire to celebrate my first old lady birthday. I make art every day – that’s my dayjob. What else could be more special? Because there’s nothing that could make me any happier than being able to make art every day all day long, I will do the giving rather than be given to.

From today through the end of September Episode 3 of VOICE, a performance art web series will be free to watch on this Facebook page. This was the episode when I stopped having panic attacks about continuity every day & started having fun making the movie.


Artist’s Statement, August 23, 2016

Annual Selfie 2016 5

I have decided to put my movie project “Killer Jane” on hold. In order to make “Jane,” I would have to raise cash through a campaign and or grantwriting, hire actors and, probably, shoot out of town.

Even though I have been ambitious and pro-hyper-active all my adult life, I think no matter how much fun production was (and it would be if I got to work with two of the actors whom I’ve already talked to), no matter how good it looked, no matter how much recognition it got, it would make me miserable and unhealthy; and it would probably take me at least a year to recover.

I was so bipolar for so long this year (about 10 weeks from May 24th-August 10th) that I had to minimalize my life. I pared down my projects, stayed indoors most days, and even stayed in bed until noon a few times just as I would if I had a cold.

No medication has ever worked for me for very long. However, I have been extremely lucky in having talented therapists who recognized I am able to self-modify, and who worked with me on that. Self-modification and stress management. That usually keeps me from getting way too crazy. I believe that even if you are hard to medicate, if you have a strong constitution to begin with, can self-discipline, are glass-half-full – you’re just going to fare better.

Minimalizing my life seems to have worked; and in spite of waking up crazy every day, I did not have horrible stress like I usually do when I’m sick for almost 3 months. I am so happy right now in spite of being limited. I can’t help but wonder how much misery my ambition has caused me and people around me because I am sometimes sick from February into September. This morning it occurred to me that I should continue this daily vigilance, just like (if medication worked for me) I would keep taking my medication!!!

I will happily and solitarily (except for shoots with my husband) continue to greenscreen mythological performance art, which is my ongoing passion. We will see what happens.


The Cape Experiments by Sylvia Toy, continued

The Cape Experiments by Sylvia Toy, Toyabe National Forest, Nevada. (Color/Stereo, USA, 2016)

Directed by my husband and frequent collaborator, Michael Lewis. Shot in the village of Cold Creek where my mom & dad in-law spend the summer.

Particularly in these videos, which were shot in one of the places that I have called home for 20 years and that I love the most, I am trying to capture the paradox of the individual and its solitariness inside the body and its inextricable interconnectedness with the rest of the Universe.

THE CAPE EXPERIMENTS by Sylvia Toy Cold Creek © 2016

The Cape Experiments by Sylvia Toy

THE CAPE EXPERIMENTS by Sylvia Toy (No. 1) from Sylvia Toy on Vimeo.

The earliest known example of “kill one’s darlings” was in Arthur Quiller-Couch’s 1913-1914 Cambridge lectures “On the Art of Writing.”: “If you here require a practical rule of me, I will present you with this: ‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.”

THE CAPE EXPERIMENTS by Sylvia Toy (No. 2) from Sylvia Toy on Vimeo.

I made the cape in these videos for my character, THE HARPY. It was quite a lot of work and took 3 times as long to complete as I originally thought it would, nearly an entire workweek. I had to consider whether the cape was a darling that needed to be killed. Now, in search of new back stories, I will be experimenting with the cape, however, following it around to discover new stories.

THE CAPE EXPERIMENTS by Sylvia Toy (07-31-2016) from Sylvia Toy on Vimeo.

The July 31, 2016 Cape Experiments were directed by my husband and frequent collaborator, Michael Lewis. Having never before tried to greenscreen images in real environments – especially not outdoors in San Francisco, which is so beautiful and green for an urban area – I am very pleased with the clips Mike Lewis and I shot today of “The Cape.” There are stories to be made and our experimentation will help me find some of them. I have received very provocative and helpful feedback from my network of artist-peers.

The Cape Experiments by Sylvia Toy, Second Pass (Color/Stereo, 09’30”, USA, 2016) from Sylvia Toy on Vimeo.

KILLER JANE, a movie in story development –

KILLER JANE by Sylvia Toy: STORYBOARD, Act One (Version 2) from Sylvia Toy on Vimeo.

KILLER JANE is a short feature currently in story development. Jane, the protagonist, serially dreams that she has shot & killed a man. The dream always starts moments after she commits the murder. Jane never sees her victim; but she knows he was a man who was a stranger.

Currently, I am creating backstory to establish the conflicts on which the KILLER JANE and its subtexts will be built.

I create story primarily by improvising monologues on camera while in character. For 17 years as a solo stage actor, I played scenes in which two or more characters were having a conversation. When I realized that my characters told their own stories better than I could write them, my actor took over from my sadly mediocre writer. I rarely have “block,” but I do find that I have to let a character live for a while before he or she starts telling me the story. When I had to let go of my (to-date) favorite character (an actor sadly unavailable) and, so, had to create another character as Jane’s antagonist, I had to wait for a new voice to start talking to me and tell me when to turn on the camera.

Jane and I have been living together for months. She began her life inside my head and on camera as a fairly vivacious forensics specialist. As I continued to improvise her nightmare and develop the monster who shadows her after every murder, I saw more potential for conflict is her being a straight-laced, clean living Plain Jane who doesn’t even date, let alone date strangers. As of this week, she is a Trusts & Estates attorney.

Daphne, Jane’s secretary/confidante/BFF, is Jane’s antagonist. Daphne is a go-getter who thinks she’s at least as smart as any lawyer. She hates rich people, especially Cleo, Jane’s client/confidante/BFF. Cleo is a wealthy woman with whom Jane went to school, who wants to divorce her husband with the smallest payoff that’s legally possible. Cleo treats Daphne like a servant.

In every profession, there is hierarchy; and class as well as level of education differences among people in the Law can create the kind of drama, nonsense and stuff that stories and dreams are made of. If you wondered why there’s always been so many lawyer dramas – well – or is that redundant?

THE HARPY by Sylvia Toy (Color/Stereo, 09’45”, USA, 2016)

THE HARPY by Sylvia Toy (Color/Stereo, 09’45”, USA, 2016) from Sylvia Toy on Vimeo.

THE HARPY by Sylvia Toy (Color/Stereo, 09’45”, USA, 2016)

A goddess wakes up after 10,000 years in a coma. Released on Facebook July 17, 2016 .

THE HARPY is discussed in this essay by Cathrin Gordon, Artist Retrospective: The Unsung Genius of Sylvia Toy.