Girl Props: An Interview with India Menuez, Adinah Dancyger and Victoria Cronin on Road Trips and Independent Cinema

There is a good chance that if you live in New York and travel in a certain artsy circle, or if you flip through your favorite fashion magazine, or watch your favorite indie movie, you are going to see an other-worldly site: a poised young woman with striking copper red features by the name of India Salvator Menuez. India is a part of a crew of bright young artists exploring the fields of fine art, performative art, film, and more, under the moniker of the Luck You Collective. Currently, India, and fellow collective members of Luck You Adinah Dancyger and Victoria Cronin are raising funds to film a road trip movie called Girl Props. Not only are they directing the movie, they are also starring in the film – filling three of the four roles. The movie will tell the story of four women who embark on a spontaneous journey westward through America and discover the inherent challenges along the way. Taking visual cues from disparate references, like Fassbinder’s The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant and Ridley Scott’s Thelma & Louis, Girl Props will be directed by three people, offering three unique perspectives, and it will be shot using a wide variety of cameras – including standard digital, but also non-standard mediums such as iPhones and drones. With only a week left on their Kickstarter campaign – which includes rewards such as hand-pulled silkscreened tees, a zine, and even a cameo in the film – Autre got a chance to ask the directors a few questions about their film, its impetus and its process; as well as the importance of women in cinema.

AUTRE: What are your backgrounds and how did you meet?

INDIA MENUEZ: We all grew up in NYC and met through a scene with similar interests.

A: What kind of art and film where you exposed to growing up in New York? Was there anything specific that made a strong impression?

ADINAH DANCYGER: All kinds, if you’re looking for it, chances are you’ll find something. Working in an art collective broadened my perspective of what art is and could be which really came out of being working with friends in a DIY style. I didn’t see many art house films until I went to college but occasionally we would all check out retrospectives or rare prints of films playing at Film Forum and Anthology.  

A: There seems to be this Youth Wave thing going on in New York right, do you feel like the younger generation has more to say or are they just saying something different?

VICTORIA CRONIN: I think this “New York Youth Wave” is a wave that has always come in and crashed every couple of years or so. I don’t think it has anything to do with having more to say or even necessarily saying something different, but more with being young and being a fresh face.

A: When did you all become interested in film, can you remember a film that really took your breath away?

AD: High school. Tarkovsky, in general. John Cassavetes’ A Women Under the Influence. Krzysztof Kieslowski’s, The Double Life of Veronique. Akira Kurosawa’s, Rashamon. The list goes on.

IM: I grew up watching Miyazaki, movies were always a way into the other world for me. As I started to find myself working within film, coming from art, the interest grew exponentially.

VC:  I became interested in film because my parent’s were really into Woody Allen movies when I was a kid. I liked what he offered in terms of interesting cinematography mixed with humor. Before that I had assumed “beautiful” movies were supposed to be serious, and seriously boring. It took me a while to appreciate beautiful boring movies and not see them as boring. Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia helped me with seeing this.

"....I had assumed “beautiful” movies were supposed to be serious, and seriously boring. It took me a while to appreciate beautiful boring movies...."

A: Let’s talk about Girl Props – can you tell me a little bit about the impetus behind this film?

VC: Growing from a boredom in high school we would create characters for ourselves to play when going out. In college this grew into writing down actual characters then making little videos for them. Girl Props became a goal to create a world for four of these characters to live in together and have a soul-searching adventure in.

A: You are shooting with multiple cameras to get different effects – is this a documentary, a feature or how can Girl Props be described?

AD: It is a feature film, narrative, and fiction. To say if the narrative is totally linear is a decision that is not totally decided. The film is contained within the realm of subjective perspective. The camera sees what the characters see. The second camera is in effect as the girls’ documentary camera, adding another layer of subjectivity.

A: Who are some filmmakers that you really look up to or who you will look to for inspiration?

There are so many, any list is always incomplete but here are a few of our favorites: Andrea Arnolds, Leos Carax, Agnes Varda, Barbara Loden, Wim Wenders, John Cassavetes, Josh & Benny Safdie, Luis Bunuel, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Chantal Ackerman, Kelly Reichardt, Hou Hsiao Hsien, Nathan Silver, Britni West, Robert Bresson, Michelangelo Antonioni, Andrei Tarkovsky.

A: I really love that you are championing the idea of movies made by women – I think that this is incredibly important because there does seem to be a lack – why do you think this is and do you think it will change?

AD: Millions of movies are being made every year. I don’t know the statistics but it seems like the percentage of female filmmakers has gone up exponentially in recent decades. There are definitely politics in the unbalanced ratio of men to women in the film industry, but a lot of that has to do with the attention men get as filmmakers that make it seem like less women are making films.

VC: The lack of women in film is not a reflection of women being less interested in film but of the obstacles they face in a male dominated industry. I’m optimistic this will continue to change as it is more discussed why it is problematic that there is lack of women directors getting attention as well as a lack of women’s stories being told in film. With three directors we hope to drive this point home while offering three unique perspectives of the four female protagonists.

A: Do you see any challenges working with multiple directors?

AD: Sure, I think any collaboration is a struggle. Three leaders, three different minds and personalities, one project. We will never know what each of us are thinking exactly, but through practicing and having worked together for a long time, we’re getting closer and closer to being able to do understand each other fully.

VC: After writing the script for this movie together we have really honed our craft of communicating together. The hardest part of being a group is being able to see when your idea is not as strong as someone else's and when compromise is best for the project as a whole.  

Click here to donate to the Girl Props Kickstarter and help India Salvator Menuez, Adinah Dancyger, and Victoria Cronin reach their $20,000 goal. Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE