• About: Peter Ohs and Andrea Sisson

    Andrea Sisson is referencing Tom Waits: "Somewhere I heard that his wife is credited as a co-writer on all of his songs and albums because the sheer existence of her in his life means it's a shared work," she says. "I remember when we both read that and we were like, "Yah…totally get that..."

    For Sisson and her husband and Pete Ohs, collaboration is at the heart of everything they do, from their own relationship to the shared work they make as filmmakers for their LA-based production company Lauren Edward. At LE (a mash-up of each of their middle names), they play multiple roles, from conceiving and developing ideas to writing the scripts, filming, and producing each of their projects. Pete and Andrea's work is so intrinsically connected, developed in conversations at home and during long walks, that "it's even hard to clarify to others working with us," Andrea admits. This month, the couple embarked on a trip to the California desert with a full crew to shoot their first narrative feature, what they describe as a 'pop art, sci fi' journey into another world. We were lucky enough to tag along with the young filmmakers for part of it and learn more about their process, backgrounds, and witness firsthand why working with your best friend isn't really work at all. 
    Photos by Christian Sorensen Hansen

    How has filming been so far? What is the concept of this project and can you tell us more about what a typical day of production has looked like out here?
    Andrea: Filming has been very good and very intense. It’s our first narrative feature and I knew that the process would be all-encompassing creatively (which creating usually is for the two of us). I don't think we realized how intense it would be in a wider capacity, with it being a full film production, spending every day on set with a team and a lot of people all around doing their jobs while we create. The experience of that mixed into our creative processes has been more of a cultural adjustment than we imagined. 

    The film is something we've been calling a 'pop-art, sci-fi.' It's a really fun story about two people in the desert with a robot head. There's a lot of fun style, with a really darling, meaningful story. We can't wait to share more about it all after the filming. 

    Let's go back to the beginning: when you are framing an idea for a project, do you sit down and formally brainstorm, or does it come together more organically?
    Pete: Talking about the creative process always seems like a good idea but often when it comes down to it, the answer ends up being difficult to articulate. Maybe that’s why we all keep asking about it. We both find it all to be quite ethereal and organic... I know I am hugely inspired by Andrea, by most everything she says and how she approaches her existence. I’d venture to guess that most of my good ideas stem from something I’ve observed in her. At some point, I write the idea down, I expand upon it, and I usually forget that it was seeded by Andrea so I end up thinking its my idea. Because we spend so much time together, our entire life ends up being a brainstorm. We are always talking, sharing, reflecting. We go on a lot of really long walks. All that time together is our development process.

    Andrea: So in a nutshell, it's extremely organic. Its so organic that it's even hard to clarify to others working with us. But those that know us well and deeply, understand the process. For this film, the idea came first. It was four years ago living in Iceland and Pete looked at me and said "a movie with a robot head." And from there the writing began. The rest is history. 

    When you are on set, you refer to your collaborative working style as a "We-Lap": each taking turns having a go at something, from framing shots to structuring edits. Can you share more about this?
    Andrea: It's absolutely our favorite way to work. It stems from the idea of a relay-race in a pool where one person does a lap, tags the other to do a lap, and then back to the other person to swim a lap until the race is complete. It's a deep word to us that means "togetherness." 

    Pete: The we-lap allows for space to feel what’s good or bad and it mitigates the energy-suck of multiple cooks in the kitchen. While one of us follows our instinctual flow working on a piece of writing, or editing, framing a shot, the other can observe, breathe, and perhaps see some deeper truth in the moment...which they will then uncover when it's their turn. We take turns to each dive into a work. Both of us are optimal when fully immersed as individuals. So the "lap" for each person to dive in alone, is really supportive to that. 

    Andrea: It's fun. After the other person makes changes during their 'lap,' we're usually so inspired by what the other person contributed and seeing what their vision is. It keeps us inspired, motivated, and energetic about each other and the work itself, usually seeing the piece from a new angle each lap cycle.

    What are some challenges that come from this way of working?
    Pete: It’s only tricky when there’s a ticking clock putting external pressure on the process. This is never a good situation for creativity and we continuously find that the best thing to do is let go of what you can’t control and take a breath. Trying to control creativity doesn’t work so well for us. 

    Andrea, your background is in design and Pete yours in computer science. This seems like a great foundation for working on something both as visually and technically-driven as film.

    Pete: I was making videos since middle school but I ended up getting a degree in Computer Science. It was the “safe” choice that I don’t regret in the slightest. I found writing lines of code and thinking like a computer to be an extremely useful study in logic. I was training my brain to anticipate unnecessary functions and to seek out the most efficient ways to implement actions. Visualizing a scene or plotting out a story is quite similar in that I’m doing a lot of mental calculations for how each decision will affect each other. Andrea’s design mind is unparalleled. She has the best taste in shapes and colors and can sense out dishonesty like a bloodhound. I am basically always looking to her for intuitive direction. 

    Andrea: Ha, as Pete said, I was trained in design and really do identify as a designer even though I use my traits for film work. I see it all as world-building. Color, composition, meaning, and most of all function: that's how a work is design for me. Pete is a true methodical thinker and creative scientist. He mixes logic and creativity that I've never seen in anyone else. 

    What are the differences in the projects you work on independently and the ones you do together?
    Andrea: We're both such independent people, sometimes it boggles me. But all-in-all, it always comes down to being together. 

    Pete: We perform different roles depending on the situation and project but it's pretty clear in each finished product who was the main "genesis" of a project or who spent more time at the wheel. I write a lot. Andrea takes a lot of photos and ideates visually. Those things are often done solo just in our own free time as we go throughout our days. Sometimes there's smaller work that we do separately, but we always seek each other out for advice and support. In that way, there always seems to be a mutual creation that we both feel ownership towards in the end while still completely admiring the other person's execution of that piece. 

    Andrea: Like when I see the comic book or read a TV pilot Pete writes. Completely impressed 

    Pete: Or Andrea's photography, design, or art film.

    Andrea: But when it comes to a culmination and creating a greater project (like building an ambitious and full world of a feature film & story), we totally meld into a shared vision and super shared process.

    How did you two meet?
    Pete: We met twice. First at a water park in Ohio where some friends worked. Andrea was the airbrush girl and I was the guy drinking at the bar for free in swim trunks. Four years later, we met again on a bench outside of a coffee shop and talked intensely for the next six weeks about everything we wanted to do with our lives. Then we said we’d get married, then we kissed for the first time. 

    Andrea: Then we got married and moved to Iceland for our first year of marriage. Magical and an extremely creative time. He was wearing 1950s style red swim trunks that time at the water park. I remember them clearly.

    Can you each speak to the other's strengths in a work setting? Andrea, what does Pete bring to the table in your collaborations that you admire and vice versa?
    Pete: We’re on a journey together. Every time we realize it, we're pretty surprised and impressed. We each came into life alone but now we’re not alone, we’re together. Having that foundation makes everything possible. All we both want to do is work, to create, to experience, and to communicate these meaningful things to others. Very rarely do either of us seek “time off.” It just doesn’t register. Time off from what? From our lives? Isn’t that why we’re here? That's what work is to us.

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