Nostalgic Cinematics & Rock and Roll Paper Worlds - A Conversation with Maris Jones

A sense of nostalgia kicks in when watching the mini movies by artist Maris Jones. She emerges as a cinematic time traveler: director, animator, editor, and star of her fictitious rock and roll paper worlds, driven by waves of sound and color.

From stepping into character as the talented Stevie Nicks in a commemorative birthday feature—an ode to the singer’s accomplished musical career—to creating a fresh rendition of the highly stylized Wes Anderson films, Jones produces her mini films from top to bottom. She creates the set designs in her studio, and sources props from a growing collection she started at a young age. Her online presence has attracted the likes of brands including Apple, AT&T, Stitchfix, and more for collaborations but it doesn’t end there.

Accumulating an impressive 37+ million likes across TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube, her comment sections are filled with recurring ovations such as ‘every commercial should be like this’ and variations of ‘You’re a../This is a../I’m feeling the—mood!’ Perhaps, a collective plea for the comeback of creative commercials, or rather a wish to go back in time to a familiar decade?

Jones’ forward output continues to deliver feel-good remembrances. As she shares with art currently, “I feel like I'm a time bandit and I'm trying to rework time— it's an alternate universe in my opinion. It’s not what everybody thinks it is.”

Navigating physical limitations of her cerebral palsy through imagination, the artist turned hours of daydreams into self produced home videos with her sister. Television lended an inspiration of its own, opening her eyes to the worlds of Old Hollywood, films & musicals, stop motion animation, and a rebellious drive to insert herself into roles that go against the grain of the time periods. The daughter of an antique business owner, it was through his influence that she harnessed the knack for repurposing conventional items, casting them as screen-worthy props and taking us through the ages.

We caught up with the artist back in December where she gave us an exclusive look into her creative process and influences as she geared up for her vintage themed holiday party at The Sultan Room in Brooklyn.

Maris Jones

Tell us about your background beyond what’s in your bio.

I've been making videos since I was very little, it's what I used to do for fun and I also went to film school. I was born with cerebral palsy so a lot of the time I would spend just playing alone because of physical problems. I spent a lot of time imagining and daydreaming, just playing with my toys and making videos myself. So when I became an adult it manifested into a more adult-like version of that…so that's kind of how that all started.

Walk us through your process. What inspires your scenes?

It goes like this; I walk and I listen to music, and then all of a sudden I start seeing a scene in my head…so I'm like oh that's fun. I play around with the idea in my head, and listen to the same song on repeat to see if I can get more out of it until I start to visualize the basic scene I want to recreate. (Check out her spotify playlist!)

A lot of times they’re about me injecting myself into old Hollywood tropes that are more masculine roles that I always wanted to be a part of but wasn't meant for me, so i love injecting myself into what I really would’ve loved to be a part of, playing characters I wouldn’t traditionally play.

Once I have the idea, I then ask myself what I have to do to build out the scene; ‘what do I need to source, and what do I already have’, because I’ve accumulated a lot of stuff over the years! But I’ll choose one major prop that's important, and I'll always want to do a backdrop. I try to come up with one set that I can also turn into a reverse shot like a wall, so I can have multiple things happening. After I have an idea of what I need to build, things I don't have and things I need to figure out how to pretend to have, I’m like ‘oh shit, I need a costume’—because that's the last thing I think of! Then I shoot it, which usually takes me about 2 days depending on how labor intensive it is. Because I’m doing a lot of furniture lifting I’ll edit it the next day, post it really quickly and not think of any other strategy.

My work is so much based on what I'm listening to at the moment. I have something called synesthesia so I see colors with music. When I hear stuff it's a very vivid, colorful swirl and the image just kind of comes. I rely on that a lot. I didn't even know I had that until someone started talking about it!

What is your favorite era to reenact?

I like them all for different reasons design wise. That’s the reason why I like eras, I'm obsessed with color. It’s not that I love the [present] era but I think this is the best way of enjoying myself. Being a woman I don't think I could do what I do otherwise [in another era].

Are there any movies that impact your short films?

The original “Clash of the Titans” is one. It came out in the 80s, and the animation was done by Ray Hary Housman who was a pretty prominent stop motion animator in film. I was blown away by the stop motion elements in the movie and I wanted to do it myself, so that kickstarted things for me. I looked at this film and I was like how do you get an inanimate object or a monster to move that doesn’t exist? My dad was like “that’s stop motion—I'll show you how to do it” and I was like 6 taking still frames with my toys! I would say that influenced me. I’ve also been influenced by the musicals of the 40s and 50s. I love the way they’re colored- the technicolor- and the costumes and sets!

The set designs are so impressive! Do you come up with them yourself?

It’s been a long journey. I began just using cardboard because it's what I had and it's what built a lot of my sets. I use a lot of foam core, like dollar store foam core, and a lot of my stuff falls apart very fast - it's like making a video and hoping for the best sometimes. Recently I’ve been using insulation foam from Home Depot. You can buy big sheets and cut it with a foam knife, which is a game changer for me. I use a lot of paint, hot glue, tape…it looks way more robust and wonderful on camera but in person it falls apart very easily! (laughs)

To paint I buy photo backdrop paper and paint on top of it. I have a very free approach to deciding what I'm going to paint. I see it in my head immediately and go for it. I don't plan at all—I don't write anything down aside from a few visuals for reference.

Do you edit all your films?

Yes! I love the generative fill on photoshop with AI just to fill out my scenes. It cuts time editing something that would’ve taken hours to do. I love animating on the computer. I used to do everything by hand, animation wise, partially because I didn't know how to do it yet. I edit and do all my own effects, so I'm always trying to keep up to date so I can figure out how to implement the new things I see and how I can use it in my work. It was my fist love…actually second…or simultaneously; film & computer.