“Getting dressed every day doesn't make you a muse”: The story behind the short film ‘Muse’

By Charlotte Manning

From a DM between friends, to a raw and arresting short film addressing “self-expression, beauty, and societal norms”, Stockholm-based creative Charlotte Manning talks us through the creation of the short film release MUSE

“I wish someone would have told me that getting dressed every day doesn't make you a muse." These 17 closing words practically fell out of my mouth after months of feeling muted in my ability to tell a story. After clicking, deleting, clicking, deleting, and repeating, repeating, repeating, I finally found the exact right words to describe exactly how I felt about myself and the ingrained ego that one takes on when trying to “fit in” to an industry – an industry with so little openness for taking up such vast space both in reality and our minds.

In 17 words, I went from asking myself: “How do you even begin to sum up or depict the meaning behind a film that has yet to be created?” to feeling like my perspective on the subject was honest and worthy of being shared. It was an assignment I'd never had before, bringing my words and tone of voice into a specific photographic vision. A vision first presented to me by my dear friend and filmmaker Jasmine Agdami and her friend, a daring and deliberative DOP named Olof Ringmar.

In November 2022, Jas sent me a DM: “Hi, my love! How are you? A friend and I (a DOP) have this concept we want to film... it consists of poetry, art, and fashion. I thought of you and your words.” I was flattered and enticed but even more confused – “fashion?” I thought. “More like a poser,” I remember thinking to myself sarcastically. But my dire need to escape my creative rut (and my momentary-tingled ego) led me to respond, “Let's do it!” – and 16 very intentional months of conversation and collaboration later, we completed our poetry film MUSE.

Photo: Jasmine Agdami & Olof Ringmar

Photo: Jasmine Agdami & Olof Ringmar

MUSE is a 1.5-minute spoken word film that combines raw black & white visuals with emotional and self-reflective storytelling to make a case for the two-faced juggle many of us face as creatives: fitting in vs. standing out. In some ways, the poem is a monologue dedicated to imposter syndrome.

“As a creator, I've always been fascinated by the evocative power of words,” says Jasmine. “Our film delves into the complexities of self-expression, beauty, and societal norms, showcasing the journey of self-discovery and acceptance. Each frame is infused with a deeper meaning to create layers of depth and convey authenticity.”

From our first conversation in November 2022 to filming in December 2023, the directorial decisions took on many transformations. Jasmine and Olof trusted their individual creative processes while holding space for my story to unfold, making the film more powerful than we could have strategised.

Initially, we planned to shoot in multiple locations, bring in a renowned stylist, and integrate many colour schemes – not missing a single ‘bell or whistle’, as they say. However, as the concept evolved, the message we wanted to convey felt like a bright and shiny enough focal point. So, we stripped it back entirely. We filmed it in one studio location over one long day, self-styled using my non-designer wardrobe, integrated dance elements by Kenya Rhodes to uplift the duality of the natural versus forced side of creative self-expression, intentional profile shots with help from MUA Maurine Tugavune, and filmed it entirely in black and white.

Olof said, “I've always loved the timeless and classic aesthetic a black and white image can give you. It helps focus the viewer's attention on the characters while, at the same time, it can evoke nostalgia. It's usually not my first choice when working with the look on a project, but rather something that can evolve in the process. In this film, I feel that the black and white holds the story together, giving it a sense of calm that makes space for the spoken word.” Ultimately, as our collaboration and the deeper story transformed, so did the creative factors that uplifted it.

For me, the most interesting part of this project was to explore how to create images inspired by words," Olof continues. “Poetry is the foundation of this visual journey, conveying a feeling of the inner thoughts of identity and ego. The freedom of the abstract world that poetry can shape is, at the same time, a challenge in the search for your own creativity and imagination. An exploration of the connections between language and imagery. The collaboration with the team involved in this film gave me so much energy and a new view of what creativity is really about.”

Jasmine adds, “Seeing the final product evokes a unique sense of pride. Knowing we've crafted a powerful message that will resonate with our viewers and remain relevant over time. It reinforces the belief in the transformative power of storytelling to provoke thought and inspire change, which is always the result I strive for in my work.”

In this story, perhaps there is no actual muse, only a non-existent one. One who stares their industry-fed desires directly in the eyes while questioning the “one-way” path to finding their place in it.

MUSE is our shared message to every person with a heart for creativity who is still honing their craft, searching for their direction, trusting their own process, and ultimately, putting more weight in growth over gold.

Directed by: Jasmine Agdami & Olof Ringmar
Words: Charlotte Manning
Director of Photography: Olof Ringmar
Edit: Jasmine Agdami & Olof Ringmar
Sound design & Music: Petter Karlsten - Vårsnö
Colourist: Olof Ringmar
Starring: Charlotte Manning
Dancer: Kenya Rhoodes
Make Up: Maurine Tugavune
Light assistent: Malva Hellman