January 22nd, 2018

Chaos Theory

Published in RAW Features


Heartbreak is an emotion most of us have experienced, but we feel like we're alone when we’re going through it, and that no one can understand the pain we feel. When a relationship ends, we cry, we get angry, we rack our brains as to how it all went wrong and then, over time, the pain begins to ease up and we find a way to look ahead.


One RAW Artist, Josh McCausland, decided to relive this pain to create a visual work of art that illustrates the underlying patterns of heartbreak we all feel. Read on to discover how the film, Chaos Theory, was created and check out the film at IQflicks.com, Facebook or Vimeo.


How did the Name Chaos Theory come about?


The name came about from the mathematical definition of Chaos theory which is “A branch of mathematics that is focused on the behavior of systems that are highly sensitive to initial conditions.” I interpreted this in a way that really reflected my situation. I read on to find out that within the definition of Chaos it stated, “There are underlying patterns, constant feedback loops, repetition, self-similarity, fractals, self-organization, and reliance on programming at the initial point known as sensitive dependence on initial conditions.” When I read this, I was taken back due to how well it described my situation. It’s a “behavior of systems that are highly sensitive to an initial condition”. That says it all right there. The character in the film is caught up in this chaos due to an initial condition. And within that condition, there are underlying patterns, loops, repetitions and cycles of fear, anger, love and deep sadness.



How did you begin your career as a filmmaker? Was there any particular film, director, writer or movie moment that sparked your interest?


I think, like most artists, my career began at a young age. I was always enthralled with cinema and films. I remember watching them and that, being so immersed in them, I had a moment of confusion as to where I was at when they ended. And then I would have that “Oh yeah, this is real life.” moment after the credits rolled. It was always really bittersweet for me. I remember being really influenced by black and white films growing up, in particular, “Singing in the Rain”. It brought me into another world, and I loved that as a viewer. I would say as far as directors, Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, Martin Scorsese, and Sam Mendes are amongst my favorites. Roger Deakins continues to be a huge influence on me as a cinematographer. Thomas Newman has always been a huge inspiration to me as an artist and individual. His music always has a way of conveying real emotions in a way I have never experienced. His scores have always been very impactful for me as a listener.





You met Lauren Overstreet at RAW: Nashville presents FIXATE. How did she come to be involved in the project, and what were her contributions?


I met Lauren backstage in Nashville right before I was about to speak and introduce some of my work at the show. I remember seeing her and her dancers goofing off and stretching. I remember making a joke and mentioning that I have a project that needed dancers. Lauren was immediately interested. I contacted her later that week about the project and shared with her what my vision and idea were. We talked a long time about it, and she connected with it, what seemed like, right away. I could tell she, like me, was a deeper thinker and understood the emotional side of the story I was telling. That made me feel very safe with sharing my story with her.


Chaos Theory is a deeply personal narrative for me, so in a sense, I was sharing a piece of myself and hoping she would want to be a part—it was definitely a little unnerving. The project would not exist had it not been for Lauren. Dance was always needed for this project, and it is something that I had envisioned from the very start. Lauren took the narrative and projected it through dance in some really interesting ways. I can’t thank her and her dancer enough for being a part of the project and helping make this a reality for me.





What was your source of inspiration for Chaos Theory? 


It all started January 2017.


Chaos Theory wasn’t inspired by happy events. It was inspired by deep pain and hurt from a relationship. I remember sitting at the piano one night and playing the same melody over and over again. An hour later, I had the Chaos Theory melody, and the original recording of that melody can be heard in the film after the credits. I didn’t know that it would become the Chaos Theory melody then, I was just journaling the only way I knew how.


February 2017, I found a folder of recordings labeled “Help” on my hard drive. It contained guitar and piano melodies, or as I refer to them as “musical journals”, from the last few years. Among them was the Chaos Theory melody that I had recorded just a month earlier. Then when I listened to everything, I started to remember the emotions that were attached to those musical journals. Remembering has never been a strong suit of mine. I tend to suppress very heavily, and when I heard the recordings, I actually remembered. I remembered why I recorded them and where the pain came from that made me record them. It was in that moment that I knew I could make these musical journals into something real, something tactile and cathartic.



Chaos Theory incorporates both music and dance. Why did you choose these two artistic elements to convey your story?


Music and dance are both incredible ways to portray emotions. Music is everything. Music is life. I wouldn’t be the man I am today without the influence of music on me. I knew I couldn’t express my emotions in any other form. I have the ability to draw, paint, photograph, and make films, but the only place I run to when things get tough is music. The music is the story of Chaos Theory. 


Usually, I approach filmmaking from a visual standpoint, but this time around I wanted the film to complement the music. The story is in the music. I chose dance because of how incredibly sensitive and beautiful the art of dance is. I’ve always really felt very drawn to the dance as an art form. The performances from the dancers really brought to life the narrative in a way that couldn’t have been achieved by just hearing the piece.


Lauren thought of a way to showcase the characters and their uncontrollable alter-egos in a visual and very touching way.


I knew from the moment I started this project that I wanted to be a silhouette performing and to have a colored space with dancers telling the narrative.


What challenges did you face while creating this film?


I struggled personally a significant amount while creating this project. On an emotional level, working on this project has been difficult. I’ve had to approach editing and creating the visuals for this project as creating them for a character’s story rather than my own story. It makes it easier to empathize rather than dig back up the emotions of the music. I had to approach it this way because personally I had already worked through the traumas of the relationship and when I started listening through the music I had to find a way to protect myself from letting those emotions consume me again.


I sat on the project for some months after I finished it, debating on whether I really could share it with anyone because of how personal it was to me. 


This was my first musical piece, so I found myself being challenged in actually knowing what I was doing. I was just playing around in Ableton when the original mix was created, which was an overwhelming 56 layers. When I brought that to Kessler Cuffman of Dynamo Studios, he looked a little terrified but he volunteered to help with the final mastered version. I couldn’t have done this project without his support. I couldn’t have done it without all the help I had. I am so grateful for Lauren Overstreet, Chad Bullard, and Carl Cadwell, for helping bring this project to life. These were amazing friends of mine in Chattanooga that volunteered their time to help with the project. That meant so much to me. 



You use rich colors as the backdrop for your scenes. What role do these vibrant colors play in the overall feel and theme of your project?


Chaos Theory is the first project that I’ve ever created where every element has a purpose. From the musical notes to the dances, to the colors appearing in the background, everything has a meticulous reason for being there. 


Color theory was something that I knew would be vital in the conception of the film. I knew the moods I wanted to set early on. The film starts with a setting of blue, which symbolizes sadness and introspection. When the character starts to feel anger or fear we see the lighting fade to red. The yellow lights come during moments of hope. And there is one section that the colors are almost random and sporadic due to the character attempting to run away from the situation but becoming confused in his own thoughts.


The red color can be seen throughout the film highlighting this constant anxiety in the character's narrative, along with the Chaos Theory melody, which can be heard repeatedly throughout the film. 





How do you want audiences to feel when they see your film? What is your goal with this collaboration?


I want them to gain their own interpretations from it. I am premiering the film in Chattanooga on January 24th, and I don’t plan on explaining much about it beforehand. I’d like people to just dive in and develop their own thoughts on how they connected with certain parts and how it ties to experiences they have had. The piece is left heavily to interpretation. There are no parts that say, “Hey! In this part of the story, the character is really sad because of (fill in the blank).” It’s all ambient and emotional, so I think that it’s relatable to a lot more people in the sense that they will interpret their own experiences due to the open-ended approach. 


The goal was to reach catharsis for me. This is my first truly personal piece. It’s a dive into my head and my emotions during a very rough period in my life. The goal was reached when Chaos Theory was finished, and I viewed it in my apartment last year for the first time. Now, I am excited to hear how the world receives it and how different people interpret it. 


Where can we see Chaos Theory?


If you’re near the Nashville/Atlanta area, come on out to Chattanooga on January 24th at 7:00 pm to The Camp House, which is at 149 E M L King Blvd, Chattanooga, TN 37402. We will be premiering it live there. If you can’t make it out, we will also be doing a digital release on the iQ Flicks official website, Vimeo, and Facebook. Links below.






Do you have any advice for new RAW Artists?


I like to say, “Life has always had a way of standing me on the edge of decisions and giving me the choice to take a risk and jump or to walk away. It’s the moments that I’ve taken the risk that has proved to be the most difficult but also the most rewarding.”


It takes a lot of work to be personally creative. It’s hard when you have to make money and get bogged down by other work. But, spend the extra time you have, whether it be at night, in the morning, even lose a little sleep if you have to. But, create for yourself. Create something that matters to YOU. Draw, paint, dance, play music or go photograph something that makes you happy. It will be so rewarding and help you function as an artist and as an individual. 


Be mindful. Be present. Be authentic. Be yourself.