BY CAROLYN CROWCROFT
Filmmaker Laurel Cohen never imagined she would make music videos until she produced her first one as a student at Bloomington High School South. She still remembers the reaction it received when she presented it to faculty.
“They refused to give me credit because there were some cuss words in the song,” the Bloomington native says with a laugh.
As a student at Northwestern University, where she graduated in 2015, Cohen shifted her focus to narrative film and directed the short Jonah and the Crab, which screened at 13 film festivals and earned widespread acclaim. Her thesis film, The Very True Story About What Happened to Your Goldfish, earned a Princess Grace Award from the Princess Grace Foundation–USA. The annual awards honor emerging artists in dance, theater, and film.
In 2014, Cohen was selected to direct the annual Niteskool (the Northwestern student-run video production company) music video. The video, Fusion, caught the attention of Paul Mahern, Cohen’s former Bloomington neighbor and producer for sisters Lily & Madeleine, the Indianapolis-based singers, who reached out to her about producing their music videos.
Those videos premiered on NPR Music and Rookie (an online magazine for teenage girls) and resulted in Cohen producing music videos for Chicago band YAWN, Bloomington band Rattlesnake and the Church of FreshBeets, and world musician Simrit. In October, Cohen began traveling North America with Simrit to film a tour documentary.
“Even though I’m not there anymore, Bloomington has offered me a lot of opportunities with connections,” Cohen, 23, says.
When she’s not traveling with musical artists, Cohen is working on transitioning to her new life in Los Angeles. “Living in LA now is a big move from Bloomington,” she says.
In addition to Mahern, Cohen says her connections to Bloomington and the artistic influence of her mother, local architect Christine Matheu, offer her inspiration for her music videos.
“I’m very visually oriented,” she says. “Music videos are good for that. You can get very out there with the art.”