Symbiotic Surrealism—Recent BGSU Alum Specializes in Experimental Film

. August 14, 2018.
Hailey Ameling.
Hailey Ameling.

On the surface, Hailey Ameling’s film Dilution doesn’t make sense. There’s no narrative, no script, not even any dialogue. But after watching it, you still instinctively “get it.” And that’s the 22-year old filmmaker’s whole point.

“I want to make something an audience can look at and every single person comes away with their own interpretation,” said Ameling, a 2018 Bowling State University graduate. “It’s about trying to draw out a feeling or emotion.”

Dilution, which was recently screened for a mystified audience at the Glass City Film Festival, is a short film depicting a woman taking a bath. But with its surreal black-and-white closeups and squelchy sound mix, it’s not the type of bathing one does after a long day.

“With Dilution, I wanted to explore the feeling of trauma,” said Ameling. “The main symbolism in the film isn’t the bath itself but water. Water can represent a lot. When you take a hot bath, you feel relaxed and safe, but if you put your head under the water, it can also kill you.”

Born to film

Given Ameling’s upbringing in Clyde, Ohio, it’s not surprising she would end up pursuing a career in the creative arts. Born to a father who drew pen and ink comic book art and a mother who created Frank Frazetta-style fantasy paintings, Ameling developed her creative side early. In high school, she was a band geek, playing the saxophone, and was also heavily involved in the art club. In her free time, she was—and still is—an avid Dungeons & Dragons player. In fact, it was her love of D&D that inspired her first film, Roleplay.

While pursuing her degree in digital arts from BGSU, Ameling made other films, including a few music videos. She collaborated with an avant-garde musician named Ree Frequent on a piece called 26, 27, a bizarre film designed to capture what it feels like to suffer a migraine.

Influences and plans

Ameling cites David Lynch’s iconic surrealist film Eraserhead as a major life and work influence and also gives nods to Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo, and the collective works of audio/visual artist Pipilotti Rist.

Recently married to her husband Gabel Johnson, Ameling is currently employed as a digital media specialist for the robotics company RobotWorx in Marion. But when she’s not on the clock, she continues to study the craft of cinema arts, teaching herself post-production special effects, and planning her next movie. What’s it about? She doesn’t know yet. But it’s guaranteed to be fascinating and cathartic.

“I think it’s important as an artist to create things that help you release conflict and negative feelings inside yourself,” said Ameling. “It’s equally cool if you can create content that lets the viewer do that as well. The best art is a symbiotic relationship between the creator and the viewer.”

For more information on Hailey Ameling, visit haileyameling.com.