The friendship between the campy filmmaker and the lunatic muse all began innocently enough. Nearly two years ago, in an Austin Film Works class led by celebrated Austin movie man Steve Mims, Chelsea Beauchamp – an ebullient, witty video artist who radiates disarming charm and with a single sugary smile delightfully conjures up thoughts of pixie dust and bub ble gum – met Paul Soileau, the loveable, demented comic actor best known for keeping Austin audiences in hysterics with his boozy drag-queen character, Rebecca Havemeyer.
It was the beginning of a magical moviemaking partnership that within weeks led to a truly unique if not blithely ridiculous class project. “For the Love of the Game,” is Beauchamp’s hilarious short narrative chronicling the intense training of Connect Four “athlete” Kerri Clark (played by Beauchamp’s real-life partner, Kerri Clark). Soileau superbly overacts in the role of Coach Troy Dingley, delivering his deliciously clever, saucy lines in the ludicrous way only he can.
“I had the best time working on that piece,” Beauchamp says, her smile widening as she thinks fondly of the project, one she developed mere months after moving to Austin. The short film laid the groundwork for Beauchamp’s and Soileau’s working relationship (which has only managed to get wackier since) and set the stage for Beauchamp’s blossoming career as an Austin filmmaker and videographer.
A Little Star Rising
A native of the Houston area, Beauchamp was raised in a supportive, fun-loving home by parents who encouraged their children’s imagination and talents. Some of Beauchamp’s earliest memories include those in which she and her brother frolicked gleefully while listening to their father strum the guitar as their mother sang. And though her mother died when Beauchamp was just a tender seven years old, these lively music-filled family moments are still among Beauchamp’s favorite childhood memories, and they’ve surely influenced the creativity she’s displayed in her adult life.
In fact, with talent reaching back several generations along the family tree – Beauchamp’s father “sounds just like Willie Nelson when he sings,” she says; her grandfather hosted a variety TV show; one aunt was an established singer who often appeared on television and another authored a book; and her grandmother helped judge a national beauty contest – it’s no wonder Beauchamp was given to bursts of creativity.
But her early talents came not in the form of moviemaking, rather she gravitated toward the same craft that exhilarated her parents: music. In fact, it was music that took the fledgling songwriter to Berkeley, Calif., that famous West Coast bastion of the arts. Packing little else than a few necessities and her acoustic guitar, Beauchamp left Texas to embark on a music tour that took her up and down the coast of California. Once the tour was over, she opted to stay in San Francisco and join the local music scene.
“At that point, I just wanted to play music and see where life took me,” Beauchamp says.
Though her spirited, cheerful personality is immediately apparent in her film and video work, Beauchamp’s music is far more lofty and haunting. Her singing voice, though commanding and far from feeble, has the velvety quality of being spun from silk, and her folk-pop style is dreamy yet periodically cutting in that intimacy-turned- betrayal sort of way.
A natural music talent, Beauchamp even cut a record while she was living in Houston. A year and a half in the making, “Little Star” is a monument to Beauchamp’s seductive vocals and moody songwriting skills. And there’s not a single upbeat tune among the CD’s 12 tracks.
“The album is incredibly sad,” Beauchamp admits. Do some really ridiculous and stupid stuff with my videos but music brings out another side of me. I’ve never been able to write a happy song. I was so happy when I made that album, but if I pick up my guitar, I guarantee you I won’t write or play a happy song.”
Love Struck and Texas-Bound
Beauchamp has always had a fondness for photography. In fact, she says the still-art form was her first love, and she even built a darkroom in her closet when she was a teenager. Today, an array of personalized photos are scattered throughout the South Austin home that she and Clark share.
It was Beauchamp’s propensity for camerawork that made for an easy transition in to videography and film- making, specialties she took to quickly and handily. After learning digital music editing during the CD- recording process, it didn’t take much effort for Beauchamp to translate that knowledge to video editing. Essentially self-taught and armed only with a camcorder, she began making videos before she even left Texas to pursue a music career in California. And she continued to dabble in the video arts while in San Francisco, making what she calls “mad videos” and taping friends’ parties and the like.
Though she lived in California only four years, Beauchamp found her time there to be fruitful and rewarding. It was in San Francisco, after all, at what she refers to as a “lesbian corporate bar” called Chaise Lounge in the Bernal Heights neighborhood, that she first connected with Clark. Though not a drinker and dragged to the bar by friends shortly after a break-up, Beauchamp went along with the ruse when her friends told Clark she was a lawyer.
“It was silly, but I guess it was just the environment we were in,” Beauchamp says, adding that she came clean about not being a lawyer on her first date with Clark. “And then I fell in love with her. To this day, Kerri is so important to me.”
Though her relationship with Clark was solid, Beauchamp was beginning to feel the side effects of living in a chaotic town like San Francisco and, missing her family in Texas, thought often about returning. Eventually, she had a “moment of clarity and I just realized I couldn’t do it anymore. It was time to go,” Beauchamp says of her California burnout. “It was like, ‘I found my woman, now I’m going back to Texas.”
The couple had visited Austin several times, and Beauchamp had even stayed a spell more than a decade ago, working at Little City Espresso Bar & Café downtown. The capital city was a town they both loved, and Austin seemed the perfect spot for Beauchamp to continue her music career. Yet, somewhere along the way, she was seized by the desire to create, not musically, but visually.
“It all happened pretty organically, and it was like one passion was replaced with another one,” she says.
48 Hours in the Real World
Today, Beauchamp runs her own production company out of her home and is involved in every aspect of a project, from pre-to post-production. But in her camcorder days, she let inspiration lead her where it may, and, her sense of humor being what it is, sometimes inspiration led her to quirky, fatuous projects.
“I remember one of the first things I really shot from start to finish was a ‘Real World’ audition tape for my friend Lisa,” Beauchamp says with a sly grin.” “Then I started making mock music videos and it all kind of took on a life of its own.”
In 2006, Beauchamp and Soileau compiled an alluringly kooky trailer for the Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival that ran before each screening, introducing thousands of visitors and filmgoers to the talents of Rebecca Havemeyer. Beauchamp even expertly took on a few roles in the short clip, sarcastically playing several versions of the appalled, recoiling mother in Soileau’s numerous coming-out parables.
“And then I started really thinking about doing videos for people as a business,” Beauchamp says, noting that her previous experience in brand management gave her a marketing edge in the business world. “I started doing it as a career about a year ago, and it’s just taken off since then. I kind of never saw that future with music.”
But it is the creative shoots that feed Beauchamp’s soul. And her talent is not going unrecognized in the Austin film scene. In 2008, Beauchamp paired up with fellow filmmaker Rimas Remeza for The 48 Hour Film Project, a chaotic, crazed adventure in which teams spend a weekend writing, shooting, editing and scoring a film.
“You basically draw a genre out of a hat and then create ate a movie around that. We drew the cop/detective genre,” Beauchamp laughs, “which really ended up being perfect for us.”
Titled “Small Stakes,” the film Beauchamp and Remeza made was somewhat inspired by “Cagney & Lacey,” that lovably corny 1980s TV police drama with subtle lesbian undertones. Though only minutes long, “Small Stakes” makes a big impact, leading the viewer through moments of understated humor and jarring tension. A panel of judges was so impressed by the project that they awarded Beauchamp and Remeza the Best Film award, a marked accomplishment Beauchamp says she’ll not soon forget.
Beauchamp’s talent for videography is clear, and her sense of adventure shines through all her projects. And while she’s always conjuring up the next strange and brilliant concept, she does occasionally take time out to allow that adventurous spirit to manifest itself in other ways. For instance, she’s engaged in any number of extreme undertakings such as skydiving, walking on fire, whizzing down a zip line, parasailing, and most recently, Beauchamp signed up for a trapeze class – a venture she says made her shake all over but was “really exhilarating.”
When she’s not flying high on endorphins, though, Beauchamp is very calm, deliberate even, in her approach to life. She spends as much time as possible at home with Clark and their two Malti-Poo pups, Otis and Marvin (named for Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye). She considers herself a spiritual person, and often prays and meditates. She’s even accepted the counsel of a spiritual advisor and a psychic or two on occasion.
“Sometimes I want to get guidance about what’s really out there for me,” Beauchamp says. “It’s starting to become more clear to me that I’m on the right path. I’ve really been pretty blessed.”
And as for the future of her career, she mostly just wants to keep having fun and surround herself with those who motivate and encourage her.
“It’s worked out for me to just go with the flow. I want to be around cool, amazing people who are doing great, inspiring things, whether I’m behind or in front of the camera. Because what all of this has brought to me is the relationships. That’s what’s important to me. Even if I were to just shoot seminars, I don’t care about the material; I just like being around cool people,” she says, adding with a laugh, “If you’re a good person, I’ll shoot ya!”