I had decided early on that the Suburban RED would be a vehicle for self-study and autobiography. Each chapter of the video would contain a new "character" that would represent or contain an aspect of the self, the self that I knew as a teenager of 13 to the young adult of 23. The choice of clothing and hairstyle and the objects and imagery and function of the bedrooms would also reflect these characters and aspects of self. Prayer, for example, had been a big part of my life growing up and laid a foundation for other practices like meditation. I had related to the hippie culture and psychedelia of the 1960s and later, as I got into Surrealism, I was pulled toward the counter-culture of punk in the 1980s. As a Chicano, there was the pull to assimilate and pass as white, while it was clear that, as Mexican Americans we had bits of Native American, Spanish as well as African heritage. All these things served as an influence and pull to the self.
I decided to pull away from the idea of expressive and projected acting, where the character is built and devices are laid out that help us to relate to and care for the character. In RED, the idea is more to spend time with the character. To see what he sees and to react to it in our own way, whether or not he reacts one way or another. I didn't want the actor to steal the experience and make it his world alone. He is within his world and we watch him in it, many times from a distance. The one acting rule that I gave to myself is to react very little. The character's reactions should be slow and mundane. Most of the drama takes place in his mind and his reactions mainly take place in his mind and don't show in his face or his body.
Each character, who disappears after a dream sequence where the dragon appears, and then reappear anew, changed in the following chapter, is his own person with different outlooks and tastes. Rather than acting these differences out, it was more effective to me to simply relax into the costumes and hairstyles and move about in ways not so different than I do in real life. The acting doesn't change a whole lot yet the characters are distinct, mainly in the change of bedroom decor and wardrobe.
Each episode takes about five months to create, from ideas, set dress, wardrobe, story, props, shooting and effects. For the period of the time I live in the bedroom sets and spend much of my life with the various hairstyles and sometimes clothing. The line between "real life" and art making is blurred.