“I’m waiting for it to catch up,” says a voice from a frozen face, a frozen screen — “It’s like an echo chamber right now.”

The invisible tether connecting our three apartments appears to be thinning; out beyond us, we are orbited by space junk moving faster than the morning sun, in the weight of 5500 tons. We are so far into a pandemic that we’re used to it; we’ll just wait a few moments and hope the connection wakes up.


“Can you ask it one more time?” says Leah. I can’t tell whether she missed my question or just wants to hear it again. Either way, I pare down its original wordiness: “How did you each get started?”

Omari was more or less born into it, to two poet/musician parents in Brooklyn who moved around a lot (“Where do I think I’m from? I’m from Planet Zepton 7,” he says), before settling in Birmingham, where his first DJ gig was one of his dad’s birthday parties. Twenty or so 30-somethings and one 13-year-old kid with a new MacBook and an iTunes playlist – a visual stuck in time around 2007. Interspersed between his beats there have always been mixed media art pieces, drumming, poetry – a vast and genre-agnostic expanse.

Across 2500 miles and a handful of sun rotations, in Portland, a nine-year-old Leah penned a story of a little girl bit by a vampire in her sleep. The little girl’s head “exploded or something,” says Leah, whose conservative family disallowed her from watching TV about real people, but encouraged her love of sci-fi, fantasy and Russian horror films in particular. Her twenties were spent working for a local filmmaker she says she’d prefer not to name, though her pointing out that he wrote, shot and directed all his films gives way to a few worthy guesses.

In these presents times, she mostly directs, but has written, shot and edited and prefers that synergistic approach. Like Omari, for her, it was never about mastering just one discipline. Years after Omari relocated to Portland, the two became fans of each other’s work – two novas shining in the often-bleak formlessness of Instagram – and, in true Portland fashion, found out after the fact that they shared several acquaintances and friends.

A director gives instructions to an actress on location of a short film.

Director Leah R. Brown talks a scene over with actress Tiana Dunn during the filming of 'Dream Child.'

Nash Addicks / OPB

Collaborations followed once they struck on a shared mental library of sci-fi and mythological imagery, much of which made its way into their most recent project: ‘Dream Child,’ a short film soundtracked by Omari’s song of the same name, which follows one sleeper’s subconscious experience but feels to the viewer like they themselves are dreaming in real time.

Masked figures, labyrinthine caves, mirrors and space dust populate a reality where there’s only one thing to do: keep running.

How is it that a dream, to the dreamer, feels so personal, specific and real, but that all our dreams have such a deep shared vocabulary?

A young woman poses during the filming of a movie.

'Dream Child' actress Tiana Dunn moves through space and time during the filming of the sci-fi short film.

Nash Addicks

We talk for a while about the filming of ‘Dream Child,’ about Portland, about what a special and talented group of people came together to make this project what it is – and somewhere in that, the question comes up of what exactly it is.

“Actually, Isabel, maybe I can ask you what you think about this,” says Leah, in a delightful reversal that’s rare in these conversations, “because right now we are really struggling with the terminology. We had been saying ‘short film/music video hybrid,’ but then there’s categories, and some festivals like you to either put it in the music video category, or the experimental category, or the short film category…”

And all I can think to say is, “Who cares what it is?”

The in-between-ness of the film is synonymous with its impact.

It’s easier to trust the waking mind because we’ve assumed that’s the mind that defines us. It sorts cleanly between “good dreams” and nightmares – but the dreaming mind is just running.

Keep running.

Leah’s breaking up again; I can’t remember what I wanted to ask next.

“Do I need to sign out and come back in?” *