I spend a lot of time interviewing people on camera. As a documentary director, I have spent a fair amount of time listening. I consider myself a professional witness and documentarian. I look people in the eyes and I listen to their stories, for a living.
I gently guide them to go deeper through curiosity and I record the experience to edit into films. Ultimately, my goal is to capture authenticity. To help people connect to themselves so their genius unfolds naturally. The pieces I work on are commissioned from non-profits, human resource departments, luxury brands, small businesses, arts organizations and small businesses.
I’ve spent fifteen years honing my craft professionally through whatever opportunity I could gather. I can remember every person I have ever interviewed vividly through the intense eye contact we make when I work. I work hard to stay present with that person, present with myself. I have come to the sad conclusion, as of late, that most people I sit with have not had that kind of attention bestowed upon them. I am not even sure the person I am sitting with realizes how much of an impact that moment of presence is having on them. When I first started, I was oblivious to the effect it was having on me. After time I began to realize how powerful eye contact is. It is prevalent in my work. A theme I have noticed pop up only recently.
Turning the camera on and recording someone’s story is a transformative and honoring act. Simply pressing record says “you matter enough to be documented.” It doesn’t matter what the project is for. If it’s an event recap for a magazine brand or a non-profit. That connection is present no matter the material.
I am currently inspired by Marina Ambramović. I first learned about her in art school while studying performance art. While the project I am about to reference is not new, its about seven years old, but it’s impact on me deepens as I age.
If you aren’t familiar with her work, put The Artist is Present on your Netflix list immediately. They used to have it available for streaming. You can also see it on HBO or Amazon Prime.
Marina invited people to sit silently with her at the Met. She would take a deep breath, lift her eyes and hold eye contact with each person as long as they wanted. Some people sat for minutes, others sat for hours. She did this on repeat for 736 hours and 30 minutes over the course of three months. The piece was documented on film and photography. I recently received a copy of the photographs of participants from the exhibition, photographed by Marco Anelli. Gorgeous work!
Do yourself a favor. Take five minutes and listen to Marina's TED Talk before moving on.
Every time I come back to this particular work with new experience, I discover something new about it. While I would love to share my personal insights.
I think it is best to let you listen, enjoy and discover Marina for yourself. That's what her work is all about. Comment with your thoughts below!