1. Storytelling is about shared experience.
As other documentary filmmakers can attest, telling a compelling true story is a unique challenge. Our upcoming feature documentary “My Country, No More” bears witness to the dramatic industrialization of a North Dakota farming community on the frontier of the fastest growing oil boom in U.S history. The film follows several different people involved with the proposal of a new diesel refinery in an agricultural area. Neighbors that farmed side-by-side for generations turned against one another quickly in the pursuit of progress, leaving the community broken. While many were poised to lose their homes and ways of life, others stood to make fortunes.
Though the film deals with the dangers of fracking, it was important for us to not make another “Gasland.” We wanted the story to be character-driven and that meant being open to showing how the industry also benefited a lot of people in the region. As filmmakers, our goal was to maintain that there were no easy answers, only different perspectives.
2. Empathy is not sympathy.
3. Empathy is difficult.
Empathy teaches us to not give up on one another, to embrace our flaws. It expands our ideas of who we are and who we’re capable of becoming. We don’t need it to be explained, we just need to experience it. Joseph Campbell put it this way: “I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.”
4. Empathy leaves us with a feeling instead of telling us what to feel.
As documentary filmmakers, we are drawn to those experiences that connect and inspire us as human beings. Our company name Endless Eye comes from a passage in the Upanishads that says, “Not what the eye sees but that which makes the eye see, that is the endless eye.” It is only possible for us to recognize ourselves when we see ourselves through each other’s eyes.
Endless Eye is a creative collaboration between filmmakers Rita Baghdadi and Jeremiah Hammerling. Their forthcoming feature documentary, “My Country, No More” received the June 2014 grant from Creative District. The film is scheduled to be finished by the end of 2014.