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Slamdance Women Directors: Meet Dana Nachman – ‘Batkid Begins’

Slamdance Women Directors: Meet Dana Nachman - 'Batkid Begins'

Born and raised in New York, writer/director Dana Nachman’s films — Witch Hunt (2008), Love Hate Love (2011), and The Human Experiment (2015) — have premiered and screened at the Toronto, Tribeca, IDFA, AFI, and Cinequest Film Festivals. She has won numerous prizes, including three Emmy Awards, the Edward R. Murrow Award, the Jury Award for Best Documentary at the Washington DC Independent Film Festival, and the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Cinequest Film Festival. (KTF Films

Batkid Begins will premiere at the 2015 Slamdance Film Festival on January 24. 

W&H: Please give us your description of the film playing.

DN: Batkid Begins chronicles the events leading up to the day Batkid saved San Francisco and shows what happens when an event goes unintentionally viral. The [initial] goal that day was to get a couple hundred people to show up and support Miles Scott and his wish to become Batkid after battling leukemia for more than half his short life. What really ended up happening? Tens of thousands of people showed up to help Miles live out his dream.

W&H: What drew you to this story?  

DN: Two things, really. First, my kids (ages 4, 7. 9) had been badgering me for quite some time to do a film that they would like (thanks for that, guys!). They wanted me to do something that would appeal to them and one they could even help out with. When I heard about Batkid, I thought, What a great documentary this would be, and Whoa, I could have the kids come to the shoots, help pick music, etc. So, that was one thing.

Also, the fact that thousands of people took their adult hats off that day and acted like kids really appeals to me. I try to look at life from the perspective of a child, with that kind of openness, as much as possible. This story, and now this film, really embodies that mindset.

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film? 

DN: This film has been a joy through and through! I guess the hardest part was just cranking it out so fast. The people involved really wanted to have a cut to watch on the first anniversary of the event. They had had several filmmakers reach out to them to ask to do a film on the event. I was the one who said I could get it done in a year, so they chose me. I didn’t mention that all my other films had taken 3-4 years! Needless to say, the timeline was tight!

W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theatre?

DN: I want people to be smiling and dancing down the aisle leaving the theater. I really hope that audiences take to heart how the people who were granting Miles his wish took it so seriously. And the result? That not only did one little boy have the best day of his life, but thousands of people came along to experience the same joy. What if we all did a little more of this in our lives — actions that are a little more zany, a little more fun, and a little more giving? Wouldn’t the world be a better place to live?

W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?

DN: If this is what you want to do, go out and do it! I love making films, really every minute of it. I find it a very freeing career choice because there is no right way to be a filmmaker. Find what path feels right for you, find which kinds of films you want to make, and just go for it. Don’t ask permission from anyone!

W&H: What’s the biggest misconception about you and your work? 

DN: I’m not sure there are many misconceptions about me. I would say that my previous films have all been very serious. They are about such topics as terrorism, toxic chemicals, wrongful conviction, and Japanese internment. Light stuff, right?

I think the misconception is that I’m a brooding and dark person and that you shouldn’t invite me to a cocktail party because I’ll just talk about depressing topics! That’s not me; I’m really a happy-go-lucky person. Hopefully this film will set the record straight.

W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made. 

DN: My film was funded by one Investor — bless his heart! He actually said to me, “I want you to worry about making a great film and not to worry about money.” Was that a dream or what? He paid for all of the production of the film. The extra bells and whistles I needed, like killer music and animation, came from a crowd-funding campaign. We raised $109,000 on Indiegogo.

W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.

DN: Narrative: Zero Dark Thirty — I love how ballsy it is. Documentary: tied, but for the same reason — 12th and Delaware and Citizenfour. I love the way these filmmakers took on these issues. They did it in such a restrained way. I really admired their approach!

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