Maura Axelrod has been producing news and documentaries for over 15 years. She began at ABC News in New York as a writer and producer. She lived and worked as producer for AP Television News in the Middle East, reporting on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. After five years based in the Caribbean region, reporting from Guantanamo and Haiti, Axelrod is now based in New York and Colorado. She has given up conflict reporting, and is currently focusing on the no less fascinating and contentious world of contemporary art. (Press materials)
W&H: Describe the
film for us in your own words.
MA: An art world upstart, provocative and elusive artist, Maurizio
Cattelan made his career on playful and subversive works that send up the
artistic establishment, until a retrospective at the Guggenheim in 2011 finally
solidified his place in the contemporary art canon.
W&H: What drew
you to this story?
MA: I wanted to talk about why art in general is important
and I’ve always felt that Maurizio’s work is worth documenting. It is weird and
significant enough that it could be of pretty wide interest.
I’m also very
interested in how the art world has collided with the world of finance, and Maurizio’s work is really a test case for that
phenomenon and was a great way to examine that.
W&H: What do you
want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?
MA: I want them to be asking themselves the big questions —
What is the nature of art? What is the nature of truth? Can anyone really be
known? What am I leaving behind when I die? How can I live a less mundane life?
That kind of thing.
W&H: What was the
biggest challenge in making the film?
MA: It was a big challenge to take on the telling of a story
about a person I know, who lives and breathes and has feelings. Telling
someone’s story is daunting. Who among us would hold up to so much scrutiny?
Also, trying to document Maurizio’ss work and career — which
has a life of its own — also felt like a pretty overwhelming responsibility. I
tried to be fair both to him and to the audience.
W&H: How did you
get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.
MA: The movie was funded first by supporters of the artist,
and then by investors. I had to be very persistent and cast a wide net. It took
a long time to put the money together bit by bit by enlisting the help of
people I knew would believe in this project because they like Maurizio’s work.
W&H: What’s the
best and worst advice you’ve received?
MA: The best advice: “Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.” Successful creative
endeavors are super painful at times.
The worst advice: “You don’t know what you’re doing. Let
me do it for you.” Any good adviser or mentor should be backing you up and
supporting your ideas, not shutting you down.
W&H: What advice do you have for other female
MA: People will definitely be sexist, but you’ll never
totally know if that’s what is going on in any given situation. Just smile and
nod, then ignore anyone negative and go do exactly what you want to do.
W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and
MA: Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” was important to me. That
was the moment I realized that I had never seen a woman make a big movie
before, and that it could be done.