I trained as an actress in NYC before attending grad school for film. My current film, Monsieur Le Président, is premiering at DOC NYC as part of the Viewfinder section (one of 10 films chosen for “noticeable directorial voices”). (Victoria Campbell’s official site)
We became close friends, and the film charts our friendship and the strange, sad turn it takes towards the end when Gaston absconds with foreign donations and seems to have transformed into an entirely different man — or has been “summoned by an evil spirit,” as some of the neighborhood people claim.
VC: Because I did not start out telling the story of Gaston, I had to really stitch and cull pieces of footage to create the story, which was tedious. I felt I did not have enough of Gaston in the beginning to make a strong arc — to show how much he changed towards the end when he betrayed the neighborhood. I was sifting through hours of footage to pull out pieces when was he acting the Good Samaritan (which he did for two years straight).
I also shot on 5 different cameras: standard Panasonic, Super 8, Flip, DSLR, and Sony HD EX 1. It was very hard to get a fluid sense with all of this footage. I wanted it to look good so people would not be jarred by the change and texture in the footage. I wanted it to create this canvas of sorts — of colors and texture. In the end, I think it does more or less accomplish this.
It’s survival in Haiti day-to-day, and the code of ethics operates much differently there — they don’t have the luxury of holding a grudge and there is little recourse — so sometimes the best weapon is collective forgetting. It is survival in an environment of sheer chaos, lawlessness, violence, and desperation. Life operates very differently under these circumstances and our linear, decent laws don’t apply to Haiti no matter how much we hope or try to impose them down there. I think this is the failure of aid in general.
I had made two films prior, but really winged both of them in my own self-taught way. In school I really learned so much — how to film, do sound, and tell a good story. The film is my thesis film. Overall it was not a hugely expensive film. I am doing crowd funding (Indiegogo) now to get the color correction and pay my amazing sound designer the right fees.
Cleo from 5 to 7 by Agnes Varda. I love this film because it takes a day in one woman’s life, and you follow her through her waves of thought and changing emotion. She is given a diagnosis of cancer — which may or may not be fatal — and you follow her as she journeys through Paris. The mundane becomes sublime and lyrical. We are subtly thrust into not only her life, but the life of the city and the times in which she lives (the 1960s). In a taxi we hear the muffled news headlines of war in Algeria — all the while watching Cleo’s sad eyes. It is a wonderful juxtaposition: how the mad news of the world seethes, and yet we are all dealing with our personal tragedies and disappointments quietly and alone.
It was a way to tell a story so simply without the big fanfare of a Hollywood storyline or big drama. It seemed a reasonable budget — possible to do and personal, and political without being overtly political. The political threads are delicately in the background and hints at the times in which we live. That is how i have always wanted to make films.