The people profiled in Laura Nix’s documentary “Inventing Tomorrow” are trying to change the world by coming up with solutions to threats facing the environment. They’re also teenagers.
They might be accomplished scientists and innovators who are addressing problems facing their local communities, but they’re also kids. That was just one of many difficulties Nix said she faced while filming the competitors from various countries at the International Science and Engineering Fair.
“When you’re filming with young people, ethically you’re in a different territory” than when you’re working with adults, Nix told the crowd after a showing of her film at the International Documentary Association’s annual screening series in Los Angeles. While working with children, you ask permission before filming everything.
“You’re always negotiating access when you’re filming,” she said — whether the scene in question is a fight between mother and son or a breakdown under pressure or something else less dramatic. “You hope that everybody understands what it means to put this moment on camera for other people to see.”
For example, there’s a scene between Hawaii teen Jared Goodwin and his mother while driving in a car that might not necessarily have been something Jared wanted to share with the world — but “in the end, I think that is a natural moment,” Nix explained. It helps show that not only are the kids in this documentary smart and ambitious, they’re also normal teenagers.
It also exemplifies the balance that Nix and her editors needed to strike between showing the pressure of the competition and showing the kids in their normal lives. It’s also why she wanted to follow the kids back home after the competition and not just end on a winning or a losing moment.
“Of course my favorite version of the film is the four-hour version of the film,” Nix said, because the kids “have rich lives. You just have to be careful about what you use.”
Something else she realized while filming “Inventing Tomorrow”: Today’s teens are extremely conscious about the problems facing the world.
“What struck me when I met the crew of people I was following is they have a very unique perspective on this issue,” she said. “It took me my whole life to understand that I’m growing up in the world where there’s climate change. … But if you’re Jared’s age you’re already thinking about … what I can do?”
It’s a lesson we can all learn: Pay attention to the planet, and pay attention to the next generation. Said Nix, “It’s our job to listen to them and act accordingly.”
The IDA Documentary Screening Series brings some of the year’s most acclaimed documentary films to the IDA community and members of industry guilds and organizations. Films selected for the Series receive exclusive access to an audience of tastemakers and doc lovers during the important Awards campaigning season from September through November. For more information about the series, and a complete schedule, visit IDA.