Questions for the Filmmaker
Here are some questions that have been asked at screenings.
What is your goal with Considering Democracy?
“Considering Democracy” is a film that I hope will continue to widen the scope of debate in the United States as we look toward solutions. I feel that we are at a tremendous and momentous time within the United States of America. As we go forward, we must do so as a country. Yet it seems that as individuals in America, we are divided, based upon the sources of our information.
I hope that the documentary can help to broaden the scope of debate in the
and get people talking about important issues that impact their everyday lives. I hope that the film can help to define the change! I also hope that people will start talking to one another regardless of political affiliation, because we need to start looking at various solutions. I think that change does need to come from the People, and with that, I think that it is up to us, as regular people in society, to begin discussing issues and policy with one another. There are discussion guides and a page that directly links to websites from other industrial democracies to help in this process.
What motivated you to do this film?
I really wanted to learn about what the rest of the world was thinking about the United States. I heard a lot of people repeating similar things like, “They hate us for what we have.” Or, “They hate us for our freedoms.” They didn’t seem to be legitimate reasons. I had previously made a short documentary that screened at a few festivals, so I thought that I could do another one. I quit my teaching job, cashed out my educational retirement and left the
to go and find out.
Where was the film shot?
The film was shot in Indonesia, Australia, Japan, Thailand, India, Iraq, Nepal, Egypt, the
and the United States, with short stops in
How long did it take to make the film?
It has taken almost four years, although I went back to work in the middle of the effort. Being in the digital age is great because it allows a person to create small productions, but coming from outside of the world of filmmaking, I had to learn a lot about story structure and arc. Once the structure was visualized and built, the audio cleaning, audio levels and general clean up work began. Moving one clip affects all the other clips and hundred of tiny adjustments need to be made. It’s really an amazing process.
What did you do before this film?
I worked as a teacher. My career began as the coordinator and teacher of an alternative school on the Navajo Indian Reservation in New Mexico. After a couple of years, I moved back to
and worked as a middle school teacher while finishing up with Red Tibet, Free Tibet 2004, my first filmmaking endeavor.
Is the end result of this film the same as what you first conceptualized?
No. It’s really different. It took a really long time to finish the film, so it went through different conceptualizations that built upon one another. I also thought that I would get more of a variety of viewpoints, but the viewpoints from abroad turned out to be very similar, whether from the developed, first world, or from the developing world.
I originally wanted to show viewpoints within the
polarization, so I set out around the States to get some points of view. After screening the first cuts of the film to friends, they all said the same thing. “Yes, it’s interesting, but how does a person know if what they are saying is true?” So then I started the research process. After two years of working on the film, I had a 90 minute version called Growing Democracy. After screening it, it was evident that it wasn’t done. It was unfocused, wandered all over the place, the timing was off, and it didn’t have structure. I ran out of money and went back to a full time day job.
Last fall, with the help of a colleague, I realized that I was at the crucial stage of either deciding to leave the film where it was and do my best to forget about it, or to push to get the film done so that it would be ready to screen before the elections. Of course, I quit the day job again, and began work on the film. It became focused on views from the rest of the world and the pictures in
came as a result of an effort to bring structure to the film. I also didn’t want to be in the film, but after getting feedback, people wanted a central character that could pull them through the film. I didn’t have a video camera that worked (after traveling around the world, the nice camera that worked quite well, actually fell into a creek oh Murphy, why to you have that law?) so we used still pictures and ran around DC with that black poster board. In the end, it helped to create the structure that the film needed.
How was this project funded?
I cashed out my retirement funds, ran up a credit card and took out a second mortgage. I wouldn’t recommend going into debt, because it takes a long time to get out of it. At one point, an investor came on at the end of the first phase, but those funds were quickly gone. So I went back to work fulltime during post production.
What is your ancestry?
I am a third generation Japanese American. My great grandfather came over to the
as a merchant marine. He jumped ship in
harbor, swam to shore, bypassing Ellis Island, and hoboed across the newly built railroads to
. He worked there, saved money, went back to
, got married, and then came back to the States.
Is the project associated with any political parties or organizations?
No. The project was guided by the interview content from outside of the
as well as by the statistical information from a variety of sources.
Did you ever have problems while traveling?
Considering that I was traveling alone, the whole experience went relatively smoothly. The worst things were that my purse was stolen in Indonesia, and that I was stopped by the Maoists on a hiking trail in Nepal. With hindsight, I can understand why my purse was stolen. I took local transportation in order to save money, but I had two really big backpacks on; one in the front and one in the back, so I had trouble getting in and out of transportation. I was getting out of a bemo (like a small VW bus with rows of seats inside of it), and as a man ‘helped’ me out of the vehicle, he also took my purse out of my backpack. I didn’t realize it until I tried to pay for the next ride.
While hiking the Annapurna circuit in Nepal, we were actually stopped by the Maoists. It was one of the more frightening experiences of my life. Not because of the experience, but because of the anxiety of what people had said leading up to it. I went into the bathroom to keep from hyperventilating, and then walked through the trail block with a French group. The experience of traveling abroad helped me to understand and see the effects of U.S. foreign policy.
Thanks for reading and thanks for your time. If you have other questions, come to a screening, comment on the blog, or send an email here.