Search This Blog

Monday, May 30, 2011

Good Feelings, Guilty Feelings

The Good
I’m making some great leeway with my film. I’m finding a lot of good stories to follow, and hearing a lot of interesting things about my topic from many different people. This last week Julia and I went and talked to Sonam, the assistant director of the Tibetan Centre for Conflict Resolution, which is very much dedicated to improving relationships between Tibetans and Indians. The sad part is, they won’t be having any workshops while we’re here, but Sonam agreed to do an interview later on and even said they could provide me with some still pictures of past workshops. I haven’t started filming any people yet, as I’m still waiting for my consent form to be translated, but I am still collecting shots from around the town, which is fun but difficult because I want to film everything.

The Guilty
The hardest thing right now is that sometimes I feel guilty pulling out my camera to film things around town. I feel kind of like a spy, but not a cool spy; I feel like a spy who doesn’t want to be a spy, but doesn’t know how else to accomplish the mission.  For Jeff, Brad, or anyone else with experience in documentary or photography, do you know what I mean? I’m not sure if I feel guilty because I am recording people and things without anyone knowing it, or if it’s because people do notice and I’m worried about what they will think of me. Or maybe it’s the thought that ultimately I will decide what my viewers see and I will, to a significant degree, control how my audience views and judges the people and places shown in the film. Of course, I want to use this film for good; I want my audience to love the characters and to learn from their examples, but I it’s scary to think that I could just as easily do the opposite. A camera is such a powerful tool. I think that’s what scares me the most about documentary…

So I will be careful as I proceed. I still want to make the film, and I feel that my intentions are right, but I recognize the need for caution. I am thankful to have Brad and Jeff helping me with this project and I am also thankful in advance to any others following this blog who are able to give advice. Last of all I am thankful for prayer because I am sure that I will be saying many along the way, asking for guidance and confirmation to what I am doing. Hopefully the product of all these things will be an amazing film that uplifts and inspires.

Thanks again to everyone for your support.


  1. Keep praying Matt. The fact that you're asking yourself these tough questions about your motives is a good sign. You're the only one that can answer that spy question..

  2. I know how you feel, Matt. Secretly I always wanted to be a spy--a good spy who got bad guys. When that didn't work out, I decided to tell stories through film. I think that's been cooler anyway. As a filmmaker, I've come to believe that our camera sees what we want it to see. By that I mean two different filmmakers can shoot the same subjects, but their different motives and mindsets will ultimately be the essence of the shots. In other words, our countenance becomes part of our images. (Which is why it's critical for us as filmmakers to receive the Savior's image in our countenances--our countenances are what is communicated.) Right now you're trying to refine your motives; this will impact your countenance. That's part of the process. And, as Brad says, the fact that you're asking these questions is good. I believe there are lots of powerful and positive reasons to make your film using the images you're concerned about, and none of them are spy-like. Revealing beauty and truth, compassion and understanding, insight and humility are way better than 007 photos.

    Keep praying and you'll find those positive, even righteous motives that will be specific to you. And then the countenance that will appear in your images will be the one you'll want there and the one that will have the most powerful impact. Keep up the good work! --Jeff

  3. Thanks for the feedback guys. I knew I could count on you for the support.

  4. I had a similar feeling while shooting in McLeod, Matt. For me it was a tension that came from knowing that time restraints prevented me from fully representing the lives of the people whose images I was taking. Or at least, I wasn't experienced or knowledgeable enough to know how to represent them as fully as I wanted to.

    But now I realize that adequate representation doesn't have to mean full, and that focus is necessary. I just watched an old video of Apple's Steve Jobs in which he said "Focus means saying 'No'." That's hard to do, saying "No" to everything a person is because of the economy of time. But really, there isn't anything wrong with focus.

    While choosing one subject or story over another is a significant problem to work out -- maybe even a moral one -- know that you can trust yourself to make a good decision now, and to learn from this experience to make more good decisions in the future.

    Thanks for blogging! Keep up the good work, and hi to Julia!


  5. Nephi,

    Thank you for your comment. You make a very good point about focus, and I am trying hard to do that... partly out of fear of the editing process, and because the time I have here isn't nearly as long as I originally thought it would be, but also just because focus is good.

    Thanks for following and helping me through this process. I'm glad to have contact with someone who has filmed in this same location. Also, thanks so much for your help with the fundraiser. It is very much appreciated.

    - Matt