by Jason Whyte
1000 Journals - Feb. 5th at the VFF
“1000 blank journals are passed from hand to hand throughout the world, collecting stories, pictures, collages -- slices of the lives they touch. One came back, filled. Where are the other 999? 1000 Journals investigates their worldwide journeys, and chronicles the self-governed collaboration of thousands of random people who added to this global "message in a bottle."” Director Andrea Kreuzhage on her film “1000 Journals” which screens at this year’s Victoria Film Festival.
Is this your first film at the Victoria Film Festival? Tell me about your festival experience, and if you plan to attend Victoria for the film’s screenings.
This is my first film at the Victoria Film Festival. Although I very much love to attend festival screenings, meeting audiences and colleagues, I'm trying to spend less time on the road this year, and more time working on new ideas.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and your background, and what led you to the industry.
I've trained as a theatre director, in Munich, Germany, but already in my early twenties was very much drawn to cinema, because its language is international and can travel across borders. I started a film production company in Munich in 1986, moved to Los Angeles in 1994, and mainly worked on feature films. 1000 Journals is my first film as director, and my first feature length documentary as producer.
How did this whole project come together?
When I heard about the return of Journal 526, and then saw the scans of its pages posted online, I couldn't stop thinking about the other 999. What happened to them? Why did this one come back, but none of the others? I started to look for clues on 1000journals.com, and very soon discovered a subculture of writers and artists, who were forming collaborative communities around creativity. These people were using the Web to connect and speak with each other, but were sending around books, journals, artists trading cards, cameras, collection boxes, and any other kind of artifacts: sometimes organized as Round Robbins, where every participant got to keep one collaborative edition, but mostly unmonitored, counting on generous creative "donations" of time, effort, and love for a global community spirit.
I saw that the events following September 11th, 2001, put this on fire. Worldwide, people were feeling a deep need to connect, to write their own history books, to make their voices heard. Interestingly, participants in these collaborations were less concerned about ownership than sharing and the chance to take part in something no single person could achieve alone. They took the risk of collaborative black holes, of objects getting stuck along the way; to possess and consume wasn't the goal. This was all about creating and sharing.
When I started my research, in 2004, where only were the journals that tell the stories of such an extraordinary collaboration across the borders? My work soon felt like the work of a private investigator: piecing information together from public records, phonebooks, Google, Yahoo, and community sites such as Live Journal, and Nervousness, following every link and every lead to find out where each journal had traveled to, where it could possibly be, and who had added to it. I sent some 5,000 emails, hundreds of letters via snail mail, and made many, many phone calls. But all this paid off. We interviewed nearly five hundred people from around the world for this film, and when all was said and done, had seen about 80 of the journals in person.
Please tell me about the technical side of the film; your relation to the film’s cinematographer, what the film was shot on and why it was decided to be photographed this way.
It was clear that this documentary would require extensive traveling around the world. I didn't want to hire a D.P. over and over again locally. I had to find someone who was not only an outstanding cinematographer, but also a compatible travel companion, and committed for the long haul. And I was very lucky to find and hire Ralph Kaechele. Since we shot for nearly two years, around the world, we decided to shoot on HD, and timed our field trips according to the amount of tapes we could carry in our hand luggage, approx. four weeks worth of filming.
Who would you say your biggest inspirations are in the film world (directors, actors, cinematographers, etc)? Did you have any direct inspirations from filmmakers for this film in particular?
I'm very inspired by the usual suspects, from the Maysles to Werner Herzog, but my true inspiration for this film came from its subjects, above all, Someguy.
How has the film been received at other festivals or screenings? Do you have any interesting stories about how this film has screened before? What do you think you will expect at the film’s screenings at Victoria?
Twice, the festival screenings ended with a major surprise: people in the audience stood up, with journals they admitted to have had kept hostage for all these years. And so they were brought back to life right away and passed on. And many times, audience members formed journal groups on the spot, exchanged addresses, and decided to find back to their creativity. As to Victoria, quite a few of the 1000 journals were last seen in Canada… Maybe it's their time to come back to us?
If you weren’t making movies, what other line or work do you feel you’d be in?
Even if I ran a gas station, I'd end up turning this into a film, or script… I love story telling, and stories are everywhere.
How important do you think the critical/media response is to film these days, be it a large production, independent film or festival title?
Let's look at festival titles and true Indies first: Important. If we include all the bloggers and social networkers, who allow us to be in touch with our particular niche -- absolutely vital. But if you look at the average advertisement budget of US$ 36 million for major pictures, studios obviously rather buy attention than hope for good reviews their target audience may not even read.
If your film could play in any movie theatre in the world, which one would you choose?
A dream came true when we premiered at the Arclight Theater here in Los Angeles, one of the world's best equipped HD cinemas. The next screening was at Kurfürstenpalast in the former West Berlin -- fabulous. But honestly, every theatre with decent projection and sound makes me happy. Once we're inside, the lights go down, it’s dark, and then it is really only about the audience meeting a film…
If you could offer a nickel’s worth of free advice to someone who wanted to make movies, what nuggets of wisdom would you offer?
Make your film as many times as you can stand it in your head. Be alone with your film and review it frame for frame, in your head. Find your vision. There will be many outside forces, some of which you cannot control, and the stronger your vision and your knowledge of your story, the easier it is to weather all this.
What do you love the most about film and the filmmaking business?
The story telling.
A question that is easy for some but not for others and always gets a different response: what is your favourite film of all time?
I'm really trying hard to make up my mind, but I've been arguing with myself and still cannot nail it down to one single film. It’s the last one I see and immediately see again (Slumdog Millionaire). Or maybe the first film I ever saw (Un chien andalou). And so many in between.
For more information on this film, screening times and for more information on this year’s Victoria Film Festival, point your browser to www.victoriafilmfestival.com
Be sure to follow live, instant updates of the happenings of VFF at twitter.com/jasonwhyte!
Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=2670
originally posted: 02/06/09 04:29:21