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Victoria Film Festival 2014 Interview Ė FINDING VIVIAN MAIER directors Charles Siskel & John Maloof

Finding Vivian Maier - At Victoria Film Festival
by Jason Whyte

ďFinding Vivian Maier is the critically acclaimed documentary about a mysterious nanny who secretly took over 100,000 photographs that were hidden in storage lockers. Discovered later, Maier is now hailed as one of the great photographers of the 20th century. Maierís strange and riveting life and art are revealed through never before seen photographs, films, and interviews with dozens who though they knew her.Ē Director Charles Siskel on the film FINDING VIVIAN MAIER which screens at this year's Victoria Film Festival. Co-director John Maloof also joins us for this interview.

Is this your first movie in the Victoria Film Festival, and are you coming to Victoria for the screening?

Charles Siskel: Yes. Unfortunately we cannot attend.

Tell me a bit about your background and what led you into the motion picture business.

CS: This is our first project together. It is Johnís first film and my first film as a director. John was inspired by Vivian Maierís work to become a photographer and cinematographer. My producing credits include BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE with Michael Moore and RELIGULOUS with Bill Maher. I also writes and produce for television.

How did this whole movie come together from your perspective?

CS: The movie began with the discovery of Vivianís photographs and the discovery that there was a story here; a great artist who was undiscovered and was leading a double life as a nanny. John started to interview people who knew Vivian and I came on board shortly after that began. Together we started the shape the story of the film as we documented the process of sharing Vivianís photographs with the world and the process of uncovering her identity and learning her story.

What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

John Maloof: The biggest challenge was the detective work. Vivian Maier was a very private person and didnít have many if ANY close friends who knew about her family life or past. It was a challenge to find some of the people such as the cousin in France because there were only photos of the village that led us there.

What was your single favourite moment or rewarding experience out of the entire production?

JM: For me, it was visiting the village in France where she had her roots. The people there were unlike any Iíve ever met. They are like family now.

CS: It was the moment we realized the meaning of the letter Vivian sent to the French photography printer in that village; it was the realization that Vivian knew she was an artist and that her work was worthy of being shared with others. This was something that never happened in her lifetime but which is happening now.

What keeps you going while making a movie? How much coffee?

JM: A lot of coffee, which is happening whether the movie was made or not, but the main thing was a solid drive and passion to see it through. Her story is addicting. You want to solve the mystery and that thirst for more clues keeps you going.

I would love to know about the technical side of the film, your relationship to the director of photography, what the movie was shot on and why it was decided to be filmed this way.

JM: As Iím the director of photography I can speak from that angle. The film was shot on Canon 7d cameras with Leica R lenses, mainly. It was a budget decision to shoot on these. The Leica R glass was important to make it look as filmic and professional as possible within our means. All interviews were shot on tripod and had the subjects looking very close to the lens of the camera. That aesthetic was decided upon because we like how personal the story becomes. Itís as if the interviewee is talking to the audience.

CS: One of the ideas I had in documenting the mountains of Vivianís material that John acquired was to shoot from overhead as John lays out methodically the material in a gridlike pattern. I thought this would look like an archaeological dig, which was a visual metaphor for the meticulous research both exhaustive and exhausting, but it had to be done.

After the film screens in Victoria, what is the future release plan for the movie? Anywhere you WANT the movie to be shown but haven't done so yet?

CS: The film will be released worldwide in theatres starting March 28 in NY and LA. Play dates are listed online at the film's official website,

There are a lot filmmakers, especially up-and-comers, reading our site. I was curious if you had any advice to aspiring filmmakers?

JM: This is my first feature film so I canít say too much since I only have this one experience to go off of. But, if you have a good story and are obsessed with telling it, like I was, then the film will get made some how.

CS: I advise anyone who wants to make a film to do whatever it takes to make it now. Donít wait. It only gets harder later. Find other like minded people to collaborate with, learn from others, find mentors, ask questions, ask for help, take advice and show people your work. This is a collaborative medium which is part of the fun. Find other people to work with. Maybe they have a project and youíll end up working on two... yours and theirs.

This is one of the many films playing at this yearís Victoria Film Festival. For showtimes and further information visit

Additional Vivian Maier resource at ARTSY can be located HERE at!

Be sure to follow instant happenings of the festival and updates on my Twitter [site=]@jasonwhyte!

Jason Whyte,

link directly to this feature at
originally posted: 02/14/14 06:37:22
last updated: 02/24/15 07:45:07
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