Above all else, this is a project about Americans getting to know other Americans, especially the ones they thought they already knew they didn’t want to know.
American Other is structured like a cultural scavenger hunt, beginning with a single person, the most average American we can find. For this selection, we will depend principally on US census data. From that one person we will branch out, tracing a pattern of otherness and difference. To do this we will be using a single set of ten questions, and the answers to those questions will dictate whom we should interview next. The questions, which are exactly the same for each subject, focus on getting each interviewee to discuss two aspects of their identity: what groups in the United States they identify with and what groups are they opposed to or alienated from. The latter groups, the "others," make up the film's path. Each group of people they point to as being their own personal other will become our next source for a new interview. We hope that this way we will begin weaving a pattern of connectivity out of disconnectivity.
There are only a few parameters for who can qualify as an other. First, they must themselves define themselves as an American (for the purposes of this documentary, American is an adjective for United States). Second, they must also identify with the group that has been indicated by the previous subject. And last, they must have those characteristics that were described by the previous subject as being different, incomprehensible or offensive.
The California Pilot
This leg of the project will be a short film using the state of California as microcosm and a test run for a full length, national project. As California is such a large and diverse state, the Pilot will demonstrate the methodology of the film and test the waters as to how different we really are from one another. As a team we wish to leave intact the spirit of inquiry with which we are approaching this question: depending on which side of the road we stand, how hard is it to cross over to the other side and is it as different as we thought it would be once we get there?
As we as bounce from one person’s other to the next, we hope to put no limits on the types of groups that people can indicate as being other from themselves. No line will be a barrier, whether religious, political, economic, racial, cultural, linguistic, etc. Our goal is to leave no part of the state unexplored, no indicated groups left out, no roads left uncrossed.
Please visit www.americanother.com for more information.
- (30 days)