The Journey in the Middle …
Hello all –
I’ve now done ten interviews in the state of Michigan and the province of Ontario. My new cameras are fantastic. My van feels like home. And I am past the beginning and into the middle of this trip – that all feels great!
Meeting potential interviewees is always the big unknown and I enjoy it. I do many different things to meet people – take a class, volunteer, go to events and just get out to new places. Mostly though, I just try and be open to every person I meet, wherever I am. Sometimes it’s very clear – like a tap on the shoulder – that I should ask a certain person if I could interview them. Sometimes, I’m just so very curious to hear a certain person’s answer to the film’s question, that I ask them.
I met EmmaLee, the first interviewee on this trip, because there was a sign in front of her house that said “2 42 Community Church.” On one of my morning walks past the house, she and her mom pulled into the driveway. I stopped and asked about the sign. They explained that it’s the new name of the church they attend; it references the Bible: Acts chapter 2, verse 42. EmmaLee recited the verse for me: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teachings and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer.” They had just moved into the neighborhood and were happy to meet someone; I was staying with a friend down the block.
We talked about the variety of Christian sects, homeschooling and the brickwork of their house. I came back the next day and asked EmmaLee and her mom, Sandi, if I could interview EmmaLee. They said “yes.” During her interview, Emmalee laughed and enjoyed exploring each of her answers to the question of the film. When I came back to their house for a secondary shot, I found myself as their temporary Friday teacher and taught EmmaLee’s younger siblings a bit about filmmaking.
When I told people that I was heading for Sudbury, Ontario, two people mentioned that it was a mining town. My attention was piqued – asking the film’s question to someone who spends every work day thousands of feet underground, could be quite unique. But how would I find a miner? I’d never pursued a certain profession before. Once I got to Sudbury, I asked a number of people, which led me to a certain sports bar and restaurant. I went to the bar twice, I talked to four other miners before Jamie said “yes.” Thank-you Jamie! Let me just add that I don’t drink and have never walked up to a man in a bar, ever. I was both nervous and amused when I walked into the bar. The men were all kind and chuckled with me at my unusual topic and request.
I met Matthieu and Bronwyn at a Friday evening event at Science North in Sudbury, an impressive interactive science museum that’s mostly for kids. This was a beer/wine/hors d’oeuvres event for adults. There were dozens of things to do – I built a race car, made a plastic tie from old plastic bags, built 3D puzzles. There were a lot of groups and I laughed with many people, but it wasn’t until the end of the evening that I met someone and felt certain “this is someone I want to ask.”
I had been quietly watching a porcupine eat leaves from a branch for a few minutes. I was closer than two feet, looking over the glass barrier, and got to really look closely at the quills on her back. A man – Matthieu – joined me, and after a couple minutes, made a one- or two-word observation, very soft-spoken, then silent. We exchanged a couple other short observations, but mostly just relaxedly watched the porcupine eat. I wanted to interview this quiet man. His partner – Bronwyn – squatted down to join us, and joined our simple watching, also only adding a word or two. Amidst all this Friday night cacophony of people and exhibits, here were two people who were patient, soft-spoken and observant. Added to this, I noticed Bronwyn was pregnant. What would a young couple, expecting their first child, answer to the question? I interviewed them each a couple days later. Both of their interviews were thoughtful and full of love.
Meeting every interviewee is different. Every time I think I know a reliable way to meet interviewees – like go to a class, it seems to stop working. I met many interviewees last Fall through classes, but it didn’t work in Sudbury at all. The only reliable thing is to pay attention to what catches my eye or my heart.
As I drove south in Ontario, one of my recurring thoughts was that I’d just interviewed seven white people in a row. I told myself not to stress about it, there would be more diversity when I got further south. I’m sure I reminded myself of the time, early on, when I went looking for introverts at a lawn bowling club; four said “maybe” for three days in a row, then they all said “no.” The next day, I went to a car dealership looking for an extreme extrovert – someone I was sure would say “yes.” The salesman did say “yes,” and he turned out to be an introvert. I’ve learned to never push from some idea that comes from my head. If I open my heart and follow, the perfect people, people I have not yet interviewed, are right there. So, I let go my worry about diversity and drove.
When I got to Owen Sound, I pulled over to find a motel with my phone. I was clearly drawn to a certain motel with its own website. I trust that intuition when it happens. As I drove the street to the motel, I only noticed the motel’s sign and the one across the street. As I approached, I saw the sign across the street was for the Owen Sound Muslim Association. I saw that sign and knew that I‘d call the next morning.
I’ve never made a cold call to find interviewees for this film. I have always presumed people need to meet me. Sa’ad, the imam, was so immediately warm on the phone. He understood my quandary – to make an honest film, I have to meet people unlike myself, but how to do that organically, without pressure, and let people check me out, especially when I don’t tell the question? He invited me to Friday prayers and said he’d introduce me around. I thanked him and asked if there was anything I needed to do to be respectful; I presumed to wear a head scarf, he said that was not necessary, but asked me to take off my shoes at the door when I arrived. Tears came to my eyes when I hung up; I had been nervous to make a cold call, but we both were so honest and open-hearted. People are that kind and I teared up for another experience of it.
This is what I get to do making this film. I have an excuse to meet all kinds of people, which expands my heart. I get to have amazing conversations from a question that encourages us all. In addition, there is also this inner nugget – that finding people who will say “yes” requires that I am the best in me – that my heart is completely open and that I know we are in this life together. To make this film, I have to be the Whole of me.
I won’t be sharing the film’s question or answers here, but I will share this journey of trust between strangers and this challenge to be Whole.
Thank you for your support and good wishes!
ps At Friday prayers, I did meet two people who became interviewees. Farah motioned for me to come sit next to her to pray. I was sitting on the bench at the rear. I shrugged uncertainty, but she motioned again and had the kindest eyes and clear joy of helping another. As is Islamic custom, we sat close enough to touch arms occasionally. I thought about that as we prayed so closely. The intent is to remove all sense of difference between us – we are all equally human in this life. I liked it – that physical reminder while praying. Thank-you Farah, Sikander, and Sa’ad. We are all in this together.