Guest: Andy Abrahams Wilson
October 27, 2014
Archived show link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fwMi5lNYHE
Synopsis: Do you have a documentary in you, a story to tell? Award-winning documentary maker Andy Abrahams Wilson has collected and cared for people’s stories for 20 years. Well known for his works: “Under Our Skin: The Untold Story of Lyme Disease” and “Under Our Skin: Emergence,” Andy HAS AN AMAZING EYE FOR sharing some of the most controversial and complex stories of our time. Andy joined Marilyn Shannon on The Breaking Free Show – October 27, 2014 – to talk about the incredible adventure of film making and production.
Here are some highlights from their conversation and questions from the audience:
Marilyn Shannon (MS) – How do you make money?
Andy (AAW) – We have to in order to run a business. Our production company is non-profit. Our money goes back into our mission. It’s about social issues and social values. It’s about meaning and education.
These days, everyone is a film maker! It’s hard to say. You can make a film for $100. You can make a film for over 1 million dollars.
MS – How long are your films?
AAW – I’ve done shorter ones 35-45 minutes. I like that length. It allows you time to get the character, but not dwell. Under our Skin is 104 minutes.
AAW – Film making is a method of inquiry. How wonderful to have your work allow you to do that. It’s pursuing our interests and trying to uncover truth. Sharing that truth and trying to connect people. You used the word healing earlier. I think stories are healing. It’s the making of the story and the telling of that story. It’s precisely healing because it’s connecting. It’s connecting the subject of the documentary to myself. I’m doing the witnessing. It’s the act of witnessing and being witnessed that is so healing for everyone involved, especially for the people who haven’t had a chance to tell their stories.
A lot of my work has been to turn outward. Now, I‘m going to turn the lens inward. Give myself healing, too.
I don’t go into it my documentaries with an agenda. With my Lyme documentaries, I went into it initially with a curiosity to uncover what was going on. I wanted to look at the data itself. The stories themselves cemented in me a real passion to help save lives.
AAW – I have a background in visual anthropology, the visual telling of stories about cultures or the telling of cultural stories using media. It’s ingrained in me. Idea like: Get to know your subject. Familiarity. Participatory observation is so important in anthropology. You go into the world of the other. There is an idea of reciprocity, sharing. I’m giving back. What I’m giving, in part, is the witnessing. Open-ness to the vast difference of humanity. An understanding that our way isn’t the only way.
I teach photography at Esalen. In my classes, we talk about how do we look at photography and the process of photography. What words do we use to describe it? Capturing shooting, taking? These ideas are culturally determined and conditioned. Or is what you are doing less male dominant? Are you holding the mystery. What is the essence of what we are looking at?
The work itself is the inquiry.
It’s yin/yang of eastern traditions. We have to start embodying in order to hold both.
In documentary making, we are touching on essence and authenticity. When we are able to touch on that, it dissolves the boundaries of self and other. Subject and object. It comes through me and then pierces through the lens. In order to get to it, we have to let go of our preconceived ideas about capturing.
MS – Watching your documentaries awoke something truly new in me. Andy, you have found a way. You are finding those ways to tap into people’s stories and take me on that with you. That’s the authenticity that’s coming through. The extent to which the process and product reveals authenticity. Then the essence is able to come in. I’m glad to hear that. It’s what I’m trying to do with my listening. All we can do is offer glimpses. When we release each other from the need to capture truth or any one thing in general, then it frees us to have a deeper and more enriching experience.
Maybe we can call them glimpses rather than stories. Glimpses through an open eye. Stories have a beginning, middle and end.
AAW – We can’t not manipulate. Every word we utter is a restriction. It’s conditioned by our experience and it restricts our experience. We use image sand language to convey the story. Given that, how can we be as open to experience as possible? That ultimately is a spiritual question. That’s why I’m going to sit in a spiritual retreat next month.
MS – Yes, we are all vessels and we can only hold so much.
AAW – Looking at it from the photographic metaphor. The camera is a vessel of light. Just like people are vessels of light. The light goes through the lens and the light.
MS – That’s the mutuality. When there is a dissolving of boundaries.
AAW – To the extent to which we can all be vessels of light, I think it will make the world a better place.
People, Places and Resources Referred to During This Show
Open Eye Productions