My personality and responsibility as a filmmaker is to find a common thread between people - to make stories relatable.
CHASING TYSON THE DOCUMENTARY YOU PRODUCED ABOUT THE BOXING WORLD CHANGED THE WAY THE INDUSTRY PERCEIVED YOU, WHAT MADE YOU TAKE THIS CHANCE?
I don’t think it was a chance but an opportunity. My personality & responsibility as a filmmaker is to find a common thread between people—to make stories relatable. I want the industry, peers, and personal relationships to know that I care to find a connecting story in all of our lives.
YOU’RE FINISHING YOUR DOCUMENTARY DANCER ABOUT DANCER SERGEI POLUNIN. BASED ON YOUR PERSONAL PASSION FOR BALLET, DO YOU HAVE A MORE EMOTIONAL CONNECTION TO THE PEOPLE IN THE FILM?
The style of the film is different. In Chasing Tyson we used archival footage – a style similar to director Asif Kapadia’s Senna or Amy, whereas in Dancer, while we used some archival footage of Sergei’s past, but much of the footage we shot with Sergei and lived in his world. Though archival footage can give light to a person, there’s a distinct contrast when you have a visceral filming experience with a subject.
The other variance on a basic level was that Sergei and I share the same age, whereas in Chasing Tyson, these men have already lived a full career. I found so much of my own frustration with talent and expectations mirrored in Sergei’s story. It was easier to empathize with someone who has promise, rather than someone who was already at the end of their career. Anyone involved in the project or in my personal life will attest to how close Sergei’s [Polunin] story was to me, and how closely I watched edit after edit to express that.
My connection with American Ballet Theatre was merely a bonus! One of the many themes in Dancer surrounds the nature of a ballet company and its relationship with the dancers. Being involved with a prominent (national) ballet- in conversation with the Royal Ballet grandeur, gave great insight into the subtle story beats that others involved may not have picked up on right away.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE NEW YORK NEIGHBOURHOOD?
Selfishly, my neighborhood! I tend to seek places that have an understated elegance & charm. I think the West Village is a rare place in New York and conveys all those qualities. I have a close relationship to my local coffee shop, florists, perfumery & restaurants & make a point to become familiar with people who work in those places. I’m forever a proponent to community and a sense of place, so the little things like familiarity are supreme.
WHEN YOU WALK INTO A MAJOR MEETING, DO YOU HAVE A RITUAL, SONG, OR FAVORITE FASHION ACCESSORY THAT HELPS FOCUS YOU?
I always wear this one ring as a talisman. The ring was given to me by my great grandmother and namesake & was a gift from her best friend & longtime world travel companion. Allegedly, somewhere in the world, there is another ring that my great grandmother gave to her. I love the story of two bold women – during a time of female oppression, who each found true lifelong friendship in one another while traveling the world and writing. So I carry this with me!
YOU TRAVEL A LOT FOR WORK, DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE SPOT WHERE YOUR WORK HAS TAKEN YOU?
For work, more recently London. I have a new film that I am directing/producing with choreographer Robert Binet that will be located outside of London this summer.
Kiev, Ukraine was an intense location I traveled to for Dancer. We were filming just days before Euromaidan.
My most memorable spot though was actually not through my job as a filmmaker but through being a jewelry designer: the jewelry was designed in Thailand & traveling there changed my life.
WHAT DOES NEW YORK BRING OUT IN YOU THAT NO OTHER CITY CAN?
Drive. I certainly find inspiration in many cities worldwide but there’s nothing like the innate urge to attain something that defines New York City.
WHAT WORDS DO YOU LIVE BY?
Everything happens for a reason.
IF YOU WEREN’T A FILMMAKER, WHAT JOB WOULD YOU DO?
I was someone who couldn’t figure out which career I should take after college. I went from jewellery design, fashion, editorial & advertising in a small amount of time. All of these experiences brought me to filmmaking & it was the answer to my needs & desires. I can’t think of another job. As a filmmaker, I fill my life.
However, I guess if I could create a job out of floral arranging or antique hunting – which is a hobby, definitely count me in. I’ve become one of those obsessive bidders!
ARE YOU INTERESTED IN SPORTS DOCUMENTARIES BECAUSE YOU WERE AN ATHLETE GROWING UP, OR HAS THAT OCCURRED BY CHANCE?
I never thought about that before! Being involved in sports-related documentaries has occurred through opportunity, but again I think everything happens for a reason. Now thinking of it, I think that there is a thread between the personal qualities that are developed while growing up as an athlete and those qualities I look for in any documentary subject.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE SPORTING EVENT TO ATTEND & WHAT TEAM/PERSON DO ENJOY WATCHING THE MOST?
I would not say it’s my favourite, but I started playing tennis probably as soon as I could walk and it certainly was a major sacrifice in my family’s & my life for many years. After five or six training programs across the country and playing at Cornell University, I’ve retired and put that part of my life in the past. Ballet, however, I started about the same time. For a few years, I tried playing tennis in the morning and then going to the ballet studio after class, but the goal in my life after about fourteen/fifteen was to be the likes of a professional tennis player. In recent years though, I’ve kept to a ballet class three times a week.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE SPORT TO PLAY AND WHEN DID YOU START?
Wimbledon! Today I adore watching Roger Federer, but I think it’d be unfair to not share how my mother & I would flock to every Patrick Rafter match in the late 90s. Swoon.