I felt a rush of joy wash over me just a moment ago as I scheduled my first interview for the film. It will be on May 24, 2008 at 1:30 p.m. And I don't think I'm going to bring the camera equipment yet. Tough call to make, but I feel like this is the right move. Photographers are always pained by beautiful moments that are not caught on film, but I prefer to allow the human connection to strengthen before bringing in the big lights and camera that I want to use for this project.
The rush I got a moment ago reminds me of exciting high school days where I worked for our newspaper and literary magazine. I was given great opportunities, allowed to sell ad space (cold calling!), and learn about the importance of accurate, honest reporting. It was then that I wanted to become a journalist. Oh, how I have missed this since graduating from high school!
It's funny how long ago that seems, and how much I learned at the time. We were just having fun, but buried in all of that fun were incredibly important lessons that have stayed with me.
One of my stories was about tobacco, more specifically how it had impacted Eastern North Carolina. I met with tobacco farmers (retired and working) to ask them about their lives and how the plant had changed them. One farmer had smoked for what seemed like his entire life. I sat in his living room, a rather dark space full of tobacco products and tobacco farming tools, listening to him cough while his smiling wife proudly proclaimed that she had never smoked a day in her life. I later met with a farmer who hired migrant workers, and had a green house full of the next crop growing and preparing to be planted outside. He invited me to a pig pickin' later, which I attended and had a grand time with these new-found friends.
What I remember most about the whole process is the dignity, honesty, integrity and humility with which these people shared with me their lives. They were so,...human. I haven't kept in touch with them, but have always wondered where their lives took them after that series of interviews. They were so kind and genuine. I learned much from them.
Now, a week out from sitting down to talk with a new stranger about his life, I am reminded of the nervousness that comes with interviewing. I want to know so much going into the interview. Trying to understand a piece of history from a completely different point of view is an incredibly fascinating experience, and I want to be sure that I prepare well for that moment.
My first interviewee, Charlie, told me today that he had just looked at some photos from Vietnam for the first time and described the lush jungle and young refugees. He has lots of photos, which I am really excited about. Photographs allow a person to remember where they were at that moment, what happened before the put the view finder up to their eye. And what happened immediately after that photograph was taken.
The Vietnam War is not a subject with which I am familiar, so I want to learn as much as possible. But, like a fledgling bird, you must leave the nest some time. I will learn much from the people that allow me to interview them, and am so grateful for their patience when I ask seemingly obvious questions.
Wow, I am so blessed to be a part of this exciting project! As the daughter of a historian, I recognize the importance of capturing these stories. As an artist, I see how the story will be crafted around the beauty of the people with whom I speak. And as a filmmaker, I so desperately want to share the story with everyone else.
Heroes surround us. But I suppose it's up to us to take the time to open our eyes, salute them and thank them for their service. My grandfather was a Marine. Every time I see a Marine, I want to hug them and thank them. My sister confesses to doing the same.
I can only hope and pray that I do the subject matter the justice it deserves.