Last year, after the viral success of a few of my videos on people living in very tiny homes (Manhattan microstudio– 4.2 million views, Barcelona LEGO-style home– 3.4 million, etc), a friend deep inside the tv world offered to help me pitch a show on the topic.
Of course, given that we’re living in the era of first person cinema (e.g. Michael Moore, Morgan Spurlock), the series would involve a lot of showing the reporter trying out life in miniature dwellings.
Direct Cinema of the late ’50s
Instead of making a hard push to the networks (a world I left back in 2006 to start a family/website with my husband in Barcelona), I began working on my own documentary, though I knew instead of highly-directly cinema, I wanted it to be more “direct cinema”.
The style first popularized in the late fifties- much before reality tv- where filmmakers tried “to directly capture reality and represent it truthfully, and to question the relationship of reality with cinema.”
I had already been filming stories on “tiny house people” – as one founder of the Small House Society described his breed for my camera- for several years when I began to give form to all the interviews. I like to try to shoot in an observational style, or what I describe for my subjects as a simple conversation, but I do then edit to try to create some sort of dramatic structure.
A youtube documentary premiere
This week I released via youtube and for free- in an attempt to make it as widely available as possible (some type of “of the people, for the people”)- my documentary “We the Tiny House People: Small Homes, Tiny Flats & Wee Shelters in the New and Old World”.
I haven’t pitched any news media, but it’s had nearly 40,000 views in 4 days, mostly coming from very “of the people” sites like reddit and Facebook, or within youtube itself.
Russia Today and “American values”
This week I was interviewed by a news reporter from Russia Today (she found me via youtube) and she asked whether I thought tiny homes were in some way anti-American. After all, she followed up, “Aren’t we supposed to move to a big house in the suburbs and have 2.5 kids”?
So maybe my film lacks the directed messages of a work of Moore or Spurlock- though I do talk about tiny homes as distinctively American (e.g. Lincoln’s log cabin, Benjamin Franklin’s tiny childhood home) in my closing voiceover-, but I’m not upset if someone misses this point. I want people to interpret the stories of these tiny house people without my voice.
John Huston: “the camera is an eye”
“To me the ideal film — which I’ve never succeeded in making,” explained director John Huston, “would be as though the reel were behind one’s eyes and you were projecting it yourself, seeing what you wish to see. This has a great deal in common with thought processes … That’s why I think the camera is an eye as well as a mind.”