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FLEFF Intern Voices

The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view

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Posted by Blaize Hall at 5:14PM   |  1 comment
The Hungry Heart film poster

Blog post by Blaize Hall, Television-Radio, '15, Georgia, VT

“You set up a place to meet, usually their house.  You show up...and its you and your camera and sound person.  You set up the lights, and you sit on their sofa, and then you spend an hour and a half delving into some of their most personal stuff...before  you know it, you’ve got people who are revealing very intimate, difficult times in their lives.  Some of them are getting very emotional, they’re crying, or they are remembering things that perhaps they haven’t thought about in a while.  You finish the interview, you shake their hand, and you walk out the door.  And a lot of these people, you don’t actually see them until the premier of the movie a year-and-a-half later when they’re sitting in the audience.”

Bess O’Brien, director of The Hungry Heart, shared in a phone interview her experience of creating the film.  She says the most important and gratifying aspect of undertaking the production of a documentary is relating to the people she works with.  “It’s an odd thing.  All I try to do is make them feel at ease.  I want to make them feel like they are in a safe space.  You cannot have any judgment. You have to be extremely open.  You have to go where they are coming from.”

She says building these relationships is vital to the success of the film.  “Documentary film is documenting real life.  And real life can be absolutely fascinating and profound, or it can be really boring.”  She explained that being in the right place and time with no agenda is what allows for the profound moments to happen that really make the film successful.  
This film has those moments. It was so successful, in fact, that it went on tour to almost forty towns in Vermont.  Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin devoted his entire State of the State address this year to talking about prescription drug abuse.  This narrow a focus for a State of the State address is unheard of.  

“The film has had a real impact in Vermont in raising consciousness and moving change.  To me, that the governor saw the film, loved the film, and that it really pushed him to focus his state of the state and create major legislation around this issue is just really exciting.  For a filmmaker to see that their film has moved into the inner sanctum and has moved politicians to make change, I mean, that’s just totally awesome!,” Bess O’Brien expressed the other most satisfying aspect of creating The Hungry Heart.

Ms. O’Brien also shared that a few individuals in the film went on its tour around Vermont.  “Everyone got to know each other really well.  We sort of became a family.”

Ms. O’Brien retold the story of finding the title for the piece.  “The Hungry Heart is from the Bruce Springsteen song.  I was driving in my car one day and I heard his song and it just struck me. So many times people who are struggling with addiction talk about how the drug fills an emptiness, a hole in them.  To me this is  "the hungry heart"---- this is a human longing that all of us struggle with.  Some of us are lucky enough to fill our hungry hearts with positive and healthy things, others of us sometimes take a pill to fill us up.”

She continued, “We’re really excited about coming to Ithaca because the bottom line is, prescription drug addiction is not just a Vermont thing. It’s everywhere. The film is a great way to start a conversation and try to organize communities around this very important struggle.”


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