You Have His Eyes
Filmmaker Interview Christopher Wilson
by Amy Gillman
Why was it important to tell your story? What do you hope audiences will take away from witnessing your personal experience and your journey to discover the truth about your family?
At the very onset of filming our only goal was to tell an interesting story. We had many options to film with only one of them being about my personal journey, adoption and family history. Ultimately, once we narrowed it down, we felt my adoption told through the focal point of the search for my birth father could potentially be an interesting tale to chase. However it wasn’t until after we interviewed my birth mother, which was one of the first things we shot, and she opened up the flood gates so to speak, that I began to realize how important this story was going to be for a lot of people, not just those touched by adoption. This is a family story. Everyone is part of a family and usually it is filled with secrets that individual members may never know about, or may have casually swept under the rug. This documentary brings our dormant truths to the surface very candidly. I hope the viewer can take away a positive message about understanding who you are, what the definition of family is as well as the bond those ties bring.
As the subject of your own documentary, how did this unique experience differ for you as a director? What challenges did you face and what, perhaps, was easier?
I think being the director made this experience easier for me. As this film took a few years to finish and throughout the production we kept running into dead ends. This film tested my faith, and when things got hard and often times deeply personal and emotional, I was able to revert to the mindset of being a director, and not just the subject of the film. So I could look at situations with my immediate emotions removed. I was just a director seeing a story through to its completion. That made it easier to press forward throughout the production.
What inspired you to use animation as a way to present the beginning of your narrative?
The film begins with an isolated confession from a birth mother to her son. Neomi, my birth mom, opened up about her entire life story and quite frankly there was so many shocking and yet amazing things about this strong woman that we found it hard to cut. So we thought of the best ways to bring this segment of the story to an audience in the most entertaining manner. I came up with the idea of animation. We found an absolutely incredible team based in Guatemala, Frame and Beat studios, to bring my ideas to life, and they just went above and beyond. I love animation and will always refer to it as an option in my future projects. Animation to me is a much more engrossing and liberal medium then reenactment scenes. Unless you are able to shoot with very high budgets I find that those kinds of scenes can actually take away from the drama of the moment rather then enhance it.
Was the writing and editing process particularly difficult as your pieced together your story? How did you know you were finished?
It was difficult. We didn’t want to craft the story until we had somewhat of an ending, which was finding out what happened to this national record holder, my birth father Lionel Scott. So we filmed almost everything. Then began to piece it together at the end. I probably will never film in that manner again. During the editing process we wanted to keep the audience interested in the mystery search element, while at the same time being true to all the factors within my family and my search. We had so much footage I struggled to narrow it down to a feature length cut. However the editing process was expedited thanks to my editor Stephen Witte, who is a marvel, and kept coming up with inventive ways to move the technical part of the editing process forward in a faster manner, which allowed flexibility in how I wanted to tell the story. I hope we succeeded.
What makes a documentary great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a documentary better for you?
Its so hard to say, For me personally I love the angle a story is approached at. Getting into the mindset from the directors point of view. Most of the time audiences don’t think that way. They don’t realize that a story can be framed literally in a million different ways. What made the director choose this way or that. I think also the less you know going into a film is always the best way to view it and generally enhances the experience. Documentary Films are at once an experience but also must have some sort of educational element to them, so the blending of the two is important to me. A film does not necessarily have to be controversial or provocative, but thought provoking.
For more information about this movie please visit:
Screening: Monday August 11th at 9pm (TICKETS AVAILABLE HERE)