Cult fiction filmmaker David Lynch (films Eraserhead, Blue Velvet and TV’s Twin Peaks) is experimenting with documentary. And from his video description of the project, he sounds rather amazed at the natural drama and dream-like qualities of real people telling their stories. Interview Project is a simple concept – a small production team travels through small-town USA, meets random Americans in bars, mowing lawns, and sitting on their porches, and offers them the opportunity to talk about themselves.
I was wary of how Lynch would approach this endeavour. Would he tarnish these everyday folk with his special blend of the surreal and nightmarish? I’ve watched about twenty of the interviews now (they are posting a “new” interview every three days though they were filmed last year) and I am relieved to feel that Lynch and his small, young team have allowed the participants to open up to the camera and tell, what seems to me, their genuine and sometimes remarkable stories.
That’s the beauty of Interview Project. It reminds me that first impressions are often wrong. Perhaps some of my judgments are correct, but I can never assume to know, or even imagine, what any person’s life is like, or what their histories are and when and where they came from, what their dreams are, and how they’d like to be remembered.
Yes, Lynch’s team does use some emotional manipulation – for instance, there is occasionally a tension track that sometimes grinds on my nerves – and other times reminds me that people are bizarre; a complex mix of light and dark. But the camera work is simple. A shot of a sprinkler or bird in the street locates us. Then a few static shots of the subject using natural or imperceptible lighting creates the perfect, simple canvas for these portraits.
I appreciate getting to meet everyday Americans. I am not in small town Texas or Nebraska and I don’t have plans to travel there soon. Yet here I have the opportunity to hear what life is like there, and a few times, their stories have moved me to tears. It encourages me to find in myself the mettle to go out into the world and listen to and record the stories of others. And there’s the juxtaposition: the project makes me feel like I am traveling while I am sitting at home, yet it inspires me to go out and meet people.
As a last note, from a budding film-maker’s perspective it is enormously heart-warming to be reminded that as humans, we want to share our experiences in this world. And that no matter how uneventful a life a person may seem to have led, it can be rich with colour and detail. I hope that when we set up the camera on an upcoming project, that our subjects will feel as comfortable and willing and brave to share. And that you will be willing to watch and connect – human drama, foibles and victories, warts and all.
To watch Interview Project, click here.