Friday, January 15, 2010

A Short Q&A with Geralyn Pezanoski, director of pets-in-peril documentary MINE

Because time is short for everyone regarding everything these days, a quick email correspondence with just a few questions seemed appropriate between TrustMovies and Geralyn Pezanoski, the maker of MINE, the new pets-of-Hurricane-Katrina documentary that opened in New York City today -- to generally quite good reviews (one of which is here).  TM, who reviewed the film in his Wednesday post, appears below in bold, while Geralyn (shown above) is in regular type.

I noticed that you worked on Jennifer Steinman’s Motherland, which I covered a few months ago (review/interview is here), so I wondered if you could talk about what it’s like to work on someone else’s project, then to be able to work on one’s own.

Jennifer and I are partners in Smush Media and have always collaborated on projects (she had a huge impact on MINE as a story consultant). We were working on our films in parallel and I think we each had more perspective on the other's film and were able to bring that to each other. It was actually great to take time off of MINE to field produce Motherland - I was able to return inspired and with a fresh perspective on my film.

As interesting as your film is, starting out, when it gets to the point where its title suddenly takes on such added meaning (you could have used an exclamation point in that title -- but I’m glad you did not), it really gets fascinating. At what point in your film-making did you realize how much weight the “ownership” issue was going to take on?

The whole ownership issue is really about attachment, and part of what drew me to this aspect of the post-Katrina story was my own attach-
ment to the "Katrina dog," Nola, whom I had fostered and later adopted. I think people (myself inclu-
ded) tend to believe that our pets are uniquely dependent on us and that's what makes our bond with them especially strong. So what I recognized on both sides of this issue were people who loved a pet and weren't able to recognize themselves in the person on the other side.

What’s next for you?

I've learned so much in the process of making MINE and am excited to make another documentary. I'm just starting to seek funding for my next project, and in the meantime I've signed on to work with Spoken Media, a boutique publicity firm committed to helping independent filmmakers get the recognition and exposure their films merit. There are so many great doc films being made and I know how daunting it can be to get your film out there and noticed... I'm excited by the opportunity to help other filmmakers!

That is a good thing, since new filmmakers generally need all the help they can get.  Having worked in public relations and publi-
city myself, I know how important and helpful good PR can be. 

Finally, is there any particular question or subject that you would like to cover -- but which journalists never seem to ask you. If so, we’ll do it now. Here’s your chance to address it, or soapbox, or whatever….

Early on as the idea for the documentary was taking shape, I was fascinated by my conversations with individuals who were acting as the gatekeepers between people and their pets... and the judgments being made in determining who should get their pets back and who was deemed unfit. I was struck by the double victimization of Katrina survivors whose lives were opened to scrutiny because this natural and man-made disaster had blown the walls and roofs off their privacy. As good as people's intentions were in trying to protect animals, there was a serious power imbalance. I wanted to illuminate that without vilifying one side. In the process, I had to explore and challenge my own biases that emerged when I considered what I would do if Nola's previous owners came forward to claim her.

Fair enough.  Thanks for your time, Geralyn -- and for giving us this fine, thought-provoking documentary.  We'll look forward to your next endeavor.....

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