For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we had the pleasure of interviewing filmmaker Gayle Kirschenbaum. Her new, very personal, documentary film Look At Us Now Mother! is currently screening at festivals around the world. New York Women in Film and Television is hosting a screening of it on June 30 at 7 pm at the Anthology Theater. Gayle lives in New York City.
Q: What you are currently working on? Tell us about it.
My new and most important film is a deeply personal documentary called Look At Us Now Mother! It is now playing in festivals. It’s about the transformation of a highly charged mother daughter from Mommie Dearest to Dear Mom, hatred to love. It’s my story. It’s about forgiveness. It’s gotten an amazing reaction from the public and I am now exploring and learning about distribution. My mission is to get this film out as wide as possible in order to help people.
If people are interested in learning about the festivals and where and when they can see the film, it is listed on our website lookatusnowmother.com. I just returned from Sarasota, Toronto and Israel where it premiered. The next festival is July 27th in Woods Hole and then Woodstock.
NYWIFT is hosting a members screening on June 30th at 7 PM at the Anthology Theater. Tickets can be bought at this link. http://www.nywift.org/article.aspx?id=5547
Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?
I made a short film called My Nose some years ago about my mother’s relentless campaign to get me to have a nose job. She has always been convinced if I had a nose job my life would improve. She was sure most people agreed with her. That 13-minute film ended up having a big life and played all over the world, and I even won a Best Director award. After the Q&A people would stand on line to speak with me. They said the same thing: they love my nose, don’t touch it, they can’t stand my mother and wonder how I even talk to her and lastly, they told me their own stories. I was suddenly coaching these people on how to forgive their critical parent even if they were deceased. I became the accidental therapist. Then a therapist who witnessed this encouraged me to create a seminar—I did. I developed The Seven Healing Tools and started teaching others how to use them. It was then that I heard more and more stories of people still suffering in their adult life because of childhood abuse. When My Nose came out we ended up on the cover of the Washington Post Style section. The first line into the article said, “If you have a mother like Gayle Kirschenbaum get yourself into psychoanalysis.” My mother read this and said, “Great! I am on the cover of the Washington Post.” She loves attention at all cost. I asked her if she would make this film with me and she agreed. I knew I was tapped to do this. I had all that it takes: a funny, smart and willing mother, a huge archive of 8 mm footage and old family photos and letters, and my gift as a story teller. I locked the door, ran a Kickstarter campaign and did nothing else for more than three years. Since the film is so personal I was concerned how my family would react to it. I knew I would release it no matter what. I had a private screening and they loved it. A huge relief for me knowing I can release this film and not offend them. My mission is now to launch a movement focused on forgiveness and healing between mothers and daughters using the film as the centerpiece.
Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?
Interesting question. I think my heroes are people who created change in the world such as Gandhi versus particular artists.
Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?
My curiosity drives me to learn as much as I can. My particular interests are focused on people, people from all over the world. I am attracted to diversity. Hence, I love traveling and exploring other cultures. (I suddenly feel like I am writing a personal ad—on that note, I am single and looking. Please send my husband my way. I know he has a lousy sense of direction and is lost. That’s why it’s taking so long.) Back to the question, I am driven to tell stories that take people on an emotional journey where they laugh and cry and leave them with a message, usually something they can learn from. And what keeps me going when the going gets tough is the reaction from the audience and the emails that come in.
Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?
I am developing the outreach campaign that will work with my film as I mentioned earlier. Plus I also developed and cast a new reality show, and just agreed to partner with a Canadian company. Can’t say yet what it is about, but let’s just say all these people are born with a condition, a condition that the world will have a hard time accepting such as people who are transgender.
Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?
I am an extremely sensitive person and when I am creating my emotions are what drive me. I can tell, and even feel in body, when what I am doing is working. Hopefully it’s working for others also.
Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?
I would be living with my wonderful husband and our dog(s) and perhaps other animals by the seaside in New England in our house that has a large wrap around porch on two levels. I would be writing, creating, speaking internationally and working with my partners on our movement.
Q: What has been big your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?
Seems like money has been a stumbling block. How much does a good husband cost these days? Just kidding. When you are worried about finances it places a damper on one’s self esteem. I need to shed that belief system sooner rather than later.
Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?
Hmm? I never really find I have trouble connecting to my creative self. I only wish I had more time to use my born skills and not spend so much time having to use my learned skills as a producer and now a distributor.
Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?
My attitude towards raising money.
Q: What is your favorite piece of art?
Don’t have one particular piece. I do love Matisse and Chagal.
Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?
Several – Mother Theresa, Gandhi, Martin Luther King.
Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?
That I helped people through my work.
Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?
Q: What is your guilty pleasure?
Coffee ice cream. Particularly Trader Joe’s brand.
Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?
Trust your own instincts.
Q: Where would you most like to live?
Mentioned earlier, probably near the sea in a quaint New England town.
Q: What is your idea of success?
When your work has a great and positive effect on others.
Q: What is your idea of happiness?
Life with filled lots of love and laughter and health.
Q: Final Thoughts?
I am quoting Oprah here. “Be your authentic self.” That is what people connect to – honesty and vulnerability.