For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we had the pleasure of interviewing documentary filmmaker and human-rights activist Heather White. She is currently in post-production on her film Who Pays the Price: The Human Cost of Electronics — a moving expose about the plight of young workers in Chinese cell phone factories. Q: What are you currently working on?
I’m directing and producing a documentary film Who Pays the Price? The Human Cost of Electronics.
Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?
I was in China doing research for a book and discovered that the poisoning of young workers in cell phone factories making our favorite gadgets is so much more widespread than anyone would imagine. I decided I needed to make a film to let the world know that 20-year-olds are dying in factories due to the irresponsible use of chemicals – while global brands such as Apple and Samsung look the other way.
Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?
Sebastiao Salgado,the Brazilian social documentary photographer and photojournalist. His amazing portraits of workers in dangerous environments helped to raise global awareness.
Toni Morrison has the ability to create powerful characters filled with emotion that affected me when I was reading her books when I was a teenager. I wanted to be able to touch people in a similar way .
Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?
Meeting and connecting with people I admire. Living in NYC which is a fantastic city in which to be an artist.
On this project it has been coming to know families of the workers stricken by toxic chemicals, courageous parents whose children’s lives have been forever changed.
Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?
We currently are completely a 3 minute video for our Indiegogo page with our hidden camera footage.
Q: If there were no barriers to entry what would you be doing?
Writing novels about my experiences over the past 20 years in the world of labor trafficking.
Q: What has been big your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?
My biggest obstacle is that financing projects takes a tremendous amount of time and energy.
Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?
Meditate regularly and go to Central Park daily to mark each new day and the changes of the seasons.
Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?
Q: What is your favorite piece of art?
It’s impossible to choose a favorite but the pieces that moved me the most upon seeing them for the first time were Guernica and Diego Rivera’s Death of Montezuma. The deep symbolism portrayed in both pieces touched me deeply.
Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?
I find it difficult to deeply admire strangers who I only know through their work, but not personally as people.
I really admire my mother, who turns 81 this year. She worked as a psychiatric nurse with Vietnam veterans with post-traumatic stress for 25 years before she retired. She’s been a great role model, bringing unbounded amounts of compassion and heart to both her work and her family.
Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?
As an activist.
Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?
Q: What is your guilty pleasure?
Oh my where to begin – I’ll narrow it to “cheesecake and margaritas” – normally served separately, but together works too.
Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?
I would say enjoy it as much as you can now – things get quite a bit more serious after 50.
Q: Where would you most like to live?
San Francisco, my favorite city where I lived for 11 years.
Q: What is your idea of success?
To complete my documentary film by October this year!
Q: What is your idea of happiness?
Time spent with my family.
To view the 10 minute trailer of Heather’s Film Who Pays?: The Human Cost of Electronics which has received over 1.2 million hits on YouTube CLICK HERE.