When A Filmmaker Turns the Camera on Herself

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As a filmmaker who prefers to remain behind the scenes, the idea of shooting a documentary where I was one of the main subjects was something both frightening and uninteresting to me. But something changed my mind… When my soon-to-be husband and I planned a two-week road trip honeymoon along the western coast of the United States, I started thinking. We would be leaving from Los Angeles with a first stop in Big Sur followed by exploring Northern California, Oregon and Washington, with a last stop in Puget Sound. The filmmaker in me could not let this scenic adventure go un-filmed, so I put my thinking cap on and starting storyboarding ideas on what to shoot.

And that’s when I realized the answer was right in front of me:

Turn the camera on my new husband and myself and document the journey of a honeymoon and what it’s like to be newlyweds.

Fortunately, my husband, who is an audio engineer and creative person as well, came onboard after I proposed the idea to him.

And that’s when things started getting really interesting. First, I should explain that I primarily shoot narratives but this time around, I was going to be one of the main subjects of a documentary and that meant a whole different type of mindset.

I never think about what it means to see myself on camera because I don’t like it and I prefer to stay behind it but that would no longer be possible if I was going to embark on shooting this documentary. So… I jumped in as a filmmaker, knowing that full well.

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Now, the shooting only consisted of my husband and I – a two-person team, who also happened to be on their honeymoon. It was far from perfect but that had a bit of charm to it, as people are far from perfect and it became a bit of a parallel to the very film we were shooting, which leads me to my next point…

I believe a documentary needs to be honest, not manipulative, and tell a story. As I sat down to cut this film on my trusty Final Cut Pro set up, I was faced with the idea that if I was going to remain true to a documentary as I believe it to be, then I would have to be okay with seeing myself when I wasn’t at my best and allowing myself to make mistakes on screen, which for anyone who knows me knows that is not an easy thing for me to do. In fact, it’s very difficult.

But I embraced it and am now in the middle of postproduction on the film. And as I sift through all the footage, I am continually faced with the difficult task of staying objective and true to the documentary while cutting footage of my husband and myself.

It is incredibly hard, to say the least.

But also enlightening.

Recently, I posted four teasers for Just Married on my film company’s Facebook page. Two have something to do with us as a couple fighting (hey, you try to spend every waking moment with someone for two weeks straight and see what surfaces!) and the other two were of a more comical nature about us as a couple.

Several people have come up to me and asked if my husband and I always fight. It’s been fascinating that those two clips seem to be what people take away from all the teasers and information I’ve posted about the film. It’s what they seem to be responding to.

Why is that?

I don’t know. But it’s made me come face to face with the notion that a film is its own entity and if I place myself as a subject, I need to be as objective as possible about it. Well, that and I need to develop a thick-ass skin.

Once I release the film and (hopefully) screen at festivals, it will be interesting to deal with seeing myself on the screen and hearing people give their opinions and impressions of it. You can be sure I’ll write again about my experiences as a filmmaker who turned the camera on herself. Till then, happy filming!

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Christina Parisi

About Christina Parisi

Before Christina stepped behind the camera, she worked in a variety of positions, including being an assistant to producer Scott Rudin and an assistant editor on American Idol. Armed with knowledge learned on the job, Christina set out to make her own films. She wrote and directed the short film, Making Your Tea, marking her directorial debut. Making Your Tea world premiered at the 2006 Palm Beach Int’l Film Festival. Christina continued writing/directing/producing short films, providing her an opportunity to hone her craft and learn the festival circuit. Christina’s body of work explores themes of humanity and philosophy, told through character-driven stories. Her latest short film, Your Move, can be seen on Gaiam TV and several of her shorts are available on Amazon. Christina is currently seeking financing for her co-written feature script, Driving Your Mind. Christina has been a freelance script analyst for over ten years. And her personal blog "Life As I Know It" can be found here: christinaparisi.wordpress.com