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AN INTERVIEW WITH Kelly Adams, DIRECTOR
Please introduce yourself and let us know how and why you became a filmmaker?
I was born and raised in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. I studied Anthropology and Environmental Earth Science at Johns Hopkins University,
which sparked my interest in sense of place and the various ways in which particular pieces of land or objects take on meaning and value to people. It was through that lens that I became interested in film, as a mechanism for visualizing our relationship with the world around us.
I moved to India in 2011 to curate the Spirit Enlightened Film Festival with Culture Unplugged Studios, and went on to teach filmmaking in government schools of Hyderabad as the Digital Storytelling Fellow with a group called The Modern Story.
Upon returning to the United States, I got my Masters Degree in Culture and Media at New York University and since that time
I have cultivated an interest in participatory and youth media, working full-time as a teacher of documentary and animation classes
with young women in New York City. I like to pursue documentary passion projects on the side.
Give some more information about the films you have made so far and about your experience?
My first short film was a documentary about a sanitation worker in New York City, made during my time in the Culture and
Media program at NYU. One Man’s Trash tells the story of Nelson Molina, a 34-year veteran of the New York City Department of
Sanitation and a collector of discarded ephemera of interest. The film follows Molina on his route as, with a keen eye and an open mind,
he plucks gems from what others have thrown away and assigns new value to them. He curates these objects into a
sanitation garage in East Harlem. Making this film was rewarding and gave me respect for the hard work of the sanitation
department in the city. I also recently completed a short film Atlantic Sunrise, which tells the story of a convent of Catholic nuns near my hometown in Pennsylvania who are resisting a natural gas pipeline on the basis of their religious beliefs.
How you collaborate with the cast and crew?
Most of the work that I do for passion is done alone as a one-woman crew and on a very tight budget.
My collaborative work happens in my day job as Director of Video Programs at the Lower Eastside Girls Club,
where my aim is to amplify the voices of the young women in my classes and to let their creativity shine.
What are your favorite film genres to work on? Why?
I like to make character driven documentaries because I think it is a powerful way to humanize broader social issues.
To you, what part of filmmaking is the hardest part?
I think the hardest part about making documentary films is building the foundation and relationship of trust with the people
that are centered in the film. It’s always important to be mindful of representation, and I take the responsibility for telling other
people’s stories very seriously.
What are the films or people that had impacts on you and deeply inspired you to become a filmmaker or writer?
I was very much inspired by my NYU thesis advisor and mentor, Faye Ginsburg.
Your film “The Cottage“ was officially selected in the
"American Golden Picture International Film Festival”.
What were some of the challenges you faced in making this film?
I knew as soon as the coronavirus came to the forefront of our cultural consciousness, that I wanted to make some sort of film
to document this moment - a time capsule that I could look back on in the future. I didn’t initially know what shape it would take,
and began with conducting straightforward interviews with friends and family about their concerns. It was when I decided to go and
quarantine at my grandmother’s cottage that that all changed - I was faced with this distinct dissonance between being in a place
so saturated in family history, memory and emotion - while simultaneously isolated, alone and laying in wait of an uncertain future.
I decided to tell that story as it unfolded. I think the biggest challenge came once the reality of this new lifestyle
started to feel “normal” and it was more difficult to access my genuine feelings as I sank into routine.
8- For you what was the biggest lesson you had to learn during making the film "The Cottage”?
Not everything you make has to be perfect - process is as important as product and it is okay to be playful. Push boundaries,
and explore alternative methods for visualizing things.
What keeps you inspired to continue as a writer of filmmaker?
I love the feeling of having a project in the works - it gives me a sense of purpose and keeps me excited about daily life.
What are your goals?
I would love to continue to make documentary films and to refine my editing skills.
What is your next project?
Remains to be determined, but I have some ideas brewing…
GOOD LUCK Kelly
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