Last year, after the viral success of a few of my videos on people living in very tiny homes (Manhattan microstudio, 4.2 million views; Barcelona LEGO-style flat, 3.4 million, etc.), a friend very inside the TV world offered to help me pitch a show on the topic. Of course, given that we're living in the era of first-person cinema (e.g., Michael Moore, Morgan Spurlock), the series would involve a lot of showing the reporter trying out life in miniature dwellings.
Instead of making a hard push to the networks (a world I left back in 2006 to start a family/website with my husband in Barcelona), I began working on my own documentary, though I knew instead of highly-directed cinema, I wanted it to be more "direct cinema." The style first popularized in the late '50s -- much before reality TV -- where filmmakers tried "to directly capture reality and represent it truthfully, and to question the relationship of reality with cinema."
I had already been filming stories on "tiny house people" -- as one founder of the Small House Society described his breed for my camera -- for several years when I began to give form to all the interviews. I like to try to shoot in an observational style, or what I describe for my subjects as a simple conversation, but I do then edit to try to create some sort of dramatic structure.
This week I released via YouTube and for free -- in an attempt to make it as widely available as possible (some type of "of the people, for the people") -- my documentary We the Tiny House People: Small Homes, Tiny Flats & Wee Shelters in the New and Old World. I haven't pitched any news media and I even waited to post here and it's had about 35,000 views in less than four days, mostly coming from very "of the people" sites such as reddit and Facebook, or from within YouTube itself.
I was interviewed yesterday by a reporter from Russia Today (they found me via YouTube) and she asked whether I thought tiny homes were in some way anti-American: "Doesn't it go against American values, that whole kind of entrepreneurial consumerist spirit where you get a house in the suburbs, your 2.5 kids and a dog?"
So maybe my film lacks the directed messages of a work of Moore or Spurlock -- though I do talk about tiny homes as distinctively American (e.g. Lincoln's log cabin, Benjamin Franklin's tiny childhood home) in my closing voiceover -- but I'm not upset if someone misses this point. I want people to interpret the stories of these tiny house people without my voice.
"To me the ideal film -- which I've never succeeded in making," explained director John Huston, "would be as though the reel were behind one's eyes and you were projecting it yourself, seeing what you wish to see."
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