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“GYPSY DAVY” | director, Rachel Leah Jones

[PREMIERE SCREENING: Tuesday, January 24, 3:00 pm –Yarrow Hotel Theatre, Park City]

I’m not an independent filmmaker; so-called independent filmmakers—all the more so documentarians—are some of the most dependent people around. We depend on funders and characters, on permission-givers and gatekeepers, on our own (free) will, determination and hubris—not to mention on the weather. A film teacher I once had gave me the one really truly valuable lesson in all my MFA: “You want to make a movie?” she asked us. Yes, we nodded. “Then go out and tell everyone you know that you’re going to make a movie.” Otherwise, she explained, you’ll never make it to the finish line. In other words, let your ego (read: the fear and potential shame of not realizing what you set out to do) lead the way. And it’s so true. There you are, a single mother (regardless of how many co-producers you arm yourself with)—the filmmaker-progenitor, male or female, will always be a single mother; the kind who nobody knocked up; the kind who voluntarily walked into the sperm bank of creative ideas and impregnated themselves with a film. “You’ll fall in and out of love with your movie so many times, you won’t know how to begin, let alone end,” the professor of production continued… To which I would add, just like with children: you also won’t know where you end and your film begins…

Nevertheless, I make documentaries because I LOVE them—a good doc inspires like nothing else—but also because it seems I just wasn’t daring enough to choose an easier, cheaper, less risky medium to “do my thing.” I don’t make documentaries because I believe in “reality” as such, but because I’m a sucker for it’s narrative impact—especially when it is “subjectively” rather than “objectively” told. I’m a political animal and the documentary, one of the “discourses of sobriety,” as Bill Nichols so aptly put it, is my “drug of choice.” I’m a girl who feels compelled to name things, to “speak truth to power,” knowing full well that truth and power are relative. And once I start making a documentary, I finish it because I’m probably too afraid or ashamed not to. Even if on any given day along the way you’re likely to hear me say: What the hell was I thinking?! Who thought this was good idea?! All the more so when your film is about your family…

Gypsy Davy is the first film I began and the third I’ve finished. It’s my personal project, the one where I can be seen and heard in front of the camera too; in which I am less championing a cause and more causing trouble; in which emotion overrides intellect. Call it documentary or reflexive filmmaking or auteur cinema, either which way it’s out of the comfort zone of activist “sobriety.” When people come out of the movie moved to tears—I admit I can’t wrap my mind around it. But I don’t need to; maybe I just need to wrap my arms around them.

My mother says that when I was a kid I used to say (or rather assert): “I know what I’m doing!” And then, when things didn’t turn out quite the way I had intended, I’d say (no less adamantly): “I didn’t do it on purpose!” Nowadays, the inverted: “I don’t know what I’m doing!” and “I did it on purpose!” seem just as relevant. I’ve arrived, via trial and error, at something potent and compelling without being sure if I spelled it out or if there’s a magic at work that I don’t know the spell of—like Mickey in Fantasia losing control of his witchcraft. This way or that, when it was finally done (and the brooms went back in the closet), I reached the same conclusion I always do: “I’ll never make another film again in my life!” And then along came Sundance and ruined everything…

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