“Your imagination will aim less at events than at feelings while wanting these latter to be as documentary as possible.” –Robert Bresson
Bresson, I think, gets at the true nature of what drives us to make a film. Events are obviously important: they are the driving force behind our lives, behind history. But what defines our lives, what makes them palpable, are the emotions that color them. When we choose a subject matter for a film, our creativity is not spurred by the events that will add structure and sense to the film, but the emotions that give those events their humanity. A film can be about any event, fictional or non-fictional, but if the emotions surrounding those events do not ring true for the filmmaker and the film viewer, the film will lack dimension and will feel flat on the screen. As Bresson says, these emotions should be “as documentary as possible.” As a filmmaker, you must let your imagination be inspired not by story and plot and events but by feeling. In my own work, it is not so much the story I try to document, but people’s reactions and emotions to the story. The story of the Homestead Mill is an interesting one that speaks volumes on the issues of labor and industrialization in this country, but what I hope to portray in my film are not facts that anyone could look up in a history book. I hope instead to reveal the emotions surrounding the mill—how they are expressed, how they come into conflict, and how they can open the viewer to a world of transience, loss, memory, and identity. A mill, on its own, reveals no truths about our world, just as the few historical markers and preserved mill parts that sit in Homestead today prove nothing about what once was there: they are memorials, not memories. But the human-side of the story—the emotions that define it—are what will hopefully give my film life.