What does it feel like to be shortlisted for an Academy Award? Where were you when you found out you had been selected as one of just 15 films up for Oscar consideration? What made you want to become a documentary filmmaker?
These are some of the questions answered by six of the year’s most acclaimed documentary filmmakers when they joined Gold Derby’s special “Meet the Experts” Q&A event with 2022 Oscar contenders. Watch our full group chat above with Questlove (“Summer of Soul”), Jessica Kingdon (“Ascension”), Jonas Poher Rasmussen (“Flee”), Matthew Heineman (“The First Wave”), Nanfu Wang (“In the Same Breath”) and Julie Goldman (“The Velvet Underground”). Click on each name above to view each person’s individual interview.
“I didn’t want to be the person that checks every 12 seconds to see what happens,” Questlove admits about the day the shortlist was announced. “I had a routine day. I went to my job at ‘Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.’ We start taping in the afternoon, so when I got off stage and saw enough exclamation points and a bunch of texts I realized we made the shortlist.”
Kingdon’s experience was a bit more uncertain. “Maybe there was a leak or something online?” she asked. “There was this weird in between period where someone was saying something, but it wasn’t official yet. So we were trying not to be too excited. Finally the news was actually announced, so when that happened it was a relief. It would have been quite a letdown if someone was like, ‘You made it!’ and then we didn’t. Even if we don’t get nominated I feel like making it this far is incredible and it’s not something that can be taken away now.”
When asked about what his start as a filmmaker, Rasmussen recalls a personal family experience. “The first film I made was about my grandfather,” he explains. “He was a quite well-known poet here in Denmark. When he passed the whole family gathered in his house. In his things I found old VHS tapes with old short films that he had done back in the 50s and 60s. I sat down and looked at these films and this world just opened. I thought I knew my grandfather, but I realized I didn’t.”
“I stumbled into it,” Heineman admits about his filmmaking career. “I studied history in college. I got rejected from Teach for America. I decided to go on a journey across the US to try to understand what our generation is about. I bought a video camera. I raised just a little bit of money and that was my first film. I taught myself as I went. Through that process I fell in love with filmmaking.”
Wang also stumbled into filmmaking after coming to the United States for graduate school at the age of 26. “At the time I wanted to become a journalist,” she says. “I quickly realized that it was very theoretical that we study quantitative audience research and it wasn’t something that I wanted to do. I asked several professors if I could sit in the more practical sophomore and freshman classes. One of the classes that I took was documentary. It was the first time in my life that I ever watched documentaries and it really had a huge impact on me.”
Goldman has been producing documentaries for over 20 years and admits that “it’s kind of hard to remember” how it started. “I’ve produced a lot of different things and at some point I was like, I don’t want to be beholden to actors’ schedules. I don’t want to be producing Giga Pet commercials. What I kept coming back to was documentary, which I really did love.”
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