Q & A w/Filmmakers Jason Mann & Cecily Pingree of BETTING THE FARM
JASON: Jason Mann has worked as a cinematographer, assistant editor, grip, sound recordist, and bartender. His credits include director of photography and co-producer of LOST SOULS (Animas Perdidas), which aired nationally on Independent Lens in 2010, and assistant editor for the Discovery HD Theater series Sunrise Earth. He is continually inspired by the work of other filmmakers, especially his grandfather, director Delbert Mann. He lives in Maine with his wife, daughter, and cantankerous black lab.
CECILY: Cecily Pingree is a documentary filmmaker and cinematographer. She started her film work with Arts Engine in New York City, where she worked on various productions including, Arctic Son and Alvin Ailey: American Dance. In 2009, Cecily co-founded Pull-Start Pictures with her brother-in-law, Jason Mann. Their first project, MEET YOUR FARMER, a series of short films about Maine farmers, aired on public television in Maine and at more than 50 screenings around the state. She has worked on projects for The New York Times, National Geographic and The Gates Foundation. Her solo work covers such varied topics as fishing and worm harvesting on the Maine coast, public health in Eastern Africa, and media consolidation across the US. BETTING THE FARM is her first feature. Cecily lives 12 miles off the coast of Maine on a small island, where she keeps bees and chickens.
What were some of the biggest challenges/surprises?
JASON: I think two of the hardest things about shooting a verité film over the course of a few years are 1) deciding what you need to shoot, and 2) trusting your instincts when the going gets rough. I’m sure every filmmaker has a moment (or several) in the midst of production at which they feel certain that their story will never have an ending, that the subject isn’t really interesting, etc. At those times, ignoring your own doubts is the most important thing one can do.
CECILY: Also having great characters helps too! We were honored to film their lives but also it was great to turn the camera off and just share a meal.
What was your VERY FIRST film?
JASON: That I watched? Tough one… It was quite possibly either CINDERELLA or SNOW WHITE. However, I’d say some of my earliest and fondest film memories are of watching my grandfather’s films in his study on visits to LA. So I’d say MARTY.
CECILY: The first film I really remember was THE MUSIC MAN. My older sister was obsessed with the song “76 Trombones.”
What is your proudest professional moment?
CECILY: This one. To have followed a story for over two years with some incredible characters and get the chance to share their story with a larger audience is very exciting.
What other projects are in the pipeline?
CECILY: I’m working on a project about a worm digger in eastern Maine. We’re also developing a story about a group of Jamaican apple pickers.
JASON: My wife and I are expecting our second child in November!
Why did you become a filmmaker?
CECILY: I got a great job right out of school working for Arts Engine in NYC. It became apparent to me how impactful and important films can be. Being a filmmaker seems like a good way to make a contribution to something you believe in.
JASON: I can’t pinpoint one reason, exactly. But for as long as I can remember, movies have fascinated me. And I suppose I was always as interested in how they were created as I was in the stories themselves. And once I picked up a camera to satisfy that curiosity, there was no going back.
What are some of your creative influences?
CECILY: There are many films and filmmakers I am creatively inspired by. I also get a lot of creative inspiration from the rural place l live, the people that inhabit it and the natural environment that surrounds us.
JASON: As far as documentary filmmakers go, I love the work of Frederick Wiseman, The Maysles Brothers, James Longley, and Laura Poitras, just to name a few. I’m also a big fan of photographers Walker Evans, Gary Winograd, and William Eggleston. Last but not least, I think that really well made narrative films are a great source of inspiration for documentary filmmakers. You can learn a lot about storytelling from Billy Wilder, Ingmar Bergman, and Paddy Chayefsky, just to name a few.
Did you go to film school?
What do you shoot on?
JASON: We shot BETTING THE FARM on a Sony EX-1r.
What has been the most unexpected thing to happen since taking the film on the festival circuit?
JASON: This is our premiere, so we’d have to say, “being accepted to a film festival!”
2012 marks our tenth edition of the Festival. Why did you want to screen your film at Silverdocs?
CECILY: Silverdocs has always been a festival that we have respected greatly. When we got the formal invitation to premier our film at Silverdocs we were honored to accept.
How old are you in your head?
JASON: I will always be a 17-year-old, though I try not to act like it.
CECILY: I usually feel about 21 years old in my head.