In June, I put up an ad on Craigslist asking if anyone was interested in filming a couple of DIY carving videos for me. The Craigslist God's were in my favor because I was approached by Maya Pisciotto and Fabián Aguirre from motion picture company, The Understory. Their work blew me away (see their reel below!), they had an amazing eye for detail and a beautiful aesthetic. I was delighted to have even been approached to work with such a talented duo for my project. We created 4 videos together that go along with my new book, Carve: A Simple Guide to Whittling. They took my idea and made it into a reality, one which was even better than I imagined! They, of course, were amazingly talented, but also very professional and fun to work with. In honor of being so inspired by these two, I thought it would be fun to do a little Q & A with them that shares their process and more of an insight behind their work.
Enjoy the interview and don't forget to watch the DIY Video's we made together!
1. Why did you start working with film?
FABIAN: I started out working in biology and conservation, but I always had a strong affinity for the visual and performing arts, particularly photography and film. Motion pictures allow me to bring science and art together in ways I never could have accomplished individually.
MAYA: As a kid, my dad used to make up stories to tell me on long car trips and around the campfire. I was always fascinated by them and would always ask for another as soon as one ended (poor guy). I have also always been obsessed with making things - drawing, cooking, crocheting - you name it. I think I got in to working with film because it allowed me to have a hand in making a story and as a musician, it allows me to do many of the things I love in one place.
2. What do you like about collaborating with artists?
FABIAN: Taking on a project is a bit like going to graduate school each time— we immerse ourselves in the life and work of incredibly talented people and, with that, grow immensely. Filmmaking in itself is a collaborative process, but documentary-making in particular, provides us with an opportunity to learn from masters of their craft like you. I think we have one of the best jobs in the world.
MAYA: The best part about collaborating with artists is that they make you approach a project differently than you might on your own. Being forced to think in new ways, in my opinion, is often what creates the most intriguing work.
3. What is your favorite part of the process?
FABIAN: As a cinematographer, I enjoy the process of capturing images most. Maya and I are fortunate in that we both do everything ourselves— like a tiny production powerhouse-- but she’s a much better editor than me, so I’m most comfortable behind the camera. On the other hand, seeing the story unfold as Maya cuts it is a very exciting part of the process.
MAYA: I like everything about making films, but I especially like editing. It’s the longest part of the process and it can be tedious, but it’s the place where I get to be the most creative. I like the challenge of being given a bunch of pieces and having to figure out the most interesting way to put them together.
4. What is your favorite film?
FABIAN: I was hoping you wouldn’t ask that. Such a hard question! As with music, my taste is fluid, but I love documentaries, especially now that technology has been democratized and most people are able to make incredible (looking and sounding) films with a limited budget. I love all landmark natural history programs from the BBC (anything with David Attenborough or Professor Brian Cox), as well as documentary series like Chef’s Table. I’m not sure I can give you a favorite film, but if I had to choose one right now, it would be Alfonso Cuarón’s “Children of Men” given its current social, political and environmental relevance. It’s a poignant metaphor of our time.
MAYA: I like too many films to have a favorite, but a few I’ve enjoyed recently have been Volver, Wolfpack and Chasing Coral - any film that swallows me whole and makes me think. I also love listening to stories on Radiolab, Snap Judgement and This American Life.
5. What is your favorite hiking spot in Marin?
FABIAN: My favorite hiking spot in Marin, at the moment, is Tennessee Valley, especially near dusk. It’s an easy hike and provides a multitude of habitats representative of the region— from coastal prairie and chaparral, to oak forests, wetlands and, of course, access to the ocean. We often see owls, newts and snakes, bobcats and sometimes even whales and dolphins.
MAYA: There are so many beautiful places to hike in Marin! I’m currently in love with Tennessee Valley, but Abbots Lagoon, Heart’s Desire , and Slide Ranch are close seconds.