Tuesday, 2 March 2010

A Q&A With Yolanda Barker, Director Of Prisms Of Light

We're chatting with Yolanda Barker, the director and brainchild behind Prisms of Light . As the documentary is now in the early stages, we thought we'd give our readers a chance to get to know Yolanda's thoughts and visions behind POL before she heads off to India to shoot. Enjoy!

Q: Why did you decide to become a documentary filmmaker?

Ever since I can remember, I've wanted to do something with my life that allowed me to touch and connect with other people. When I was nine my dad bought a camcorder and without really thinking, I started making films! With film you can connect with people in a very powerful way, because it combines so many different creative disciplines. (Admittedly I didn't think about it that logically when I was nine! But on some level it really appealed to me).

My interest in documentary began in media college, where I realised people were making amazing works of art shaped from pure reality. I think fiction films can definitely touch people, and make a difference in the world, but for me documentaries are more hard-hitting. You can't brush your feelings under the carpet and say: "Oh - it's just a film". I want to make films that encourage people to walk in each others' shoes, and I think I can achieve this more effectively through documenting real people in real situations.

Q: What inspired you to make a film about India and spirituality?

Well, some films are born out of fascination, and others are born out of experience. This film is very personal to me, because I was an atheist for most of my life, but in in my mid-twenties this changed. I had a series of experiences that convinced me that there was more around us than what we perceive through our five senses. I became extremely spiritual for about 2 years, and I experimented with lots of different spiritual traditions, and met many, many people.

Over that time-frame I kept hearing India being talked about. I began to feel a very strong desire to go there, but I didn't, because I had a perception that people who went were running away from something. Gradually I began to integrate spirituality into my life, instead of it being the main focus. I had a more detached viewpoint, and became deeply interested in conveying through film the things that I had observed and experienced during my spiritual honeymoon. And at the same time my desire to go to India hadn't abated. And then it clicked with me - What better place to make a film about spirituality than a place where people specifically go to connect with that part of themselves?

Q: Do you consider yourself a spiritual person?

This is an interesting question, because definitions of what is "spiritual" vary wildly depending on culture and belief systems. In some cultures animal sacrifice is a spiritual practice, in others abstaining from sex suggests spiritual purity. I believe that being human is a multi-faceted experience : we're physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual creatures, but some people don't believe that they have spirits in the same way that others deny that they have emotions, or physical desires.

For me, spirituality isn't associated with a specific religion or philosophy or god. It's an understanding that life expands from a certain inwardness. "As within, so without". It's an ongoing journey where every experience has meaning. Life becomes a learning experience from the inside out. So yes, in this sense I do consider myself a spiritual person, because I try to approach life honestly, and with awareness. But it doesn't matter to me how interested or disinterested in spirituality a person is - they're still spiritual because I believe everything and everyone comes from a spiritual energy.

Q: Funding for independent films is becoming more and more difficult and recent economic conditions seem to have left a lot of financiers in a stagnant mode. What approach are you taking to see your project come to fruition?

The Age of Stupid really inspired me, because they raised their entire budget through what is called 'crowd-funding'. (This is basically raising money by asking hundreds or even thousands of people to contribute sums of money). Their approach and attitude was cutting-edge, and it proved that the days of being dependent on studios and funding bodies really are over. With Prisms we are applying for funding from established bodies, but we're also approaching individuals and sponsors and asking them to contribute. We're not putting all our eggs in one basket.

Q: What are some of your favourite documentaries?

At the moment, my three favourite docs are: Capturing the Fredmans and The Cove, which are both amazingly crafted stories by very intelligent directors, and Waltz With Bashir which is a visually stunning, beautifully scored, very original approach to documentary filmmaking.

Q: What advice do you have to offer aspiring filmmakers?

Learn a skill and develop a network of inspiring, supportive people around you. Those two things will keep you going financially and emotionally when you get disillusioned and feel like quitting! It happens to us all, but personally I am so so glad that I stuck with filmmaking. When it works for you, there's nothing like it. You get the opportunity to explore a topic that really interests you, and to share it with other people using pictures and sounds. You get to work with like-minded people and develop really meaningful friendships. You flit between different cultures, subcultures, and fictional worlds. I'm totally honoured to be able to say that I passionately love what I do, and I am so grateful because it feels like I'm living my life every day.

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