There’s an off-grid, independent ethos to selfless, a film which explores our fascination… well… with ourselves. We spoke to director Kim Laureen about the documentary pushing away the doom and gloom of the techno world and finding a sustainable alternative
D&CFilm: selfless is a response to the digitalized, narcissistic world around of modern technology. Why did you think a documentary was the way to go and what were you trying to show?
Kim Laureen: We became concerned when we looked around us and saw heads down – faces not engaged in one another. Wondering how we might impact this ever growing epidemic with selfies, social media and technology we began researching statistics which are grim – so we decided to push away the doom and gloom and create a project which offers hope for youth and parents to navigate this new time we live in. Technology is not going away nor should it, so let’s find a way to sustain balance body, mind and soul.
We love films – especially documentaries and it seemed a brilliant option to engage people with a story filled with narrative – colour and music that would light up the soul.
D&CFilm: You knew Kuki before you started making selfless. How did you you get to know each other, why did you decide to follow her in the documentary, and considering the wide interest in their off-grid life, why did they decide to work with you?
Kim Laureen: Yes we did – and we like to say she found us. With a love for music our work here at Fresh Independence began interviewing artists and shooting live sessions and somehow in this big ole’ world Kuki & the Bard found our little music blog and reached out for an interview.
My producer became quite infatuated with their simple story and listening to their song Dali Lama it just made you feel happy. That was a couple of years prior to our documentary project.
When we decided to take a positive approach to the project we asked one another, ‘If a girl lived in the forest with no mirrors, magazines or social media – What would beautiful look like to her and how would she see herself?’ Then sweet Kuki immediately came to mind – she is unique and beautiful in the most natural sense of the word and so we reached out to her parents and they said ‘yes come on over.’
The Warburton’s are a lovely family and what we love most about them is that they look to one another for their connections in life. They had shared with us that they have had interest from others to do a documentary with them, but they have always said no – it seems they felt a connection to us and the integrity of the story we were trying to tell. That has been the best part of this story – watching the points of light connect along the way.
D&CFilm: Kuki and The Bard provide music of the film – what that always planned or did it grow along with the film?
Kim Laureen: I actually had another song in mind for the lead and inspiration of the film – Ed Sheeran, ‘What Do I Know’ – I will always be thankful because the lyrics in there set us up for some direction as to where we wanted to go, but once I started to explore Kuki & the Bard’s library of work I was led in a direction that pulled me deeper into the heart and soul of what that original song evoked within me.
What began to happen as I worked on the storyboard and with some of the narrative – I would put on my headphones and listen to, ‘Crystal Ball‘ and that just opened me up to the whole process and Kuki’s voice and lyrics took my thoughts to a place I never dreamed. It felt so much that it was simply Kuki in the beginning, but as we got to engage time with the Warbuton’s I could see how she was an extension of all they are together and how Izzi her brother is where much of her reason for music comes from. Izzi is lovely and talented in his own right and I now understand that they are not one without the other.
The other songs they brought with them felt as though each had been written for exactly this moment. We love the soundtrack – it makes the film unique and we are also blessed to have music from some Vancouver artists who were with us from the earliest days of our journey. It seems all comes together exactly as it is meant to be.
D&CFilm: Your film company Fresh Independence Productions is based in Vancouver, you cinematographer Nick Hamer is based in Leicester and you filmed in Devon. How did you all come together and how did you solve the problem of logistics, if and when they arose?
Kim Laureen: Well Nick is an important part of our story and we feel so blessed to have connected with him. With our project being unfunded and with no budget we hired cinematographers at each location as we went along.
When we arrived in the UK we placed an ad for the work we needed done with the ‘x’ amount of pounds we had in our pocket. A number of people answered, but the time spent going off grid it did not seem worth their while, but Nick said, “Hey this project sounds brilliant and I can buy groceries for my family this month with what you are offering.” So that was it – he was ours and we learned so much from him as this was our first project of this magnitude and a learning as we grow process.
Our wish would of been to have him with us wherever we went, but that was not a possibility; even at distance he was there during our editing process with some feedback and to offer the support when we needed it most in post-production. He is a lovely soul who does beautiful work and we would not have attained such lush footage or found our location off grid if not for him! Our vision is to work with him again during our sequel which is in development now.
D&CFilm: You’ve taken selfless around the world. How has the film been received are there cultural / geographic differences to the way the film is received?
Kim Laureen: I think some of the differences are found as dynamics of the viewing audience change – conversations are different boys to girls – parents to children.
Country to country perhaps we receive different comments within the topics on moral code and choices because cultures are different, but in the end people are not – they are ultimately reaching for the same thing ‘happiness’ and ‘self worth’. During creation of the film it did not matter if we visited a school of privilege or high risk – we heard the same underlying message of, ‘Loneliness in the social media age.’
D&CFilm: The project has been unfunded – how did you finance the making of the selfless and what difficulties / opportunities have you encountered and overcome in the promotion of the film?
Kim Laureen: Yes our project is unfunded – we pitched it to a lot of places and though the subject is timely and relevant no one wanted to take a chance on two girls who wanted to make a feature length film.
So we turned to the Aeroplan miles I had saved over a number of years buying groceries for our large family and that got us from location to location. I like to think, “that which nourished my family also fed this story.”
The rest we pieced together bit by bit as our personal funds would allow over the course of 18 months – we did many tasks ourselves, but also found others who were willing to work for a smaller price because the project resonated with them. I think people could see that our hearts were on fire for this project and they wanted to be a part of it.
Funding is an obstacle and continues to be so in the distribution phase, but I have to say that I feel our project was born from something greater than money and I believe the power of the human spirit can take you places you never dreamed.
D&CFilm: You mentioned you’re different filmmakers than you were at the beginning and that selfless is ‘imprefectly perfect, much like life itself’. Can you give us a quick example about what you have learned and what you’d do differently?
Kim Laureen: With this project being a learning as we go process we made a lot of mistakes along the way, but we learned from those mistakes which made them tough to look at up on the editing board – but if we had given up because of those mistakes or discarded that footage we would not have the film we have today and we want people to know that even mistakes are an important part of your story.
Yes selfless is a film imperfectly-perfect much like life itself and we should not be putting a filter on our lives – somehow this makes our film richer and inspiring to people.
From a technical perspective you learn to let everything breathe while you are filming, but within that you need to pay great attention to details. Look at the bigger picture of your shot and never underestimate the importance of a sound technician. We learned to value every part of the process of creation in filming of course, but also in editing and post.
Give yourself time to find structure on the storyboard and even more time to go back and have a second look – and then watching the beauty unfold with the mastery of colour is breath taking, but try to get it all right instead of having to fix things later. Challenge yourself to be a brilliant director!
D&CFilm: Do you have any plans for your next feature and where can we keep up-to-date with screenings and news of selfless?
Kim Laureen: Yes we have a sequel on the storyboard that flows effortlessly form this film called, “Beauty Full” and will be shot in much the same essence as selfless. Activating the heart and taking people back to the question ‘What are we reaching for?’
To stay up to date on selfless – screenings and how you can bring it to your own community please go to selflessmovie.com
D&CFilm: Good luck with promoting the film, and thanks for your time Kim!
selfless is on at The Barn on Friday, September 20 at 7.30pm, the event will include a live performance from Kuki and The Bard, and a Q&A with the director after the film. Book your tickets