"The Axe in the Attic" Q&A with Lucia Small at Museum of the Moving Image - Feb. 23, 2008
Q&A with Co-Director Lucia Small
The Museum of the Moving Image
February 23, 2008
Livia: How did you meet Ed and how did you both develop The Axe in the Attic?
Lucia: We met in 2002 as jurors at the New England Film & Video Festival in Boston. He had a name I knew of and I had read his Filmmakers Handbook. We watched films together for four days with other jurors. We talked about many ideas for making a film together over the course of the next few years, and when Katrina happened, I called him up.
Livia: What was the division of labor between you and Ed?
Lucia: Ed is a great cinematographer. I had done some cinematography. I ended up doing the sound, but also filmed a lot of tracking shots. Our deal was if he shot it, I got to edit it.
Livia: What was the process like?
Lucia: This was the first film I ever edited. We had 187 hours of footage. It took three months to log and digitize. I felt it was such a collaboration of views and point of views. We needed to be side by side.
Livia: How did you select your subjects for the interviews?
Lucia: Sometimes we would stay at locations for two days or a week. When we were in Alabama, we made a whole film of the Cross family. We went to their house a lot. There’s footage of their uncle that didn’t make it into the final film. We filmed over 150 people. We wanted to cast a large sweep that showed a diversity of the problems. It was important to show a diverse class and cover the basis.
Livia: How did you get them all to open up and participate?
Lucia: Most of them were excited to talk with us. They were frustrated with talking about their cases to FEMA over and over again, and not getting it documented.
Livia: Why did you and Ed include the footage of yourselves in the film?
Lucia: It was a big debate of how much we should film ourselves. Ed is the grandfather of autobiographical filmmaking. For Diaries, he filmed himself and his family for five years. My first film, My Father the Genius, was also autobiographical. The access issue is simple, but it became more complicated, for instance, when I had to show myself crying. We kept asking ourselves, what’s the honesty in the film?
Livia: How did you approach the score for the film?
Lucia: Todd Horton, our composer, was great. Some people wanted there to be a New Orleans sound. I wanted hints of it, but have it be more obtuse. Todd worked endlessly to get the melancholy. I didn’t want the music to tell you how to feel.
Livia: There wasn't really any “talking heads” type interviews in the film? Why was that?
Lucia: Ed is from a cinema verité style of filmmaking. We wanted to be more in the trenches. We incorporated ourselves because we wanted the viewer to be with us on our journey.
Livia: How can people get a copy of the film?
Lucia: On the donation page on our website.
Livia: What other projects are you working on?
Lucia: Since February 2003, I’ve been working on a film about post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s a hybrid documentary/narrative focusing on soldiers returning from Iraq.
Question: Does The Axe in the Attic have distribution? Have you shown it anywhere else?
Lucia: We were fortunate to have our world premier at the New York Film Festival. There is no distribution currently. The difficulty is people have a hard time figuring out how to sell it. There are about six other Katrina films out there. I think they should be packaged together.
Question: Has distribution been difficult because this is a story that’s real and of a political nature?
Lucia: I think there is some of that. It’s about responsibility as a whole citizenship. It’s really complicated, I don’t understand. These are critical stories.
Question: Have you been back to New Orleans recently?
Lucia: We’re trying to organize a reunion and screening there. We were in touch with some of the people during the making of the epilogue.
Lucia: We’re trying to align our film with foundations and developing supplemental materials and links on our website.
Question: Did you encounter any wildlife while shooting your film?
Lucia: We had a bird section. There was very little wildlife. Mostly just black crows. Brandon, one of the volunteers interviewed in the film, was very excited when he saw a roach.
Question: Did you think about interviewing people who were less affected by Katrina?
Lucia: We did, but this was a story of a homeland that was forgotten and shaken. The balance came with the stories of the people who were displaced.
Question: What was your time frame?
Lucia: We stopped filming in February of 2006, and started cutting in August of 2006. We finished editing at the end of September 2007, which is when we talked with people for the epilogue.