Alexandra Anthony is an award-winning filmmaker who directs, shoots, edits, writes, and narrates her own work. She attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology for graduate school, where she studied filmmaking with Richard Leacock and Ed Pincus. Anthony was an editor for over twenty years for PBS’s award-winning series NOVA, FRONTLINE, and numerous specials for national and international broadcast. Her work earned three Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award. Anthony currently teaches filmmaking at the Rhode Island School of Design.
This interview focuses on Alexandra Anthony’s feature-length documentary, “Lost in the Bewilderness.” The film is about Anthony’s cousin Lucas, who was kidnapped at age five from his native Greece, and found on the eve of his sixteenth birthday in the U.S. Anthony began filming “Lost in the Bewilderness” in 1984, eleven years after Lucas’s disappearance, when his father received a phone call in Greece saying, “I have your son. We live in Laurel, Maryland. If you want him, come and get him.” The centerpiece of the film is Lucas’s re-acquaintance with his Greek family – the struggle to communicate, the unspoken emotion – as they patiently and lovingly, and sometimes comically, try to fill in the blanks of time and distance. Filmed for over 30 years, the viewer witnesses how time’s passage affects all things.
Alexandra's Tips for Aspiring Filmmakers
“Everything you experience is an inspiration, everything you learn goes into your toolkit.”
1. Learn as much as you can about the world: Read, travel, listen to music, spend time in nature, unplugged, go to performances, lectures, museums, author readings, master classes, galleries. Don't be afraid to strike up conversations with people different than you and learn another language!
2. Spend time alone and daydream.
3. Keep a journal every day – note everything that’s intrigued you, sparked an idea, or caught your eye or imagination.
4. Don’t sweat the technology - it changes constantly but the basics stay the same. Learn everything you can about light and sound and the grammar of film. The more you know, the less intimidated you will be by the superficial changes.
5. Look forward to mistakes – greatest way to learn.
6) Respect your subject(s) and your viewers - people’s BS meters are highly tuned machines.
7) Treat each film and film idea as a quest – if you already know how the adventure is going to end, why bother? Surprise yourself with what you've discovered and let the audience share in the process.
8) Learn when it’s time for feedback and when you need to listen to your own “voice”. Trust your gut.
9) Be open to changing original ideas. Adapt. Pay attention to what the essence of a scene is, what your intent is – you’ll keep the integrity of the scene even if you change the details.
10) See as many and as many different kinds of films as you can, across time, from around the world. Go to your local festivals, talk to other filmmakers. And immerse yourself in film history – watch everything ever made!
11) Be able to articulate why you are the only person on the planet who could have made this particular film.
12) Become familiar with all aspects of filmmaking – researching, writing, shooting, sound recording, directing, acting, producing, editing, color correcting, sound design and mixing.
13) Know your strengths, what you love to do yourself, what you want to collaborate on, and what you want to delegate.
14) If you’re working for someone else (or applying for a job) the most important quality, more than experience, is enthusiasm! And no task is beneath you. Everything can be a learning experience.
15) Find your core group of support – people you like and whose work and opinions you respect – to whom you can go for honest, constructive feedback on your ideas, your scripts, your cuts. And you return the favor. (And it’s usually people you went to school with.)