The Making Of

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Director Vanessa Gould:
“The artists were an absolute joy to work with behind the scenes. I think in a weird way I have some things in common with them. We had a lot to talk about in terms of the ways in which art and science kind of all stem from the same point of creativity.”

Director/producer Vanessa Gould talks about the relationship between filmmaking and paper folding, the universal nature of paper and using digital video to capture ideas.

Independent Lens: What impact do you hope this film will have?

Vanessa Gould: I hope BETWEEN THE FOLDS might do a small part in helping to open up a more interdisciplinary dialogue about creativity in both art and science. It’s curious to me that we’re prone to drawing boundaries around our definitions of “science” and “art,” even though they investigate so many of the same basic things. Whether art, math, philosophy, religion, space science, poetry—the same intellectual questions are often at the root of it. So I hope a broader, interdisciplinary talk will grow. And I think the remarkable examples put forth by the artists and scientists in the film can really help in doing that.

IL: What led you to make BETWEEN THE FOLDS?

VG: I had never picked up a camera before, so I was really using the camera as a new tool for exploring ideas that I’ve been thinking about for a long time. But they were so abstract, like something I could sense more than express in words. So I was always eager to find a medium—or a metaphor—that could help capture my thoughts. When I first learned about artists and scientists working in the same medium of paper, it was literally like the earth shook.

In a kind of frenzied determination to start documenting it, the nature of digital video seemed like the most logical approach. I liked the contrast between the enduring nature of video and the fragile, fleeting nature of the artwork. On the other hand, filmmaking has so much in common with paper folding—they’re both creative, process-oriented, technical, structured and expressive. So the working metaphors kept growing throughout the project, and I really felt like we were finding something where our process and the medium itself strengthened and reified the ideas within the film.

IL: What were some of the challenges you faced in making this film?

VG: Finding a compelling arc in a film about ideas—rather than an event or a person—was probably the hardest thing. But, for me, these ideas are as emotionally gripping as any plot in a film. So I tried to carry that same magical feeling of fascination that I felt about the material into the project, to make it resonate with the audience the same way a traditional story would.

Financing was also a huge challenge. Or, really, working without financing.

IL: How did you gain the trust of the subjects in your film?

VG: I think in some ways I’m cut from the same cloth as many of them. We had lots to talk about off-camera besides origami. And we kind of experience the world through many of the same lenses—through music, through form, through patterns and numbers. So, it was a natural friendship that formed with many of them. Also, simply by asking a lot of questions, and by listening and observing.

IL: What would you have liked to include in your film that didn’t make the cut?

VG: There are many talented and innovative people choosing to work in paper and 2D surfaces—engineers, architects, sculptors, scientists and fine artists. So many of them deserve attention, and have beautiful work and ideas to share. In a way, the film only reveals the tip of the iceberg. I also wish the stars had been better aligned to include more women, because there are amazing women at the forefront of the movement. But unfortunately things didn’t work out that way.

IL: Tell us about a scene in the film that especially moved or resonated with you.

VG: They all did—that’s how they made it into the final cut. But filming the Palestinian and Israeli school kids was a particularly special day, where I felt this renewed sense of awe at the unsparingly democratic and universal nature of paper. Without even speaking the same language, the kids connected with each other so naturally through the process of folding it. That specific feeling of awe stayed with me, and it was a feeling I knew I wanted to try to bring to the whole film.

IL: What has the audience response been so far? Have the people featured in the film seen it, and if so, what did they think?

VG: It’s been amazing. It’s garnered a devoted following around the world that has really blown me away, honestly. And when it wins an audience award, I just get this warm feeling that the material is really touching people in the way I had hoped it would. The people in the film have seen it, and I think they’re thrilled that more people are getting excited about paper folding, and recognizing it as a legitimate art form, as well as a valid mode of scientific inquiry.

IL: Why did you choose to present your film on public television?

VG: I worked hard to make a film that would speak to different people in different ways, so finding an audience with the scope and diversity of PBS’s was a dream scenario. I’m so thrilled it all worked out.

IL: What didn’t you get done when you were making your film?

VG: Honestly, just about everything else. I know that’s not a romantic answer, but it’s pretty accurate.

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