POV: What is this film about?
Jay Rosenblatt: I Used to be a Filmmaker tracks the development of my daughter from birth, from 10 minutes old to approximately 18 months, and it also shows the development of our father-daughter relationship. It's about parental love, about my heart opening and about how a relationship develops with a new being. What separates it from just a home movie is that each segment is preceded by a filmmaking term, often used ironically.
POV: What inspired you to make this film?
Becoming a parent was an awe-inspiring experience. It was also frustrating not to be able to work on a film project since there seemed to be no time left in the day.
The idea for the film started with the title, which was an actual response to someone who asked what I did. It all flowed from there.
POV: Why did you choose documentary in this case?
Jay: My daughter is too young to read a script.
POV: What makes your daughter, Ella, so compelling as a subject?
Jay: I wasn't sure that my daughter would necessarily be interesting to other people, so it was very important to come up with an idea or a conceit that would make it interesting. And I think the film does that. I am very biased, but I think she's very photogenic and was surprisingly comfortable with the camera around. I mean, at first she wasn't even aware of the camera, and then as the months went on, she became more and more aware.
POV: What was the biggest challenge of making this film?
Jay: Trying to figure out what would appeal to people other than her parents and her grandparents. The biggest challenge was figuring out what to cut because I could watch hours of her, but I knew an audience of strangers couldn't. So I had to try to find what was more universal and what was interesting in relation to the structure of the film. The way I solved that was to bring in people that I trust but who also are pretty severe in their criticism. They helped me through it because it could have been a much longer film from my perspective, but I knew that wouldn't have been good for the film.
POV: What aspect of making this film was most satisfying to you?
Jay: I think my greatest satisfaction with making this film was being able to combine my love for my daughter and my love of filmmaking. It's rare to be able to do something like that, to meld something that private with something that you do for a living.
POV: What was the most surprising thing to you in making I Used to be a Filmmaker?
Jay: How much I enjoyed editing the film and watching my daughter grow up on camera. It was one of the most pleasurable experiences I've had as a filmmaker. Of course the challenge was to separate being a parent who loves his home movies from being a filmmaker.
POV: How did the making of this film change you?
Jay: The subject matter of this film is so different from my other films, you could almost call this a comedy. In a way it lightened me up a bit because my other films have very dark and serious subject matters, and this was just pure light. So that was a nice departure.
POV: What is your motivation as a filmmaker?
Jay: One of my motivations is to create thought-provoking films that serve as catalysts for discussion, reflection and ultimately, healing. Of course, I want my work to be aesthetically appealing and entertaining to audiences.
POV: What projects are you currently working on?
Jay: Right now, I'm working on a film that is called Suicide. It's in its very initial stages. And I'm also continuing to work with Ella. I Used to be a Filmmaker is the first in a series of short films about me and my daughter. Since finishing that film, I've made two other very short pieces with her that show her development and also indirectly show our relationship. And now I'm starting on a fourth piece. They're getting harder and harder to make because she's becoming more and more difficult to work with. For instance the last film that I finished, she basically tells me to shut up, which is a big developmental change and makes it harder because she's much more aware of the camera now. But I want to continue doing it as long as she allows it.