POV: What was the inspiration for making No Bigger Than a Minute?
Steven Delano: It’s not necessarily what you’d expect. I’ve been working with motion pictures as an editor for a long time, and I was recommended for a job on someone else’s film: a little person was going to produce a film about dwarfism. I went to speak with them and then they ended up not making that picture. I went back and told my friends and colleagues about that meeting, and they said, “Why don’t you make that picture?” I thought: “Why don’t I?”
It had never occurred to me to make a film about dwarfism before because I’ve been living with it all my life, and to a certain extent, I’ve been avoiding some of the implications of it and how it’s affected my life. So when somebody said, “Make a film,” that’s exactly what the film became about.
POV: In the film, the viewers get a chance to see the kind of attention that you garner just walking down the street. Can you talk a little bit about what your day-to-day existence is like, and explain why it was important for viewers to get this perspective?
Delano: Little people have been represented in ways that some people find demeaning, but the fact remains that we can’t help but be looked at. The visual difference of dwarfism is so immediate and apparent, and you catch someone’s eye most of the time. To a certain degree that unavoidable attention is unwanted. So the focus of attention in my day-to-day existence, whether I like it or not, has become something of a subject of the film.
There is the flip side to that unwanted, unwarranted attention, and the flip side is a good one. What I’ve come to realize, partially through making the film, is that the attention that I get is beneficial because it necessarily means more human interaction between me and the rest of the world. I would venture to say that the average Joe doesn’t get accosted on the street because they don’t capture other people’s attention. Perhaps I seem a little bit less imposing, and so people feel freer to approach me. Questions invariably pop into their minds when they see you, and so a lot of people come up to you on the street and ask you questions. Sometimes that doesn’t go so well, but other times you get to meet some really wonderful people. I think that’s a gift, and I think everybody should try connecting a little bit more with your counterpart on the street as you’re passing one another. It’s been something that has enriched my life, whether I knew it or not.
POV: Tell us about your family’s participation in the film, and what that meant to you.
Delano: My family members and friends reacquainted me with a past that I had more or less left behind without thinking too much about it, because I was just trying to get through on a day-to-day basis. So that was an interesting experience. The conversation that I had with my mom on camera was one of the best conversations that we’ve ever had. There was a camera crew there, but we completely zoned them out and there was just a connection between us. It was also good to talk to my cousin Kris, the self-appointed historian of our age group, about her perspective on things when she was seven and I was two; she has memories that I just didn’t have. My dad is no longer with us, and it was absolutely necessary for me to have him as a presence in the film because, as someone says in the film, the parents of a little person are special whether they want to be or not. So it was great to talk about my dad and the things that he and my mom did for me.
POV: What challenges did you encounter in filming yourself?
Delano: The biggest challenge of making No Bigger Than a Minute was actually becoming more present in the film myself. At the outset, I would have been quite content to make this documentary purely from behind the camera and at the editing bench. But it became apparent that if this film was going to be special, it was going to be so because a little person was making this film. I do have insight and understanding about what it’s like to live in a body like this and interact with the rest of the world, so it became necessary for me to be more visually present in the film.
That was, I have to say, a huge challenge, because I am somebody who doesn’t necessarily like his photographic image. It was a real leap for me, as a person who’s avoided that sort of thing for so long, to be someone who stands in front of the camera. But you just have to do it, you just have to decide that this is what the picture is now, and it turned out to be okay.
POV: What have you learned from making this film?
Delano: There are a number of themes that I hope we address in No Bigger Than a Minute, but I think the overriding theme could be summed up with the word “acceptance.” I’ve come away from making this film with a new understanding about myself and how I thought I was being perceived, and finding an acceptance of who I am. I’ve gotten to this point where I’m about as happy as I ever was or have been, and I think that self-acceptance has been a positive result. I was living on a very surface level, just going through my day-to-day experiences, but when you force yourself to examine your own life more closely, it can be a growing experience. So my life has more meaning now that the film is made, and when other people view the film, I hope that it will have some meaning for them, not just about me but about other members of society who are different than they are.
I would like No Bigger Than a Minute to help engender is acceptance in general. I would hope that in getting to know me, as the viewer does in the film, would give audiences a better understanding about who I am, and who that little person they see walking down the street is. If No Bigger Than a Minute could do anything, I hope it can give someone an inkling of who the human in that abnormally small body is, and that would be a good thing because then that sort of acceptance can apply to everyone else who’s different.