POV: Describe your stylistic approach to making No Bigger Than a Minute.
Steven Delano: It was important to me that No Bigger Than a Minute be different than other films that one might have seen about the topic of dwarfism. I was determined to avoid sentimentality. Because of my interests in pop culture in general, I wanted to make something that’s more on the stylistic side, with some attitude; I wanted to make a film that was a little more in your face than the traditional documentary. So that necessarily meant delving into all my interests, which include movies, television and music. In terms of subjects, we made the conscious choice to seek out someone like Bushwick Bill, who has his own form of self-determination and acceptance, and who is, by his personality and occupation — a hardcore rapper — more in your face than the usual suspects in a documentary about dwarfism.
In terms of stylistics, it was important for me to shoot on film, because I wanted to present the individuals who appear in the film with what I think of as the dignity of film. So we shot a good deal of No Bigger Than a Minute on Super-16. But on the other hand, because the film is a product of its day and age, it also incorporates a lot of different formats and archival materials, including Beta, Beta-SP, DV-Cam, Super 8 and still photography.
The film is unconventional in terms of its biographical aspect. It evolved into a movie about me and my personal experience in this world. We used formats like Super-8, digital video and others to lend a surreal aspect to the opening of the film. It’s not your conventional jumping off point, and it’s experimental, in that it tries to reenact an experience from my childhood — which I can still do because I’m roughly the same height that I was at that age. I also made the film in a self-reflexive way, to take charge of how people will look at me. But that necessarily means that you have to have some grounding in the history of how little people have been represented and exhibited for other people’s amusement, so archival footage comes into play, as well as elements of pop culture that related to the topic.
POV: Talk about why you chose to reenact the experience from your childhood, and tell us about the segments of the film that show you playacting on photo shoots. Why did you choose to represent yourself this way?
Delano: Throughout history, as far back as ancient Egypt and other ancient cultures, you’ll find depictions of little people. It’s very telling how little people have been represented and exhibited. In the Renaissance era, dwarves became something of a fad, a luxury item for kings and queens to own as part of their court. They didn’t have to prove themselves, or do anything that was economically viable. They were simply objects, and that’s all they needed to be. But more inspired artists like Velázquez came to know these dwarves as people, and gave them the dignity of proper portraiture. I really enjoyed finding out about the changes in the representations of dwarves as history went on, and it’s something that I’m trying to do as well by presenting images of dwarfs that acknowledge the dignity of the individual.
One way to go about that is to say, “I’m going to show you myself. This is how I’m going to present myself to you.” In that regard, I think humor is critical, and a little bit of playacting wasn’t a bad thing. There are photo shoots that are shown in No Bigger Than a Minute when I am playacting the rock star, the dwarf in the king’s court and the circus clown. There are also images that represent me in a more personal way, not just playacting, but giving the viewer some glimpse of who I am, where I came from and where I’m going. That necessarily meant starting with this reenactment of some films that were taken when I was in the hospital as a child.