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The Making Of

Filmmaker Maria Finitzo talks about the difficulties of presenting scientific information in an accessible way, being up front with her subjects and the power of documentary filmmaking.

What led you to make this film?

I wanted to find a compelling story that would put a human face on the stem cell debate. Personal stories are a great way to really get at the heart of an issue.

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

One of the biggest challenges was finding a way of presenting complex scientific information in an accessible and interesting manner without having to “dumb” everything down. I think most people understand stem cell research only through the somewhat polarized way it is presented in traditional media. I think they also think that a “cure” is right around the corner and involves simply injecting stem cells into whatever part of the body needs healing. The biology of stem cells is actually very complicated.

Also weaving all of the different elements that made up the story was very challenging from an editorial standpoint.

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

I try to be completely up-front with the subjects in my film right from the very beginning. Hopefully giving them an idea of what the production process is like, what kinds of questions I will ask, the kind of scenes I will want to film. That way they know from the beginning what they have agreed to participate in. That said, I am very open and available to talk with the people who are in my film about any and all concerns they might have. At the end of the day, my goal is to make a film that they will respect.

Did your perception of stem cell research change during the course of filming? If so, how?

I understood the issues much better by the time I was done filming.

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

The audience response has been very positive to the film. I always try to make a film that my subjects will respect. I think I was able to do this.

The independent film business is a difficult one. What keeps you motivated?

I really believe in the power of documentary films to impact policy and motivate people to engage in issues and events that are important to all of us. I also love telling stories.

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

Public television is a great place for independents to present their work. Independent Lens provides filmmakers like myself with extraordinary support in outreach, marketing, distribution and publicity.

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