INTERVIEW WITH DANYA ABT

Eric, Winter to Spring

a film by Danya Abt

How did you go about meeting Eric?

I met Eric when I was a fellow at the Uniondocs Studio Collaborative in Brooklyn, NY. ¬†At the time we were working on a bigger project called “Living Los Sures” about the South side of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. Along with a few collaborators, we were looking for story ideas and decided to hold an “audition” for people to be in a documentary. This was staged kind of half-jokingly to acknowledge the strangeness of jumping into a neighborhood and trying to produce work there, and to find willing participants. Two people showed up that day, and one of them was Eric. He does some background work on feature films and had come to see what the project was all about. I didn’t know much about Eric at that point except that he had stories to tell and was a great storyteller, so we basically would be getting to know each other while shooting the film. Several months later, I got back in touch with Eric and asked him to participate in the doc.

How different, do you feel, is this short doc from previous work?

This doc is somewhat of a departure from previous work. My first docs were advocacy pieces, so this one which is more of a portrait, doesn’t perfectly align me with the aims of the person who is being depicted. If the filming gets challenging or inconvenient you don’t necessarily have the bigger mission to look towards. So in that way it was challenging. On the other hand, Eric gave me so much to work with in terms of great stories and opening his life to us.

How much did collaboration, between filmmaker/subject, figure into this film?

I think filmmaker/subject collaboration factored a lot into this film. The first couple of shoots for the project, I simply put a GoPro camera in Eric’s cab and trained it on him (you can see this in the opening scene) and just left it running during his shift. I told him to talk to the camera, say what’s going on, what’s he’s thinking. He could turn it off or on. At the end of the shift I would take the footage an listen through and I got to know Eric a lot better through this footage. But it also made him partner in his own documentation, and he’d be excited if he caught something funny or bizarre on camera.

What projects are you working on currently?

Is it lame to admit I’m not working on any of my own docs currently? Cause I’m not. I sort of abandoned the last one. I’ve worked as an editor for years and have started also story producing for tv. I love make films, I really do, I love the process, which can be a barrier to finishing films. I’m sort of tired of beating myself up for not finishing my films, so I’m taking a break from pretending that I’m doing something that I’m not.

Danya Abt is an editor and documentary filmmaker based out of New York City. Her films have shown at the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Detroit Institute of the Arts and have been televised nationally. Her recent short film Eric, Winter to Spring was a selection for the True/False and Camden Film Festivals and was selected as Best Documentary Short at the Brooklyn Film Festival.

Danya has taught and guest-lectured at Sacred Heart University, the Skopelos Foundation for the Arts and the University of Buffalo.