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April 25, 2014

Why Are You Here?

March Ten years ago, my not yet wife, Lynn Harris Medcalf, and I went to Washington, D.C. to participate in The March For Women’s Lives. It was a bigger event than I had ever seen or been a part of before and while that was impressive, the size wasn’t what mattered. It was the reason that mattered. People traveled from all across the country and came together in one place to raise their voice because they cared about the inequality that women face everyday all over the world, but especially in America, the most “free” place on the planet.

At that point, it was only three years into my career as a self-employed freelance video camera operator and I wanted to document the event. I made a conscious decision to conduct short interviews with many different people, but only ask them one question; Why are you here? Now, ten years later, the work still holds up and feels as vital as it did then. It is. Many of the same issues are still present and many of the feelings are as raw now as they were then.

Mrchin' As a video producer and camera operator, my job is to tell and show the truth. After I started producing videos and not just shooting them (with this project being the first full production I had ever done), I have always been about the feel of it. What does the viewer feel and think about during and after watching one of my pieces? Some pieces come across better than others. Every piece I do is not amazing, but when the time is right and I capture an authentic moment with someone, it makes me very proud to have been trusted by the person in front of the camera.

A beautiful side note to this project is that I did not do it alone. After returning to Atlanta, Lynn was very involved in crafting the story from the interviews captured and picking the music that helps to augment the feeling that comes across in this piece. We had not worked together on a project before and it was years after until we worked together again, but as an early experience of really seeing what someone else creatively brings to the table, it was great for me. It helped me to not just trust my own instincts, but trust the instincts of others professionally as well as personally.

Crane shotThese days, I love conducting interviews because I’m very curious about people, where they come from, what they do for a living, why they do what they do or live the way the live. What do people care about and why? I’m curious to find out. And for how long I can go on talking to people sometimes, I love that this very early project in my career started with the question: Why are you here? It’s a very simple question that will almost always guarantee a different response. It’s the beauty of being human; while we are very similar, we are very different at the same time and because of that, there’s always a story to tell.

You can watch it here.

-Jon Milavec

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