Thursday, October 27, 2011

Angelus Student Film Festival 2011- Interview with Jenni Nelson 'Love Hacking'

Director, Producer of Love Hacking Winner 2011 Outstanding Documentary Award

Director, Producer of Love Hacking Winner 2011 Outstanding Documentary Award

Jenni Nelson is a Producer, Director, Cinematographer, Editor.

Jenni Nelson recently graduated from the MFA Documentary Film and Video Program at Stanford University. Her films investigate a range of topics, from mental illness and poverty, to quirky character portraits of knitters and robot inventors.

She has filmed internationally in countries such as India and Turkey, most recently working on a project about human rights education that will screen for the United Nations.

Jenni’s work has been recognized in numerous film festivals including Love Hacking, which won the Outstanding Documentary Award at the Angelus Student Film Festival 2011.

Her short documentary Tightly Knit premiered at the 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival and screened in over 100 venues across the country with Lunafest. She is currently working as an Associate Producer for the Program in Bioethics and Film at Stanford University on projects such as Rare, The Revolutionary Optimists, and Map Your World.

While she is invested in social change, her work is infused with strong visual concepts drawn upon from her background as a production designer and prop master on films such as Napoleon Dynamite, Moving McAllister, and the Emmy-award winning PBS series BizKids.

'Love Hacking' centers on a modern day virtual relationship which becomes a reality when a robot inventor falls in love over the Internet and journeys to Nepal to meet his fiance for the first time. This documentary crosses boundaries, barriers, religion and culture to conquer love.

-Please outline briefly your documentary?

“Love Hacking” is a short documentary that follows the journey of Tim Heath, a robot inventor living in Silicon Valley. After a personal reawakening, Tim radically shifts his outlook on courtship and utilizes the technology he knows best in order to find love. He meets Sarita on a dating website, the couple get engaged over Skype, and Tim finds himself on a plane to Nepal to meet his new fiance in person for the first time. “Love Hacking” is a contemporary love story where Mormons and Hindus come together in a journey of faith, technology, and marriage.

-What inspired you to make this 'new age' relevant to our social networking documentary?

After moving to the tech hub of Silicon Valley, I became interested in the ways that technology has shifted how we form relationships. Love Hacking is a character driven story that embraces the contemporary world of technology and globalization and pairs it with the challenges and humor inherent in romantic relationships. At the heart of the film,I am interested in exploring the notion that personal choice and determination is what

binds people in their relationships. While Tim’s method to find a marriage partner may seem unorthodox in Western culture, the idea that he chooses his partner no matter the obstacle is a powerful model for all relationships, whether parent, child, co-worker, or friend. How do we maintain relationships with those we care about through all conditions? What is the difference between virtual and physical communication? Tim and Sarita’s view about trust, determination, and personal choice in commitment resonates with viewers
because there is a universal message in their approach. It was this universal message that spurred me to make the film.

-Please outline where the documentary was shot and any difficulties faced with the location etc?

“Love Hacking” was filmed in Palo Alto, California and Kathmandu, Nepal. After learning of Tim’s engagement over Skype, I began filming with him immediately--only 2 1/2 weeks before his planned wedding and relocation to Nepal. While trying to film the US portion of the story, I was simultaneously trying to plan an international shoot. We were instantly immersed in this whirlwind adventure and upon arriving in Nepal, power outages and traffic jams all became part of the technical mix. However, I kept telling myself that if Tim and Sarita could make this journey, then surely I could find a way to document their story.

-How long did it take from the initial idea to make this documentary to the finished result?

I learned of Tim’s engagement at the beginning of December 2010. Three weeks later, I had completed all of the filming--that included everything in California and Nepal. (While sitting on my return flight from Kathmandu to LAX, I was stunned to realize that it had been just a little over three weeks since the beginning of this journey.) I spent the next five months editing the film during my MFA program at Stanford University.

-What were you hoping that your audience took away with them after seeing your documentary?

Tim creates a beautiful analogy about how marriage should be like open source philosophy. Constant innovation and freely sharing information are key for him. I hope that audiences walk away realizing that we have to innovate in all of our relationships, and personally choose to make them work through all permutations and conditions.

-What is the current position/circumstances with the 2 main characters now and are you considering a sequel?

Tim and Sarita were living together in Nepal until just recently. Because of their visa situation, Tim had to return to the United States. They are anxiously waiting to be reunited once Sarita’s immigration paperwork is approved. But, true to Tim’s style and ease with technology, he dedicates love songs to Sarita on Facebook every few days.

-What projects are you working on currently and in the future?

I am currently editing a project that I helped film this summer in Turkey, India, and Australia on human rights education. I am also in the development phase for a new documentary that I hope to start shooting in
India at the beginning of the new year. This film will be a hybrid documentary that follows several young Bollywood dancers in Delhi, incorporating Bollywood storytelling elements as well as observational filming.

Thank you for your time

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