By Eric M.
Do you ever wonder what it would be like to be a movie director? To be able to plan out and create a film? What are the advantages? What are the challenges?
I got the chance on January 24th to interview the Emmy award-winning director of seven independent documentaries including Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around The World (2015) and The Human Experiment (2013), Dana Nachman, at her home in Los Altos.
Dana Nachman, movie director, nominated for 9 awards and winning 8 for her independent documentaries.
Mrs. Nachman directed her first independent documentary in 2008 with Witch Hunt, whose executive producer was the well-known Sean Penn, increasing the film’s popularity and bolstering her career.
However, before being a director, she was a television producer and did news-related short stories for NBC. One day, she realized that a “documentary is sort of a longer story” and allows you to “tell more in-depth stories”, inspiring her to become a director.
Mrs. Nachman explained how being a movie director is not as simple as it sounds. “It’s very competitive, because it’s a very fun job and a lot of people want to do it so you have to be very persistent,” she said.
“Pretty much everything is very hard,” she exclaimed with a laugh. Finding experts and money to make the films is challenging, and you “have to have pretty thick skin” to be able to “get lots of opinions from others” and criticism.
Mrs. Nachman enjoys many things besides making movies. She is a mother of three and loves baking, which she often does in her limited free time. Also, she attends her kids’ sports matches and creates short films with them.
While I was there, I asked her what it felt like after she released a movie. She replied that if someone buys it then “you feel relieved” and happy because “it took a long time and you are happy to be done with it”.
Also, she told me the steps to making a movie. First, you have to think of an idea. Then, you research it and find experts to help you on the topic. After that, you do interviews and shooting before post-production and editing.
To determine what to make a film about, she keeps a running list of ideas and “the ones that stick around are the ones you do,” if they are interesting for an audience. Her movies take one to three years to make, on average.
Mrs. Nachman looks up to two female movie directors: Catherine Biglew and Patty Jenkins, both directors of famous movies. However, she says that she also looks up to “pretty much all movie directors” since it’s so challenging to make one.
If she had all the money in the world to make one movie, she would make it about Captain Shackleton, a British sailor who saved his whole crew when they got stuck on an iceberg when they were sailing to Antarctica because her friend who was making a screenplay on it sadly passed away.
Her favorite movie out of the ones that she has made is Batkid Begins because it didn’t take long to make, made people happy, and “everyone who was involved with it had a really, really good time.”
Currently, Mrs. Nachman is working on a documentary about the assassination of Malcolm X, and also a trilogy of short films whose main characters are 20, 40, and 80 year old women.
Being a movie director, though, does mean you have to travel a lot. Sid, her youngest daughter, said that she doesn’t like “that she goes away all the time.”
Mrs. Nachman is a cool and ambitious person, according to her older daughter, Annie. She loves watching her mom’s movies and sometimes even gives her ideas for some, though they aren’t used often.
Being a movie director is difficult. You have to work extremely hard and be away from your family a lot. Still, Mrs. Nachman is truly the right woman for the tough job, being a “giving, warm, open-hearted, kind, thoughtful, and smart person.” as Mrs. Mohageg, a close friend of Mrs. Nachman, put it.
There are many people that want to be a movie director. There are some that worry that it’s too much work. Dana Nachman, however, can do it all. “She’s like real-life Wonder Woman,” said Mrs. Mohageg.