Interview with director Paul Zehrer (BEING SEEN)

Paul Zehrer’s short film “BEING SEEN” was the winner of BEST FILM at the March 2017 DOCUMENTARY Short Film Festival

 Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

My cinematographer, Chikara Motomura, and I were approached by the director of Lifehouse Agency in Marin, CA, to create a video that would help the community better understand the work they do. Lifehouse has been serving adults with developmental disabilities to live independantly for over 40 years.

From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

About three years. We originally made a longer film specifically for Lifehouse that was more of a promotional film. However, in making that film, we became very involved with these individuals throughout the Bay Area and realized that there was a much more universal story to tell.

How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Being Seen

What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

We were fortunate to have some funding to make the film, but it’s been difficult finding the necessary funding required to get this out in the world and maintain a website and social media outreach — all which requires enormous amount of time and energy and difficult to get money to support.

What were your initial reactions when watching the Toronto audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

Very rewarding. Affirmed what we had hoped to achieved by making this film. Thank you.

WATCH the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

It simply evolved organically out of the stories we heard from the people we met and interviewed. It was pretty self-evident that these people had a lot to share and what they spoke about was not about how tough they had it or self-pitying, but rather dreams, desires and ambitions like most people.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

I actually don’t have a lot of time to watch films anymore. I very much like the poetic and soulful work of Terrance Malick and Andre Tarkovsky– but few people know of those filmmakers anymore.

What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

Probably something I’ve had to play for my son like Baby Beluga or Somewhere Over the Rainbow 🙂 If I had time, I’d listen to more Indian ragas.

What is next for you? A new film?

We are looking to raise completion funds for a documentary we’ve been making about early childhood education in crisis zones like the Gaza and the Westbank, as well as Oakland and South L.A.. It’s a film that looks at alternative interventions that help young children overcome debilitating trauma that often effects them years later as young adults — legacies that too often perpetuate the cycles of violence in those places.


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival


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