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Girl with a Movie Camera – Redux

Once upon a time, I used to have a blog called “Girl with a Movie Camera” – at first chronicling the post-production of my feature-length film Dove Sei Tu, and eventually evolving into a diary of my first year living in Paris, France.

The title of the blog came from one of my favorite films: Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera – a landmark black & white Russian documentary from 1929 that was light years ahead of its contemporaries in terms of cinematography and editing.

I started the blog in 2004 – it was first called “Dove Sei Tu,” borrowing its name from the title of the film I was making. Following a serendipitous chain of events, the blog caught the attention of Evan Williams (the now CEO of Twitter), who wrote a post about it and recommended it as a “Blog of Note.” As a consequence, the blog started drawing thousands of visitors on a daily basis – and I would receive emails from readers from all over the world, writing in to say how much they enjoyed reading about my adventures.

Over the course of my first year in Paris, my desire to keep the blog up to date somewhat fizzled. Life sort of happened. My priorities shifted and I resolved that in order to become fluent in French, I would have to give up writing in English and actually start focusing on the beautiful verses of Rimbaud et al.

Fast-forward to four years later. The number one item that is a fixture on my New Year’s resolution list is: keep a diary. Second: resume writing about filmmaking.

Over the course of the past month, the idea of “resurrecting” Girl with a Movie Camera has become a persistent thought. A series of events has motivated me to take a leap and actually do it.

Chief amongst them: the realization that I used to be a good writer – and unfortunately I have “lost” it due to lack of practice and a chronic writer’s block.

After a recent Skype conversation with fellow filmmaker Mike Ambs of Project Pedal – in which he waxed lyrical about my former blog – I dug up the Girl with a Movie Camera archives, which were preciously saved up in several PDF files, since I had since erased the original blog. I read 12 months’ worth of posts in one go. I was in shock. I couldn’t even believe that had been me writing. Because the tone and words I used seemed to belong to somebody else – someone wittier and more eloquent than I could ever imagine being. And someone a lot lot happier and more adventurous! I read in stupor about my first blissful months in Paris – about stumbling upon Pedro Almodovar at Colette’s, crossing A.O. Scott in Cannes, and following Wong Kar-Wai around at a party. This is the kind of stuff that I love having recorded in some way, so that I can go back to it in say, 20 years from now, and delight in minute details that my memory couldn’t possibly hold.

Also: I started the multimedia project “No Country for Young Women” as a reaction to the lack of positive role models in our media – a landscape saturated with stories of young actresses, singers and models. And where are the professional women? No wonder I have a hard time being taken seriously as a (relatively) young female director. There are no examples of young female cinematographers and directors to refer to (with the exception of Sofia Coppola, class of 1971). I wouldn’t so much dare say that I’d be a good role model (how arrogant of me!) but I’d like to offer an example. Hello, I’m Elena and I’m a one woman filmmaking machine: I write, produce, direct, shoot, and edit.

And so, Girl with a Movie Camera is coming back to life. Well, I’m a grown up, so Woman with a Movie Camera feels like a more fitting title.

Hats off to Dziga in the humblest possible way.