Females in Film | Filmmaking | Interviews | Massachusetts

An Interview with Documentarian Michaela O’Brien

15 Oct , 2014  

Written by Catherine Stewart | Posted by:

Fellow female filmmakers discuss work, life, and more in this new series, Females in Film. For this installment, NewEnglandFilm.com writer Catherine Stewart talks to Michaela O’Brien about sharing real stories with the world and her film Far from C3, which is currently screening as part of the Online New England Film Festival,

This series of articles features interviews with established and emerging female filmmakers living and working in New England, as well as prominent industry figures from our region. Filmmaker Catherine Stewart discusses distribution, finding work, making connections, and handling collaborations, along with whatever else comes along. We encourage you to join the conversation here on NewEnglandFilm.com or on Twitter using #femalesinfilm.

It doesn’t take long to realize that Michaela O’Brien is a filmmaker who truly understands the beauty of a shot, and how to capture truth and the reality of her subjects. Currently living and working in Boston, MA, she is an experienced photographer and documentary filmmaker with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and International Studies from Boston College. From there, she went on to study filmmaking and photography at The New England School of Photography and the New England Institute of Art.

For the past five years, she has worked at Northern Light Productions, a non-fiction and documentary media outlet, where she served as an Associate Producer, Cinematographer, Production Manager, and Archival Researcher. Michaela has worked on documentary broadcast specials for outlets such as the Investigation Discovery Channel and on award-winning audio/visual installations and interactive videos for a variety of acclaimed museums. “My freelance video and photographic work is often more ethnographic and observational in quality,” she explains to me, as well as being featured in film festivals and galleries nationwide.

O’Brien recently taught a photography class at the New American Center in Lynn, MA. The center is for newly emigrated youth coming to the United States, often under refugee status. While there, she met a very graceful and admirable young woman named NuNu, a 12-year-old refugee from Burma with no family to support her. They quickly formed a friendship, and O’Brien became her mentor. NuNu bounced around a few different foster homes, one of which was with Paw Wah, an ethnic Karen (third largest population in Myanmar) woman living in Worcester. This is how O’Brien met Paw Wah, the main subject of her film, Far From C3. O’Brien began to photograph and film with Paw Wah while visiting NuNu. Slowly but surely, she began to open up and share her story.

“Ultimately, her story is one of hope, as she expresses the desire to continue her education so that she in turn can help others adjust to life in a new country,” O’Brien explains. Working as director, cinematographer, and producer of Far From C3, O’Brien formed a unique and trusting relationship with her subject, one that is extremely important when capturing any real life story. But O’Brien turned to colleague, Melissa Langer, to gain an outside eye, and work as editor for the film.

Far from C3 is currently screening as part of the Online New England Film Festival, and O’Brien shared her excitement for this opportunity with me: “I‘m always glad to participate in community initiatives and ones that foster the arts. It is my first online film festival and I am proud that it is a New England-based one.”

This fall, Michaela will begin pursuing her MFA at Duke University’s Experimental and Documentary Arts program. She is also continuing her work on her documentary In Crystal Skin, with an anticipated finish in the spring of 2015. Shot in Bogotá, Colombia, it traces the lives of four individuals challenged by Epidermolysis Bullosa, a severe and inherited skin disorder. For more information, visit www.incrystalskin.com

Far From C3 is available to view online as part of The Online New England Film Festival here on NewEnglandFilm.com through October 15, 2014. For more information about Michaela O’Brien’s work please visit http://www.themobphoto.com/.

If you want to share your views, or be part of the series get in touch with us at NewEnglandFilm.com, on twitter using #femalesinfilm or by emailing me at catherine@filmunbound.com.

 


Far From C3 is available to view online as part of The Online New England Film Festival here on NewEnglandFilm.com through October 15, 2014. For more information about Michaela O’Brien’s work please visit http://www.themobphoto.com/. If you want to share your views, or be part of the series get in touch with us at NewEnglandFilm.com, on twitter using #femalesinfilm or by emailing me at catherine@filmunbound.com.