Documentary | Filmmaking | Interviews | Rhode Island

Festival Interview: Marian Gagnon

An interview with Marian Gagnon, director of America's Forgotten Heroine: Ida Lewis, Keeper of the Light, featured in the 2015 Online New England Film Festival.

9 Sep , 2015   Posted by:

From print journalist to PhD to indie documentary filmmaker, Marian Gagnon has created an intimate portrayal of lighthouse keeper and unlikely heroine Ida B. Lewis’s life from age 15 to 69 (1857 to 1911), charting the impact she inadvertently had on the early women’s rights movement. The resulting film America’s Forgotten Heroine: Ida Lewis, Keeper of the Light screens online as part of the 2015 Online New England Film Festival.

Having started as a print journalist who studied the documentary genre at the doctoral level, writer, director and producer Marian Gagnon has since created four documentaries in the last 12 years. Her latest America’s Forgotten Heroine: Ida Lewis, Keeper of the Light screens online as part of the 2015 Online New England Film Festival.

The film, which premiered in Newport, Rhode Island and has since screened at the Rhode Island International Film Festival, along with numerous locations throughout New England, provides an intimate portrayal of lighthouse keeper and unlikely heroine Ida B. Lewis’s life from age 15 to 69 (1857 to 1911), charting the impact she inadvertently had on the early women’s rights movement.

Here, NewEnglandFilm.com talks with Gagnon about the making and screening of her latest film, along with her advice for up-and-coming filmmakers.

NewEnglandFilm.com: What inspired you to make your film?

Marian Gagnon: My passion is telling lost or forgotten women’s stories to return women — like famed lighthouse heroine Ida Lewis — to their rightful place in history.

NEF: What has your experience been like showing the film?

Gagnon: Rhode Island audiences everywhere are in awe of Ida’s accomplishments and are always curious as to how she could be so famous in the mid- to late-1800s and then promptly forgotten. My documentary received the 2015 Gutsy Gals Award for Best Short Historical Documentary and was nominated for a New England Emmy.

NEF: How did you find your cast and crew for this film?

Gagnon: I have worked with Jim Karpeichik of Ocean State Video on all four films as my videographer and editor. I found actress Marilyn Meardon, formerly of Second Story Theatre in Warren who created a one-woman show on Ida Lewis, to narrate and play Ida Lewis in my film.

NEF: Any advice on making films you want to share – about fundraising, working with actors, distributing, sending to festivals, etc?

Gagnon: Learn how to tell a good story — accurately — and bring that story to life in the most imaginative way possible.

Never give up despite repeated rejections from grant providers. Drum up your own publicity by reaching out to local feature writers. It’s a lonely world out there for the indie-filmmaker but give yourself time to get it all accomplished, even if it takes years (which it will).


America’s Forgotten Heroine: Ida Lewis, Keeper of the Light screens online as part of the 2015 Online New England Film Festival.