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April 09, 2013, 12:00 AM | posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers
Emmanuel Vaughn-Lee started performing Jazz music professionally when he was only 16.
“I was bitten by the Jazz bug at an early age, and it became my world,” he says.
It is still a big part of his life, although he focuses mostly on filmmaking these days. Along with Gayatri Roshan, he directed and produced “Elemental.” His musical background still serves him, though, as he composed an orchestral score for the film with co-composer H. Scott Salinas.
“It was wonderful to include that part of me in the storytelling process,” Vaughn-Lee says of composing the score. “I think I bring a lot of the things I learned about music to the filmmaking process,” he adds. “Specifically, the ability to improvise. A lot of filmmaking, especially documentary filmmaking, is having to adapt to the subjects that you shoot. You just have to be able to run with it.”
The idea to make “Elemental” came out of a desire to show a more human side of environmental issues. The documentary follows the journeys of three activists struggling to make impactful change in the world.
“I was thinking about making an environmental film with an approach that would allow for a more human element to be the driving force of the narrative,” he says. “The idea was to find characters that we could follow, whose stories together would tell a larger story—about our relationship to climate change, energy and water. On a deeper philosophical level, the film speaks to the unsustainable relationship we have to the natural world.”
Vaughn-Lee and Roshan spent about 6 months interviewing subjects that they could feature in “Elemental.” They considered approximately 50 candidates in the process. In the end, the work of the three activists they feature is what Vaughn-Lee hopes audiences will find most compelling about “Elemental.”
“I am continually inspired by our subjects,” he says. “These people are trying to do work where they are faced with tremendous adversity and it is a constant struggle. The fact that they are able to endure and make impactful change in our world is a fact that I hope will garner some applause.”
Photo by Janet Macoska.
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