Kirsten Johnson on Failure, Narrative, and Filmmaking

  Kirsten Johnson in conversation with Professor Betsy West at the Columbia Journalism School after a screening of her film Cameraperson.

Kirsten Johnson in conversation with Professor Betsy West at the Columbia Journalism School after a screening of her film Cameraperson.

Kirsten Johnson had been making a film in Afghanistan for three years when one of her subjects told her it was too dangerous to appear on screen. Johnson tried to salvage the film, but the narrative didn't work without her central character. So she stopped, and retreated home.

Out of the film's failure though, Johnson began thinking about her career—the twenty-five years she had spent behind the camera, and the stories she'd told. All the people she'd filmed and then left behind. She started digging into her old footage, putting things together, writing down her own memories, and ended up creating a deeply personal and autobiographical film that she calls, “an acknowledgement of how complex it is to film and be filmed.”

Cameraperson was an official selection for the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, and was screened at the Columbia Journalism School as part of the Film Friday documentary series. 

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