Miranda Andersen has contributed often to these pages. Now she’s back with a new film. Accomplished professionals have produced wonderful documentaries about reconnecting children and nature. Among them, Mother Nature’s Child, Play Again, Where Do the Children Play, Wetlands and Wonder, and BOLD. In addition, there are dozens of adult- and student-made YouTube videos. But it’s not often that a 13-year old produces a film quite like The Child in Nature.
We asked Miranda and her mother, Patty Andersen, to talk about the process of making this film. At first, Miranda’s mom was hesitant to be included. But we were curious about why both care so much about this issue, and why each is such a good spokesperson for the children and nature movement.
Patty: When Miranda was 9 years old she made her first film. It was about her hero, Ruth Foster, a retired teacher who co-founded a salmon hatchery in our neighborhood. During an interview with Ruth she talked about a topic Miranda was completely unfamiliar with — nature-deficit disorder. Ruth first learned about the concept from Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods. Fast forward three short years and several short films later she has the reward for her passion for nature-deficit disorder, her latest film entitled The Child in Nature.
Miranda: When I was in grade six, I went to hear Rich speak at an environmental convention in Vancouver. I asked Rich if I could interview him sometime for a film. A few months later my Mom and I met him in California and he was kind enough to spend a couple of hours with me. So now I had a ton of video to sort through and find all those amazing sound bites that would work so well in a film – and believe me, there were a lot of them.
Making a film is so time consuming. Filming and taking photos is the easy part. Trying to make short films is such a challenge because you really have to focus on the very best information and what will have the most impact. And then there’s the research part.
You want your film to be believed so you have to back it up with statistics and evidence. Now try doing all this when you have all your regular homework to do on top of it all.
Patty: It’s funny how making a film about kids not spending enough time outdoors can actually lead to a kid not spending enough time outdoors! Technology really can take over – and it will – if you let it. Miranda likes to recount the stories of kids at school and their lamenting a lack of sleep for having spent hours the night before racking up the highest scores on the latest computer game at the expense of homework, family time and time outdoors. The same could be said of filmmaking — even for a child it can be all consuming — but it’s all about finding a balance. Miranda seldom forgets to get back to nature.
Miranda: Making a film is a lot like what I imagine it is to write a book. With this film I figured out a title very quickly and had the opening completed in just a few hours. After that, I got such a “writer’s block” that I couldn’t do anything else for several weeks. Add to that the fact that there are always software problems to figure out (which can take days to fix) and all sorts of things that come up when you’re making a film.
While making all my other movies I jumped around and worked on films in bits and pieces and then sewed them all together. This time I was determined to think linearly and start at the beginning and finish at the end. A lot easier said than done. When I thought I didn’t have enough film footage I gathered more which meant…MORE WORK!
Patty: Creating a film is no small feat. Living the message is just as daunting.
When Miranda premiered her movie The Child in Nature this month she was asked, of all the environmental topics her films have covered, which one is the most important to her. Her reply came easily — nature-deficit disorder.
Why? Because if you don’t get outdoors and you don’t learn to care about the environment, she said, how can any of the topics she covers in her movies have any meaning at all?
Miranda: This was my way of finding connections and ideas — it came from being outside in nature. My head was clearer, my creativity was greater and I could get back to making the film. Nature was my inspiration. The thoughts were flowing again — well, at least until homework, swim practice and other commitments got me sidetracked again.
When a film is finished, you’re so glad it’s done, you forget all the hard work, all the troubleshooting you had to do, all the hours it took to edit and you start to think about the next film.