Q&A with Anne Hollowday

A brief conversation with Anne Hollowday, the NYC-based filmmaker behind ‘Bird Watching’.

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1. When you decided to make this short film, where did you start? 

I started by listening to people around me. When you take the time to hear people, it creates this momentum where other folks want to share their story too. The synergies between those accounts was revelatory to me and made me see this issue from a new perspective.

An excerpt from A Women’s Thing -  I’m interested in deconstructing and complicating our ideas around gender by documenting my experience and those of the people around me. Because it is framed as a metaphor, the film is about seeing gender narratives in the wider context of society, history and the nature of viewing. In that sense, “Bird Watching” is ontological in its investigation; I wanted to make a film that focused on lived experience from a first-person perspective. The goal was to create feedback loops of human experience in unexpected ways, asking questions about who is doing the seeing and who is being seen.

I began doing audio interviews, and for the longest time thought I would have a montage of footage from the streets of New York as a backdrop for the audio testimonies. The bird watching metaphor came to me one day and I immediately knew that was the framework to make this film work. Everything fell into place very quickly thereafter.

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2. What kind of hurdles do you face as a filmmaker working in short film? 

I love short films! I love the challenge of the format - how to say something and articulate a vision within a short timeframe; and, at the same time, the potential to confound expectations. There are very few "rules" for shorts. They can be a minute long or 30-mins long. I love that scope. It's a fun canvas to be able to play with and experiment.

An excerpt from Director’s Notes - The film is about deconstructing and complicating our ideas around gender perception and performance so it was important from the beginning that this was reflected in its form. I’m deeply inspired by texture and this archive is so inherently textural (it literally is a physical thing scanned to digital). It’s a window onto another world and that ability to transcend space and time speaks to one of my biggest goals in all my motion and stills work: to create effective and transporting images that move you. The layer of visual metaphor is a perfect backdrop for the question this piece really gets at: what does it mean to be seen?

The film is based on audio interviews, each lasting several hours. That’s always been a crucial part of my process. I began my career making documentaries and branded content work and I am constantly humbled by people’s experiences. When someone takes the time to share their story with you that is one of the greatest gifts you can ever be given. I listen to the raw audio over and over; condensing as I go. I didn’t intend for this film to be as short as it is, but it felt right. The mix of formats, aspect ratios and multi-layered metaphor were all deliberate choices to provide a sensory experience that requires attention and repeat viewing.

3. What projects are you working on next, and how can people who are interested best support or share that work?

Currently working on another couple of shorts as well as writing a longer form piece. I also do stills photography so that keeps me busy in between commercial jobs. Follow me at: anne.holiday or on instagram @anneholiday for more. 

The Bureau is proud to premiere ‘Bird Watching’ - be sure to check out Anne’s other work on her website.

Mike Ambs

I love to film things, tell stories, and read on the subway. I'm pretty sure blue whales are my power animal.