Tue October 9, 2012
Arts & Culture

The Cove Co-Producer Olivia Ahnemann Talks Film, Plugs LUNAFEST

  • Grace Hood interviews Olivia Ahnemann

LUNAFEST—a traveling festival with films by, for and about women—is coming to Boulder this Thursday. Emceeing a discussion following the event is documentary filmmaker Olivia Ahnemann.

Over the past decade, Ahnemann has followed a polygymist sect in Canada, and was co-producer of the Academy award winning documentary The Cove, which culminated in a dangerous undercover mission filming a mass dolphin slaughter in Japan.


Editor's note: the following is transcript of their conversation.

Grace Hood: Ahnemann started producing and directing documentaries in 1998. Despite what some say about the difficulties of breaking into the ‘good old boys’ club of directing, she says that hasn’t been her experience in Colorado.

Olivia Ahnemann: I do see a lot of young women that I have worked with as production assistants and film students who are passionate about getting involved in film, and are creating a career path for themselves. I think that’s wonderful. It seems that there’s a lot of interest. Which makes me thing that it’s an inviting career choice for people. That either through experiences that they’ve had interning or in school, they feel empowered to pursue this path, into film-making.

Hood: Just from my outsider’s perspective, it seems like one of the things that has really changed in the last decade is how fundraising works for documentaries. There’s websites like Kickstarter that are making it a lot easier than it’s been in the past for documentary filmmakers.

Ahnemann: It’s because film has moved into a more digital format. It’s much easier to do, much less expensive to do. You don’t have to rely on buying 16mm film and cameras and the developing costs, hugely long edit schedules, and things like that.

I would say that still what most filmmakers probably come across is how then do you get your film shown? How do get an audience for your film? I think that that is probably a major roadblock for a lot of people. There are many, many films that never get an audience. Never get to be seen at a film festival. So there are probably tons of stories out there that have been worked on with a lot of passion, they’re sort of sitting there.

Hood: You’ve had a very interesting path. Looking at the list of films that you’ve directed or produced; you’ve filmed base jumpers in France, you’ve profiled Europe’s royal families for A&E. Is there a thread that ties your work together or do you just follow what you think is interesting?

Ahnemann: I think the thread and what keeps me engaged are the people that you meet. It’s the stories, the individual stories that you come across. I wouldn’t have an opportunity in my, sort of non-film life, to go and spend 6 months on-and-off with a polygamist community. So you are exposed to some very interesting people outside of your normal life. I find that fascinating and it keeps me very engaged in what I do.

Hood: Today you’re working on a film about mass species extinction and I understand that part of that film is going to be kind of the similar undercover filming techniques, the ‘black-ops’ missions, that we saw in The Cove. How involved are you with that?

Ahnemann: I’m not part of the team that’s going to pull off the mission. I am intimately involved in all of the planning of it, and we’re currently in production and have shot a lot of building blocks of the film, the science around the film, a lot of the interviews have been recorded. We’re really getting into the narrative part of the story at this stage.

Hood: Are there any films that you’re particularly excited about seeing this coming Thursday in Boulder?

Ahnemann: They all sound fascinating to me. One of them, Sprit Rising (Ed note: The film's full title is Whakatiki - A Spirit Rising), is – I’m a New Zealander, I grew up there – so I’m very curious to see this story a Maori woman. There’s a story called Lunch Date, where somebody sends a younger brother to break up with a girlfriend. I just think that’s going to be a sweet, sort of heartbreaking story.

I’m very interested in watching all of them. I think there’s a nice variety of films; there are a couple of documentaries in here, and some nice profiles of people, and some fictional stories. I think that it’s going to be a nice lineup of movies.

LUNAFEST kicks off at 7 p.m. at the Boulder Theater. Tickets are $17.50, $12.50 for students.


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