Interview: Morrisa Maltz on Directing 'Ingrid' and Needing to Create Art
Filmmaker Morrisa Maltz discusses the importance of living a life true to her creative self and searching for a film subject to inspire her to make something.
REEL SOUTH: What inspired you to make this film?
MALTZ: I started making things after my father passed away in high school and haven’t stopped since. As an adult, as I started making money from my career (albeit still a very modest one), I started to lose whatever that was that you start off with—that feeling of needing to make things. I was yearning to find that again.
For numerous reasons, I think living in LA and making things can also be quite draining on the creative spirit. I began to feel lost as to why I started doing it in the first place. If I was going to lose my need to make things in my late 20s, I knew it couldn’t hold through my whole creative career. So I started looking through newspaper articles and corners of the internet for people that made things without the want for money or fame (sometimes known as “outsider artists”) just to pick their brains about why they liked making things. I thought that was a good way to exercise what I was going through. Maybe I could connect to my human need for it again.
I started visiting people for two years in between other work and projects. At first, I didn’t intend to make a doc, I was just curious and asking questions. I visited around 10 subjects in various parts of America. I found people in Montana (I actually loved this one and if for some reason you end up in this area of Montana, please go visit him), Texas, Pennsylvania, New Jersey — one of my closest friends (Meera) actually went into the forest in New Jersey with me the day after her wedding because I had gotten so obsessed with visiting one on my list whenever I had the opportunity to travel anywhere.
Here is an article in the Dallas observer with a short video I had made on a subject in my early questioning:
While in Dallas with this subject someone told me about Ingrid. I think the more you delve into a subject, the more avenues pop up and people turn you on to things. I drove out and met her, and there was this immediate connection and fascination. Ingrid was the first woman who had peeled off from society to create in this manner. All the other people I visited were men. I started visiting her on and off for a few months.
At first I thought to make a short film about her, opening up the idea to a feature if there was enough material down the road. I knew she would be the kind of person whose full story would take a while to get to know. I secured financing for a short, and about six months into filming I realized I could turn it into a feature.
REEL SOUTH: What makes this a Southern story?
MALTZ: Ingrid is based in the Ouachitas Mountains in Arkansas. She is a tough woman living off the land in the South. This makes it a unique Southern story:)
REEL SOUTH: What were the challenges and blessings in making this movie?
MALTZ: We had to make the whole film for $15,000 dollars. We got $5,000 more from the investors for a feature idea. And everyone did A LOT of favors. It was basically all in-kind. If people are excited about a project and it can interest them creatively, there are ways to make things for not a lot of money.
The blessings were my team. They were incredibly supportive, from production to post. Although emotionally it did not feel great at all. Working that hard for so little money, not paying yourself and not being able to pay those that are bending over backwards to do amazing work for a project does not feel good.
There are, of course, inspiring moments when things come together and everyone is excited. The film has had a lot of success so overall it’s been great for the team, but during the process I was asking a lot of talented friends and team members and that didn’t make me comfortable. I was also doing way too many jobs, for no pay, supporting myself by renting out my apartment in LA to make a film with very little money that I could hardly pay anyone for! That all being said though, in retrospect, that’s totally what you have to do sometimes to get a thing made. I definitely went through rough patches, but I tried to keep my head down and push through. I believed what I was doing would make an important and socially relevant film for women. And it did, it just was not an easy, or comfortable, process!
REEL SOUTH: How did the story change you?
MALTZ: I was always confident in my creative process, but I needed to reboot that in some way. Spending all that time with Ingrid did help me feel more comfortable in my own creative process, and the film itself is a testament to that.
REEL SOUTH: What do you hope will happen after people see this story?
MALTZ: I want the audience to be able to meditate on their own choices and purpose in life. I think it’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of life and forget that we have choices we can make for ourselves. We can create the life we want and imagine a life outside of what society may prescribe. I want this aspect of the film to be a source of conversation—to think about why we do the things we do; why we make the choices we make; and make sure we are leading a life true to who we are.