My life started in the suburbs of Los Angeles. I am the 3rd out of 4 born to German immigrants. In a way I've been trained to see things from different perspectives from birth. We had German holidays and American holidays. Many first generation Americans can relate to this reality of being fully American at school and then a completely different nationality at home. Each of my parents were the only ones in their family to leave (and met in the states) so all of our extended family still resides in Germany. With two free-spirited parents, perhaps I was genetically predisposed towards wanderlust- so I got it bad.
By the time I was 15 I lied and said I was 16 so I could work at a smoothy bar and save my money to quit in summer and travel. Those were the Let's Go Europe backpacking days and were great.
At 20 a friend and I decided on trying Jamaica for the summer and worked as Activity Directors at a hotel. After years of watching Julie on The Love Boat during those late night babysitting jobs I could not resist the job title! That summer I perfected the limbo and sweet-talking British tourists to volunteer for the fire dance.
I graduated college with a degree in Child Development and 3 weeks later arrived in Japan for a 3 year stint in teaching English. It is there that I met the girls' dad, whom I'm now divorced from. A master's in psychology followed as well as an odd list of jobs including running a childcare, working as a doula and as a child development specialist working with teen moms in the inner city. This was all before kids. I once found old business cards with the title 'child development specialist' under my name while I was a SAHM with a newborn and a toddler and had to laugh at the absurdity of that title next to my name! I said out loud to no one in particular- "I didn't even have kids then! How could I possibly be a specialist??"
I had a long standing notion from the time that I was little that I would start having children at 30, so I did. Up until age 29 I kept track of the number of countries I had traveled to and made it my goal to keep up with my age. I made it to 29, then kids... and my number stood still...for years. Now on the brink of 40 I have no desire to keep track of one more thing in my life but the urge to keep traveling definitely came back hard after the years of staying home. I had always thought, 'when the girls are 3 and 5 we can resume traveling.' They're out of diapers and strollers, can walk on their own, carry their own backpacks and function as fairly normal human beings. So at 3 and 5 we were off on our first adventure, which was Japan. It had been nearly 10 years since I'd been back and it was great fun to travel there with the girls. Just a week before leaving on the trip I had the idea to document it from the perspective of the girls. I know a lot of people will never have the opportunity, funds or desire to go visit Japan themselves yet might still enjoy the experience of seeing a deeper insight into the country learning more than the things we all already know- chopsticks, sushi, bullet train.
Then came the somewhat stark realization that I had a degree in psychology, not film!- that small detail. So, off I went to the bookstore and searching online when what to my wondering eyes did I discover? Broadcast quality cameras now came in personal camera sizes and with the turn in technology anyone could basically make their own dvds with 1000's of dollars instead of 100,000s of dollars. So I bought a camera online that arrived the day before we left and a stack of books that I read on the plane, including Making Documentaries for Dummies. (ok, so it did involve a bit more than that!- but life's like that)
I knew I'd film in the same mode that I parent- heavily slanted towards observation rather than directing. I knew I just wanted to lay back and capture what unfolded without an agenda. I knew I wanted to be unobtrusive. Most of the filming I did was while the camera was on my lap while my face participated in what was going on. This of course makes for a less glitzy polished piece but one that is real. When we went shopping I really had my basket full of groceries, a 3 year old on the back of my bike while I filmed my 5 year old riding next to me with my free hand. I filmed our life as it happened, which is why there are odd things like the girls doing laundry in princess dresses.
Last year I had a production company in Hollywood expressing interest in partnering with me. They had all sorts of ideas to 'improve' the product. They wanted to speed up the cuts, add animation and professional voice over- which was a grown woman speaking in a squeaky high pitched voice pretending to be a child. They wanted to hire a camera crew for our next country with booms and mikes and lights. I assured the kind gentlemen that I was sure they could produce better 'entertainment' than I could, but I know kids. I spend my days as a preschool teacher. I'm in the trenches. And I was once known as a child development specialist for goodness sakes! There is so much research now being done on the rate of cuts and exposure to hyper entertainment contributing to all sorts of long term ailments in children, there is just no way I was going to compromise at the expense of a child's well being. Nor could I ever imagine walking down the street in a foreign country with a camera crew in tow!
What these DVDs lack in 'slickness' they make up for with authenticity. In the same way that a woman with a gorgeous smile, laugh lines and graying hair is authentically beautiful in comparison to a botoxed, lip-injected one, our DVDs have an authentic quality to them that is best appreciated for what they are rather than what they are not.