- How did it all start with this project?
In the Fall of 2015, I had just come off of a long commercial project, and we were right in the thick of the media cycle for the refugee crisis here in the States. And just being consumed by the news, the reports, the photos of despair and loss from the Aegean, I was left wanting to know more about the people living these headlines.
I wanted to know more about their stories, about what they had lost, what they had left behind, and where they hoped their lives were headed. While news coverage focused on the problem, it often forgot about the human being, and so the Refuge Project was born from this desire to learn more. I wanted to understand a crisis at the human level, and more than anything, I wanted to help. And in bringing this project to life, I set out to help in the way that I knew best – with the telling and sharing of human stories.
- How did the production go?
We left New York on January 2nd, after a few busy weeks of planning, research, and international phone calls to journalists and fixers working on the frontlines. Everything eventually came down to just setting a date and buying a flight. Once we had that flight, everything became very real.
We pulled every favor we had to get the equipment we needed, and we got on a plane and the next day we were filming in Victoria Square in Athens. This was my first time in Greece.
Before we left, I’d spoken at length with Matteo Zevi, a friend who would eventually become one of the film’s producers, about making a film like this like. Matteo had quit has job months earlier to volunteer in Greece, and his experiences in many ways shaped what would become our journey.
With a project like this, everything comes down to just deciding to commit to an idea. I wrote a brief treatment of what I wanted to do in Greece, how I wanted to help. And then I asked the incredible artists around me if they wanted to help with a project like this. And they said yes.
Everyone volunteered everything to this project, their time, their passion, their plane tickets – because we believed in the power of storytelling. But also because we felt a moral obligation to do something about what we understood to be a humanitarian crisis.
On the ground, the project moved forward fueled by a mixture of luck, and “showing up.” We just followed every possible lead, and were always on the move. We wanted to capture honest stories, and we wanted to capture the experiences of refugees on the move first hand – to document the atmosphere at the frontlines of this crisis. And that meant staying open to everything, almost all the time.