Directors Seek To Answer 'What is Love?' With New Documentary - 27 East

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Directors Seek To Answer ‘What is Love?’ With New Documentary

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author on Nov 10, 2015

The simplest questions can sometimes be the hardest ones to answer.

Just talk to Jane Martin, a Springs-based filmmaker and multimedia artist who, last September, began asking the most-Googled question of 2011, 2012 and 2014: “What is love?”

Up until recently, she thought she knew. But when a terrible break-up left her reeling, she realized she wasn’t so certain. Her creative wheels began to turn, and she hatched the idea for a feature documentary that would ask friends and strangers alike to answer the question themselves.

This year, she teamed up with Australian filmmaker and artist Alex Mankiewicz—daughter of four-time Oscar-winning director Joseph L. Mankiewicz—and, together, the co-directors interviewed 140 people of all different ages, cultures and creeds, but without telling them the subject beforehand.

“Initially, I started with friends, and then I networked with people I knew,” Ms. Martin explained last week during a telephone interview. “Then Alex brought in some people she knew, and it all started to come together. We tried to get as much diversity as possible.”

The interviewees—who include actors, writers, artists, musicians, spiritual teachers, politicians, farmers, entrepreneurs, yogis, chefs, surfers and more—ranged from Europeans and Jamaicans to Australians and Americans, though more than 100 of them are familiar full-time and part-time faces on the East End, including actress Mercedes Ruehl and the late sculptor William King, as well as local business owners and even elementary school students.

And it became apparent early on that no two responses would be the same.

“I think that makes the answers so interesting,” Ms. Martin said. “There are certain answers that are similar and wildly different.”

Shot with the same two-camera setup in either Manhattan or Westchester, most of the interviews were set up in advance, though a few were conducted at random. They asked each person a series of questions about love, both romantic and platonic, and waited for their answers.

“We started by asking, ‘What is love?’” Ms. Martin said. “People were either totally taken aback or silent.”

The questions also included, “Do we need to love ourselves?” “Is love unconditional?” “How important is vulnerability, sex and fate?” and “What are the challenges in relationships?”

The answers culminated in more than 70 hours of footage to date, which will be edited to a 90-minute final cut—a process contingent on a Kickstarter campaign that expires on Monday, November 23.

According to the rules of the site, their goal of $21,500 must be met in order to receive any funding. As of Tuesday morning, they had raised $17,478 from 81 backers. Sixty percent of the funds will support the post-production process, which includes creating graphics and adding music and photography. Fifteen percent will pay for music rights, Kickstarter will retain 9 percent, 8 percent will cover marketing and outreach, 5 percent will cover remaining filming, and 3 percent will pay for any translations.

Every donation includes a personalized reward ranging from a download of the finished film to an executive producer credit.

“I think the risk with Kickstarter sometimes makes it more of a community effort. Everyone is chipping in together,” Ms. Mankiewicz said. “People really feel their donation is meaningful. If everyone chips in and believes in the project, we get enough to carry on.”

The directors said they remain hopeful as the deadline draws nearer.

“People are just really coming out of woodwork. Mostly, they really love the trailer,” Ms. Martin said. “Days after, we got emails from people saying, ‘I’m still thinking about this.’ It gets people thinking and feeling in a really deep way. It’s the beginning of a dialogue.”

For more information about “What Is Love?” visit

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