Being different takes effort and innovation but presenting that difference to the world takes courage. Jeremy G. Weaver of Onward Entertainment is one of the few people in the world of filmmaking who stretches the extra mile in effort to present his audiences with raw, uninhibited footage of the world’s most guarded secrets. A graduate of North Carolina School of the Arts, Weaver is credited with providing his audiences with gripping stories and hard hitting documentaries. We, at Urban Asian, sat down with Jeremy G. Weaver for a quick chat – here is what he had to say:
What interested you to join the world of filmmaking?
It’s the ultimate artistic medium where all art forms can comprehensively produce the opportunity for anyone to vicariously experience and be affected by worlds, themes and circumstances that we may not otherwise touch firsthand. It is a way to collectively communicate. Witnessing other people’s journeys throughout the world can be such a wonderful way to travel. I love films that make the attempt to delve into our universal, collective unconscious and tap into places we may be unfamiliar with.
Documentaries seem to be heavily targeted by conservative groups and the government in India. Do you feel that the trend of ‘banning’ harms or subconsciously raises intrigue within the minds of the audience?
Well, the crying baby gets the milk, but one would hope the mother was feeding the baby regardless. Currently, I think India is struggling with it’s identity politically and humanely which obviously has an effect on what films can be done in India. Because of the internet and a vast awareness of global issues, collectively, we are all aware of everyone’s dirty laundry. Hiding it makes no sense. Addressing it head on is paramount. Unfortunately, in India as well as everywhere else in the world, it usually takes a catastrophe for anyone to recognize and attempt any evolution. From a censorship and ‘banning’ standpoint, I first remember being surprised with the initial response to ‘Salaam Bombay!’, which to me, was an exceptional piece of art and a truly authentic and poignantly beautiful portrayal of the realities of a young boy’s life on the streets of India. I learned a lot from that film and was surprised to know that India wasn’t supportive of that film and didn’t want the world to see that film because of the light it shined on the poverty and dire circumstances of many youths in Bombay. That film ended up being nominated for an academy award and made Mira Nair’s career possible. Something very similar happened years later with ‘Bandit Queen’, a controversial film that was initially banned and ended up making Shekhar Kapoor’s career internationally. Regarding documentaries, the viral success that ‘India’s Daughter’ had and it’s overall ability to inform the rest of the world most likely only happened because of the banning and censorship. Clearly the subject matter and crime was horrifying and critical to address, but I think the banning, censorship and politically charged ‘dirty laundry’ aspect, ultimately served as the documentary’s most powerful instrument in communicating the tragedy whether intended or not.
First the Belly of Tantra and now Sudden Cry, what interested you in creating films which speak of the unspoken taboos and cults of the world?
Well, ‘Belly’ addresses taboos, ‘Sudden Cry’ addresses injustice, enslavement and gross violation of human rights. With both these films and our other projects, we want to see things that we haven’t seen before, address issues that need to be addressed and ultimately, we want to broaden our perspectives as much as we can.
Having been raised with the ‘western’ perspective on life how difficult is it for you to connect with the subjects of taboo cultures?
Taboo can be anywhere and you can find it everywhere. Regardless of a ‘western’ or ‘eastern’ perspective on life, it isn’t difficult for me to comprehend or understand why certain taboo cultures exist. That said, true connections require each person being in accord, so naturally it can be difficult to truly connect because I don’t always agree with the practices and opinions of certain taboo cultures. It has no effect on the documenting and sharing of a particular story.
What challenges did you face in the making of this documentary?
There were ongoing censorship issues with ‘Belly’. The unfortunate fact remains, there seems to be never-ending censorship and overwhelming religious hypocrisy throughout the world. Additionally, ‘Belly’ was a true example of the filmmakers having a question that they then simply dove in and explored and they literally started a journey that was out of their control in many ways. The outcome was completely based on the circumstances, reactions and behaviors of people with no stake whatsoever in what the filmmakers were interested in documenting. It proved to be a wild ride full of eye-opening, intriguing, enlightening experiences that were often extremely uncomfortable, dangerous, unexpected and uncontrollable.
How has the knowledge you acquired from the filming of your documentaries helped shape you as a person?
It gives me tremendous perspective on questions I have and overall my process continues to evolve. Because the work becomes about obsession, my experiences have always stretched and strengthened my overall awareness in my life and my work.
Social Media now plays a big impact on films and with digital media growing rapidly globally how has it helped you as an director/producer stay connected to fans and help promote a film/show..etc?
It’s extremely empowering and enables creative freedom throughout the marketing process. It’s surprising how much the reach can extend and how quickly. With filmmakers, artists and innovators having more access to their market and capability within their production, we are closer and closer to an industry where content trumps all and the reliance on traditional distribution models is diminishing.
What advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers?
With any tools you have, start making films about the things you must express and explore and don’t stop. You will be seen and heard.
What are some of your upcoming projects the audiences can look out for?
‘Sudden Cry’, a documentary that explores the ignored criminal practice of child prostitution and human trafficking, ‘The Rope in the Darkness’, a thriller feature film, which includes themes from ‘Belly’, and ‘Not-For- Profit’, a documentary that addresses the limitations of non-profits in America.