My Thoughts and Me – How Apple Documentary Was Made – The Hollywood Reporter

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Alek Keshishian isn’t any stranger to the musician bio-doc format, having virtually pioneered the style with Madonna’s Reality or Dare, a have a look at the singer’s private {and professional} life throughout her 1990 Blond Ambition tour. Three a long time later he’s again with Selena Gomez: My Thoughts & Me, which chronicles the psychological well being journey of Gomez whereas additionally trying on the state of superstar within the social-media-and-soundbite age.

My Thoughts and Me, which debuted on Apple TV+ on Nov. 4, chronicles Gomez’ psychological well being journey, from receiving a bipolar prognosis to revealing that prognosis publicly and advocating for psychological well being training. “In contrast to different music documentaries (a preferred format, as of late, for recalibrating superstar photos), Gomez’s mission operates at a rawer, grittier register,” reads Lovia Gyarkye’s evaluation of the doc for THR.

Keshishian spoke with the The Hollywood Reporter in regards to the My Thoughts and Me and its journey to the display screen.

I learn that you simply had 250 hours of footage heading into the edit. How did you determine what to not embody?

Now, you learn different individuals’s takes on it and one particular person’s like, “Nicely, he doesn’t even discuss Solely Murders within the Constructing. “I’m like: However that doesn’t happen till after my film finishes. Do I embody Selena + Chef? I’m telling this one particular story about her. I believe we’ve change into accustomed to docuseries and we’ve change into accustomed to very lengthy documentaries. I requested for an additional yr to edit to get from two hours and half-hour into one thing this concise. We’re dwelling in a brief consideration span world, and but movies appear to be getting longer and longer and longer. Much less typically is extra. I knew that I might launch a two hour, 30 minute minimize and please her followers who would by no means tire of her. However I needed us to imply one thing for individuals down the road who aren’t her fan. One of many issues I all the time saved telling my editors is: I’m not seeking to make a room spray of Selena Gomez. I would like probably the most distilled and concentrated model of this story so that you simply spend 93 minutes and hopefully you come out feeling in another way about your personal life in addition to Selina’s.

The live performance documentary and superstar documentary has change into massively common since Reality or Dare. Was that ubiquity one thing you had been acutely aware of heading into My Thoughts and Me?

None of that affected my storytelling. I’ve my very own storytelling aesthetic and elegance. I did notice: I don’t need to make a social media documentary. I don’t need to work with someone, as sensible as they may be, who needs to in the end actually direct the documentary themselves. I’ve been actually fortunate and cautious to make it possible for I labored with individuals who on some stage revered the artistry that I hope to deliver to a mission. And that, as bonded as I get with my material, it’s my imaginative and prescient that’s on that display screen and the topic is seen by way of my eyes. And that’s the fantastic thing about actual documentary is the duality of the topic and the filmmaker by way of whom that topic is being seen creates a reality that neither considered one of them might obtain on their very own.

The documentary began off as a perhaps live performance doc after which grew to become one thing very totally different. At what level do you know what the story can be?

It was just like one thing that occurred in Reality or Dare. My very first day in 2019 after I stated to Selena, “Okay, we’ll shoot Kenya,” which is what she needed me to shoot as a charity form of movie that was simply going reside on her web site. And that first day I shot, I used to be like, there’s a documentary right here, and I knew what it was. We had been flying to [Kenya] and she or he had that dilemma in that airplane about whether or not or not she ought to announce that she was bipolar. I used to be like, wow, the stress right here is that she’s recent out of a psychological well being facility, she’s actually within the first phases of her personal restoration, and but she additionally needs to share the story to assist others.

Selena’s label Interscope is concerned within the doc and her administration firm, Lighthouse Media + Administration, additionally produced the mission and is run by your sister, Aleen. From an outsider’s perspective, that looks as if it may very well be a tenuous relationship for a filmmaker.  

In what manner?

In that they’ve a vested curiosity in Selena’s picture being a sure manner and you’re making a documentary that’s truthful to one thing that will not be that picture.

What’s fascinating is after I did the two hour and 30 minute model, Interscope and Lighthouse had been like, “That is nice, this is able to exit.” And I used to be like, “No, no, no, it’s not.” That model was in some methods delved into extra of a morass of darkness. I believe that Selena is actually fortunate. She has a label that wishes nothing greater than to help her humanitarian mission. And Lighthouse, which has constantly been the one making an attempt to deliver to life her hopes and desires within the psychological well being area and within the philanthropy area. Alene is the one who first alerted Selena to a few of these charities and charitable conditions and so they’re so aligned with that side. So, no, I felt unbelievable help. I don’t assume I might have performed it essentially with out Interscope and Lighthouse. Sure, I’ve heard tales of documentaries that had been nice which have had administration are available in and all however take over the edit. I acquired none of that.

How did you construct that relationship of filmmaker and topic with Selena?  

It helped that she had seen Reality or Dare and she or he knew precisely the extent of entry that Madonna had given me. She might see it. When she spoke to me about it, this was in 2015, I advised her I used to be the primary particular person she would name within the morning and final particular person she would converse to at evening. We grew to become finest finest buddies. And in 2016 after I began, I stated to her, “I don’t assume you’re going to benefit from the cinéma vérité course of. It’s very there on a regular basis.” And he or she was like, “No, no, no, I’ll.” However even then, I used to be very cautious. In 2016 there’s that scene the place she breaks down after her costume rehearsal, and I used to be within the dressing room earlier than anyone else was. She walked in, and I acquired down on my knees whereas she was sitting, and I held her hand and I talked to her and I advised her, “That is pure. Individuals really feel this. It’s okay.” It was solely after I comforted her for some time that I stated, “We don’t have to movie this. Except you’re cool with us filming it.” And he or she was like, “No, I’m cool with it.” As a result of she had made that promise to me, and she or he knew what it took to get one thing of the extent of Reality to Dare. I believe she additionally felt that on the finish of the day, I used to be extra fascinated by being a good human being to her than in simply getting a movie or payday to do a Selena documentary. And that’s what builds belief. And I believe that’s form of my mentality about all of it.

Does that closeness to the topic influence your filmmaking by way of figuring out what to incorporate and never?

I believe that each one filmmakers fall in love with their story or within the form of documentaries I make they fall in love with their topic. And it’s to not the purpose the place I’m not in a position to say, now we have to point out this little bit of you having the physique picture concern as a result of now we have to know the underlying strain you had been in. I’m in a position to make these choices as a result of they serve the story and so they serve the understanding of what she’s going by way of. I’m not making an attempt to make an goal documentary. There’s no such factor. And those that faux they’re goal, the second {that a} digital camera shoots one thing after which the second somebody edits it, it’s subjective. So, my subjectivity occurs to return from a spot the place I just like the people who I determine to work with and shoot. I do know it’s totally different in case you’re Andrew Jarecki, you’re doing one thing very totally different. However for what I’m doing, if I don’t fall in love with them, as a result of it takes so lengthy to make these documentaries, it’s like a wedding. I don’t need to be round somebody that I don’t like or respect. I’ve heard tales, as a result of among the individuals I’ve labored with have labored on others, the place the topic and the director hate one another by the top, and so they’re not talking. I can’t think about that as a result of it’s onerous opening up.

What scene is probably the most edifying by way of understanding who Selena is, because the particular person you understood her to be?

I like that scene with Joyce, her neighbor. That scene provides me goosebumps. [Shooting in] Texas confirmed me quite a bit this concept that she’s not somebody who appears like, “Thank gosh I acquired out of right here.” She doesn’t look down on anyone. In truth, she seems to be as much as individuals. She’s not somebody who runs away from her previous. If something, at occasions, she overthinks the previous, as she says in a kind of scenes that “the previous drives me into despair as a result of I’ve all these regrets.” However there’s a braveness and such a form of humbleness humility.

Together with displaying Selena’s psychological well being restoration and journey, the documentary can be a glance into fame within the social media age.

There’s a massive underlying theme about superstar and the isolation of superstar and the darkish facet of superstar. Generally individuals ask me, what’s the distinction between Reality or Dare and now. I used to be 24 after I did Reality or Dare, I’m a a lot whiter haired particular person, now. I, myself, have seen a star as all the time a bit surreal as a assemble that would injury individuals, [and it] has now change into ubiquitous as a objective of everyone. And I’ve seen the consequences of that assemble not solely with actually gifted individuals, however with each younger one who now’s desperately making an attempt to create photos and preserve their fame. And I don’t know the way glad they’re deep down beneath all that as a result of fame in its personal manner will be isolating and also you’re continuously engaged on the floor. You’re continuously engaged on presentation. I’m speaking about people who find themselves actually doing social media. So, I needed to indict fame to a sure diploma. I needed to make individuals notice this isn’t all enjoyable and video games. She’s not in Paris having a good time. Granted, these are first world issues, you possibly can say, however if you wish to know what it does to the psychological well being of someone, that stage of isolation — it doesn’t make individuals joyful.

After Reality or Dare you stated that you simply didn’t need to make one other documentary. Do you’re feeling that manner after this one?

I’m not ruling it out. I’d love nothing greater than for another fascinating particular person to strategy me and say, I’d wish to make one thing that stands the take a look at of time.

What makes topic to get that form of documentary that you’ve made?

Self-curiosity is actually essential. Somebody who needs to study one thing about themselves; somebody who likes artwork and realizes that documentary artwork is finest when it’s working with a documentarian. However actually, as a topic, somebody who’s prepared to cope with the discomfort of being filmed for the sake of discovery of themselves.

Interview has been edited and condensed for readability.



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