I have always been careful how I used the term “viral” when it comes to social media, but my colleagues and I were pleasantly surprised when one of our recent films, Eye of the Beholder, was chosen as a Vimeo Staff Pick, got 280,000 views (and counting), and was also picked up by Upworthy.com and the Huffington Post Canada. I was especially ecstatic because I had somehow managed to balance the responsibilities of motherhood with my work on the script for this amazingly rewarding collaborative project. I was also able to use my experience taking my daughter outdoors as inspiration for the film. Sweet.
Here’s how it came together. Filmmaker and creative genius behind UpThink Lab, Doug Urquhart, contacted me back in the summer, asking me if I’d be interested in writing the script for his latest project. Previously, we had worked together on Mountains in Motion, alongside the uber talented composer, Michael Wynne. He thought it would be neat to see the narration for this new short film come from the perspective of a child and, knowing I was a new mother, thought it would be up my alley. After viewing his incredible footage – shot on location in the High Sierra Nevada, Canadian Rockies and Southern Appalachians – I tried to see these incredible landscapes the way my daughter would, and write about it from her perspective. She was only a few months old at the time, and likely wasn’t even registering objects beyond shapes and colours at the time.
I discovered it was far too hard to even conjure up the words she’d use to describe things. As far as I knew, Maya saw the world without labels, without names, without interpreting what things mean or how things worked. Every week we’d hit the trail together, cross over creeks, look at mountains in the distance, and sit by beautiful alpine lakes. Maya simply observed and enjoyed. Her reaction was pure. It reminded of something I read about in Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth:
“Words reduce reality to something the human mind can grasp, which isn’t very much. Language consists of five basic sounds produced by the vocal cords. They are the vowels a, e, i, o, u. The other sounds are consonants produced by air pressure: s, f, g, and so forth. Do you believe some combination of such basic sounds could ever explain who you are, or the ultimate purpose of the universe, or even what a tree or stone is in its depth?”
This became my new inspiration for the text for Eye of the Beholder. Instead I wrote it from my perspective, wondering what it would be like if we could truly see the world through the eyes of a child. What would it be like to wake up to a different world, free from our attachment to the labels we’ve already applied to it?