While some of the words that might come to mind when thinking of reality TV might include “trashy” or “fake,” Katherine Brooks’ remarkable career as the award-winning creator and director of The Real World and The Osbournes might just shift those to, “forward-thinking” and “revolutionary.” Next month, she will be embarking on the journey of her life as she introduces the first-ever live-streaming documentary, traveling across thirty-nine states in an RV with her camera and spending a single day with each of the fifty people who responded to a Facebook request. Face 2 Face raised over $75,000 on Kickstarter and will further Katherine’s exploration as a caring and experimental filmmaker. Here, the director of great films such as Loving Annabelle and the upcoming Waking Madison (with Elisabeth Shue) takes a break to talk about what the hell led her to travel the U.S. to visit complete strangers and exactly how real reality television really is.
This is really a non-question, but anyone who has not seen Loving Annabelle should rent or purchase it immediately. It’s an honor to be interviewing you, Katherine!
That is really sweet to say. If we were face 2 face I’d give you a big hug.
First and foremost, you’re just a little over one month away from embarking on one the most exciting projects of your life. How are you feeling, and what are you anticipating the most?
Tell me a little about your childhood and whether or not you were always drawn to the camera.
My childhood was very isolated. I was an only child and grew up on a river in a small town in Louisiana. I experienced most of my life through movies which opened me up to so many different feelings and dreams. I knew very early on that I was drawn to making movies and left Louisiana for Hollywood when I was just 16.
I love that you had a realization that even though you nearly had 5,000 Facebook friends, it had been months since you last had a hug. Do you believe that Facebook actually contributed to increasing levels of individualism in this country?
How did the actual idea for Face 2 Face begin, and how did you go about selecting which 50 people were going to be your hosts throughout this adventure? Also, how long is this journey going to be?
I was recovering from surgery and went into a very deep depression. I wasn’t happy with my career or my personal life and I wanted a change. I had literally felt as though I had hit a brick wall and was ready to give up on life. That was when I was staring at my Facebook page in tears and looking at how many friends I had, yet I felt so alone and disconnected from the world. It was in that moment I really had an intense awakening that if I was at a point in my life where I was ready to throw in the towel, I might as well do something that scared me… to connect with people face 2 face. And so I grabbed my flip camera in that moment and typed a status update that said the first 50 people that say YES I am coming to your town with my camera and spending a day with you. I had no idea how I was going to make it happen, I just felt an inner guidance that it was what I needed to do. Within 15 minutes I had my 50 people and it kept going and going. People were pleading for me to come to their town and I felt I wasn’t the only one who craved a little human connection.
The journey will last the entire summer and will be streamed 24-7 on our website, www.face2facemovie.com. An editor will be working around the clock piecing together the most profound stories and cutting it into a feature length documentary that we will then submit to Sundance.
Who are some of the people and places you’ll be visiting?
Were they all people you knew closely, or are there some individuals you had never heard about?
Two of them I knew in high school, but haven’t seen in 25 years. The others I have never met and some I have never even spoken to through Facebook.
Whether it is with your directorial debut feature or your current work, you seem obsessed with the idea of human connection. Why is this theme so important to you?
Face 2 Face aside, given your incredible experience in the field, how “real” really is reality television? Feel free to answer in the most politically correct way if need be!
I’m not one to be very politically correct, so, I’d say I’ve worked on over 50 shows and two of them were real. The rest are scripted. It’s really sad because when we cut the cameras that is when the REAL stuff happens — the stuff that would make people not feel so alone.
Any fun anecdotes from your time on the sets of The Real World or The Osbournes?
The Osbournes was my very favorite show to work on because they are as real as it gets. You don’t need to script anything with a family that interesting and honest and loving. It really was a blast. We were set up in the garage (which is about as big as my house) and their dogs used to always come visit, or the family would sneak in and say hello. Just a beautiful family! Usually when you are behind monitors watching 12 hours it can get very boring, but we were always entertained.
This might seem like a corny question, but with a new movie coming out (Waking Madison), another one in the works (The Boys Club), and this gigantic project (Face 2 Face), how do you find the energy, determination, and time to do all this?
I find it fitting that the title of your next feature is The Boys Club, as the amount of female directors (let alone LGBT female directors) is ridiculously low. Do you believe being a woman has made things harder for you career-wise, and what advice would you have for our young female readers aspiring to break into the industry?
How can Daily BR!NK readers contribute to your success?
Give me a hug if you see me in person and continue to push forward with who you are and who you are meant to be.