Melissa Dowler is an award-winning documentary film director and co-founder of Long Haul Films, a production company that makes films for and about artists and innovators; and co-founder of She Sees, a volunteer organization with a mission to inspire and empower the next generation of diverse female filmmakers.
If you could tell your younger self something you’ve learned along the way, what would you say?
I would quote Joseph Campbell to her: “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.” This quote changed my life, and I wish I had heard it, and understood its truth, when I was my younger self.
What is the most unique or special place you’ve worked/done a shoot?
I have been so lucky to film in cities around the world, from New York to London to Singapore. If I have to choose one place, I’d say that I love creating in Detroit, a city that constantly inspires me with its tenacity, indomitable spirit, its welcoming attitude and its willingness to reimagine itself against all odds. I have been working on a documentary there for a while, and it’s become like a second home to me. I’ve connected with so many creators, business-builders, storytellers, dreamers, risk-takers and change-makers in that city and each time I film there, I feel lucky to be documenting the journey of a place defined as much by unimaginable challenges as it is by unbelievable opportunities.
What inspired you to become an image maker?
Seeing the movie ‘Lost in Translation’ by Sofia Coppola cracked me open, and though I didn’t know it at the time, set me on the path to becoming a filmmaker. I was always a cinephile, but my references were Scorcese, Tarantino, PT Anderson, and *Francis Ford* Coppola—in other words, men. And while I loved, and still do love, their films, ‘Lost in Translation’ was a revelation because it was a film about someone just like me, that felt like it was written and directed by someone who had experienced so many of the confusing, conflicting emotions that were part of my own reality. I remember thinking “I didn’t know anyone was allowed to make a movie like this!” I watched the movie 5 times in theaters, and have seen it countless times since. It was the first tiny indication I ever had that women could be filmmakers and it started me on the slow, slippery path to believing maybe *I* could be a filmmaker. It also inspired me to dream that one day I would make a movie that could connect as deeply with other people as ‘Lost In Translation’ connected with me.