10 Filmmakers to Watch in 2014: Liss LaFleur

Liss LaFleur is on our 10 Filmmakers to Watch in 2014 for her interactive documentary "One Way Home."

As seen in her latest film One Way Home, Liss LaFleur’s filmmaking comes in the form of new media, with her background in photography, art history, and cinema all working together to create a powerful filmic experience. LaFleur has made a name for herself, having won a number of accolades throughout her emerging career, and recently won a Hackathon at the Filmgate Interactive Festival for One Way Home. It is all this and more that puts LaFleur on our 10 to Watch list.

Detailing the AIDS/HIV crisis, One Way Home is an interactive documentary about Rodd Gray, a gay Air Force veteran in Texas, who spearheads the nation’s only charity organization dedicated to bringing AIDS-inflicted people home and reuniting them with their families, called Home for the Holidays, Texas. For many, this may be their last trip home.

The Independent’s Ziyad Saadi interviewed Liss LaFleur about her work.

Ziyad Saadi: What prompted you to tackle such a heavy issue that not too many directors tend to look at?

Liss LaFleur:I met Rodd, the main person who started doing all this in 2008, and we really hit it off. At the time, I was photographing a drag group that he was a part of, and I heard about what he was doing with buying tickets for people and the story just really stuck with me. I really was moved by everything he’s organized and done just as a single person. And I knew that when I first got into filmmaking that I wanted to make it a story.

ZS: The issue of AIDS and homophobia can be very difficult to expose and dissect. How did you determine the best way to go about doing it?

LaFleur: It’s interesting because I come from a really small town in Texas and I came out when I was 16. I have faced a lot of the adversity that people can have with homophobia and fear. I think fear is a driving force in this movie. But it’s really a story about support—how community can be supportive and how family can be supportive, and what role that can take. It’s important that I place the story in a way where audiences can align their perspectives with the subject matter so that it has an impact for them. So, I thought through Rodd’s stories and all of the travelers’ stories and the families’ stories who are left behind. I thought about what it means to be a witness to that and what it means to be a part of that and how it involved so many different people, in so many different places.

ZS: What makes this documentary “interactive”?

LaFleur: I went into the Hackathon in Miami thinking linearly and I came away with a more circular concept of a docu-game. A user will take on a role of someone similar to him/ her and view the material from that lens. I am working with Radish Labs, at the IFP New Media Center in NYC, on this. It has been so interesting to see the reactions of people outside of Texas and who are new this community. This has been a part of me for so long, but to others, it’s a whole new world.

ZS: What kind of response have you gotten with your innovative approach to making the movie?

LaFleur: I’ve had great responses. People are really excited about it. Especially in Texas, the community that has been supporting me and working with me, giving me access to all of these stories. They’re excited because it’s an innovative way to talk about the history, but also show things as they are and kind of look at the future all at the same time.

ZS: What are do you hope to accomplish with One Way Home and your filmmaking in general?

LaFleur: I love new media. For me, the future is so exciting not only because of all of the technological advances, but all of the doors that are becoming available for new media and digital platforms.

My background is fine art. I did documentary photography and art history in a studio practice. Then I moved to Boston and really pursued filmmaking, screenwriting, and editing. And now I’m finding this middle ground where there’s this innovative, playful space to create work that can be impactful and tell stories in different ways. I thrive off of the exchange when I’m working. It’s part of my ethical practice. If it’s not an equal exchange, it’s not right. I get something out of it as a filmmaker and my subject must gain something as well. As I work on these projects, I’m building a relationship with someone. There’s a lot of trust involved. It’s not just how I tell the story, but how they tell it to me.

To learn more about Liss LaFleur and her work, see:

You can read about how LaFleur’s practice of exchange has affected Rodd Gray and his work at Home for the Holidays, Texas on our Facebook page.

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