The Independent spoke to Tara Wray and Josh Melrod, a husband and wife team, about their co-directorial debut with Cartoon College, a documentary about The Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont. Cartoon College is currently in production. Both Wray and Melrod are featured in The Independent‘s Ten to Watch in 2010.
Your previous film, Manhattan, Kansas, was a very personal documentary about your mother, Tara. This one is less personal. How did this fact affect your process?
Tara Wray: I had no idea what I was getting into with Manhattan, Kansas. I had great people around me to steer me in the right direction. It was much easier, actually.
For this new film, I try to be as objective as I can. I find it harder because you have to earn trust and get into other people’s lives. There are issues of access and boundaries. I wouldn’t want to make a piece about myself again. I wanted this one to be a fun project and I’ve been surprised by the hard work it [involves]. Cartooning is a pretty serious art form. There are a lot of academically minded people here. They make it look easy.
Josh Melrod: And the scope of this one is bigger; we moved here to make this movie. We’ve totally changed our lives for it. For the first movie, our lives remained the same. We’ve been in production for so much longer; there are more people involved.
Wray: We were going to shoot the film and go back to New York City, but we decided to buy a place and live here [in rural Vermont]. We see horses and turkeys in the morning before we see our neighbors. It’s a little harder working with editors, who are in NYC. There’s no broadband Internet where we are. It makes steaming media tough.
When did you each realize that you wanted to be a filmmaker?
Melrod: Tara saw To Be and To Have in 2003, a French movie about a one-room schoolhouse, and said that she was going to make a film about her mother. I was like, ‘cool.’ She inspired me to work with her.
Wray: I had been trying to write a novel or short story about my mom and I thought a movie would be easier…I was so wrong. I was working at NYU at the time, and during my lunch break, I would watch a ton of documentaries. I grew up loving the movies.
How do you manage both living and working together? Do you ever make each other crazy? Or keep each other sane in the crazy process of production?
Melrod: It is a challenge. For seven years we shared a 375-foot studio apartment in NYC. There were no doors to close for privacy. We had a lot of practice in getting along before moving to Vermont.
Wray: Every time you tell that story that apartment gets smaller! Josh is the first person that reads my articles. He’s the next set of eyes that sees the dailies after mine. I trust him implicitly. There’s really not a boss between us, even though I sometimes think it’s me…
Melrod: Hmm. I think we both think we’re the boss…you know, every problem has to be addressed and worked through in any relationship, whether it’s a marriage or at work. That’s just what we do.
Wray: I wouldn’t have it any other way.