In Up & Left, The Pride Foundation and The Audience Awards provided a platform for filmmakers to present their lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual and queer (LGBTQ) film works to the world. Out of 10 films and over 14,500 film views, Filmmaker Ariane Kunze and her short film “We Are All Human” were voted #1 by the audience.
Who are you and what’s your filmmaking background?
I am currently a video producer at The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, WA. I have done freelance work in the Northwest as a visual journalist for a variety of nonprofits, clients and companies. I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon in 2012 and completed my master’s degree at the UO in multimedia journalism in 2014.
What are you working on right now?
Since 2012, I have been working on a documentary about sex trafficking in Portland, OR. I have been following the stories of several trafficking survivors and the journey of a safe home for adult survivors. Currently there are no homes where adult survivors of sex trafficking can stay long-term in the state of Oregon and receive the specialized care they need. My hope for this documentary is to not only educate and promote awareness for the issue of domestic sex trafficking, but to also empower survivors and provide a creative platform for resolution. The current work can be seen at mendingcinderella.com.
What do you want the audience to take away from your films?
My greatest hope is to inspire those who view my films to think differently about the world. One of my favorite things about being a visual storyteller is having the opportunity to show people a new perspective on life. If I can inspire or impact even one person with my work, and help someone feel they are not alone in this world, then my job has been done.
What’s your favorite story from filmmaking?
I did a story earlier this year on an artist who creates incredible mosaics out of roach paper, the left over pieces of smoked marijuana joints. Recreational marijuana is legal in Washington, so we are always looking for unique ways to cover the topic at The Columbian. After the shoot was over and as I was packing up to leave, the artist was standing near a propane heater. Suddenly, his backside burst into flames. We all ran out of the small cabin and his friend pushed him to the ground. The flames did not go out immediately, so a “joint effort” was made to help him. I was slightly in shock after the whole ordeal. A few months, the artist healed from his injuries and now we both have a crazy story to tell from our time together.
What are your wildest dreams for your filmmaking career?
I would love to travel the world and work for a humanitarian effort one day. I really enjoy immersion into new cultures and finding insightful ways to tell stories. If I could work for National Geographic in the future, I’d be okay with that. Above all else, it’s the purpose of the work that is most meaningful to me, not the publication. I believe the power to give the unheard a voice, and to create media that stands for a purpose, is the most meaningful form of journalism and service to humanity.
What currently inspires you?
I am currently inspired by the work of Maisie Crow. Crow illustrates her stories using a combination of video, audio and photo. She seamlessly tells emotionally compelling stories, without inserting her own personal voice into the narrative. She spends a lot of time with her subjects and builds strong, trusting relationships that allow her into the most intimate of situations. Her most recent work is a short documentary and photo story on Mississippi’s last abortion clinic. Her creative approach to filming this piece and the mix of voices she uses demonstrate her skill as a journalist and filmmaker.
What’s your best advice for an aspiring filmmaker?
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. You have to be confident and a good listener. Both of these attributes can be developed with a lot of practice. It comes from meeting a variety of people and hearing stories that are far different from your own. Also, do work that matters. Pursue projects and issues about which you are passionate and make a difference. You are a voice in this world for those who may not have one. You have the power to make a difference with your talent.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
I met Braxton when I pursued a story on transgender life in Clark County, WA for The Columbian newspaper. He was extraordinarily honest and open with me. A stranger at the time, he gave me full access to his personal life. In return, he had a simple message he hoped to share with the world. “We are all human.” He didn’t ask people to accept his life choices, or change their political opinions. All he hoped by telling his story was that he could help people understand we are all part of humanity; therefore we all deserve the same respect, regardless gender and sexuality.
Posting “We Are All Human” to the Audience Awards site and entering it into the LGBTQ film competition gave Braxton’s story the opportunity to reach a much broader audience than it otherwise might have. Braxton’s humility and honest message deserves to reach across the world. And as a journalist, I felt I owed it to him to make this possible.
The Audience Awards sets itself apart from other film competitions by offering acceptance to all types of films films, diversity in filmmakers and individuality of stories. It provides a platform where a variety of stories can live, educating both present and future audiences.
I received great support from other filmmakers as well as audience members who were dealing with similar issues. The feedback I received through comments and messages encouraged Braxton and reinforced his message. For me, this was the ultimate gift of this competition. Providing a support system for Braxton and proving that his message really can make a difference was incredibly rewarding for both of us.
You can visit Ariane’s website here!
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