The Berkshire International Film Festival is celebrating its 15th birthday this year, and to do that, we’d like to honor some of our new filmmakers. For our Filmmaker Four article series, we sent all our BIFF first-timers the same set of four questions—the answers, of course, are delightfully different.
Doug Roland tells stories about individuals and communities underrepresented and overlooked, focusing on social impact. His first BIFF film, the Oscar-nominated Feeling Through, was executive produced by Marlee Matlin, made in partnership with Helen Keller Services, and is the first film to star a DeafBlind actor.
A story like Feeling Through deserves truly accessible screenings, and so Roland has taken the film across the country as part of a fully accessible screening event called The Feeling Through Experience, collaborating with dozens of organizations along the way, promoting DeafBlind awareness, and a message about the triumph of humanity’s ability to connect with each other regardless of some of our differences.
What was your first experience on a film set?
The summer after my first film production classes in college, I somehow convinced an ultra low budget filmmaking team that I was qualified to be a DP. The film was Brooklyn Boyz (yes, with a “z”), and to say nothing went right would be an understatement. To cap it off, a semi-famous rapper was supposed to make a cameo on the last day of shooting and, you guessed it, he never showed up. Ultimately it was a great lesson in how much can go wrong on a shoot if you’re not well prepared.
What was the first film you directed/wrote?
The project I’d really call my first film was a short film called Jada. I had just moved to Venice Beach and knew that I wanted to set a story there, and quite organically a story flashed through my mind of a 7 year old runaway living alone on the beach. The film played in a number of good festivals, but most notably it went super viral, receiving over 6 million views in its first week, and now having over 24 million views. In reading through some of the thousands of comments and messages I received, I saw that time and again people were moved to look into adoption and foster care. This started me on my journey as a social impact filmmaker.
Who is your favorite filmmaker?
If I have to choose one, I’ll say Paul Thomas Anderson. I’m probably the ten-millionth person to choose him, but for good reason. I love how he can explore so many different themes/genres yet instill his own touch and sensibility.
What are you working on that no one knows about?
I’m actually in the early stages of exploring a musical animated kids show, which would be a first for me on several fronts.