Published on March 25th, 2018 | by Biz Books
The Biz Interview: Natalie Boll and LaTiesha Fazakas
Maker of Monsters: The Extraordinary Life of Beau Dick is a portrait of Canadian art legend Beau Dick, an enigmatic carver from a small remote village on the Northwest Coast of British Columbia. His remarkable masks have been celebrated across the global art scene as vibrant expressions of West Coast Indigenous culture and a sophisticated crossover into the contemporary art world.
This film strives to unearth the factors that made Beau who he was and his deep connection to identity, family, and community. Like a carver chipping away at a block of wood, Beau’s story brings truth and understanding out of the woodwork. Maker of Monsters illuminates a man whose art and life continue to transcend expectations and boundaries.
Having previously played out to sold-out audiences at the 2017 Vancouver International Film Festival, Maker of Monsters: The Extraordinary Life of Beau Dick returns to screens on March 29th and April 1st in select Canadian cities. We interviewed co-directors Natalie Boll (top left) and LaTiesha Fazakas (top right) about the unique journey that allowed them to create this fascinating documentary.
Can you start by telling us a little bit about how you got started as a director?
Natalie Boll: This project was my first time directing. I co-directed the project with LaTiesha Fazakas who also had never directed before. I have been a producer, writer and production manager for over 18 years. Directing this project came really out of necessity because we did not have the funding to hire someone. We filmed more than five years, and the experience opened my eyes to another artistic approach to filmmaking. I have always wanted to direct, and this pushed me into it without being able to doubt myself and I embraced it.
LaTiesha Fazakas: As a Gallery Director and Curator, I am constantly telling stories with works of art. I think my natural inclination toward storytelling is what led me to my career in art, and it’s what allowed me to cross that skill over into film; however, I didn’t set out to be the director of this film. It really was a journey that, through the process of making the film, led Natalie and I to become the directors. We were working so hard to produce the film without funding and we both had such an obsessive passion for the project that we eventually realized we were the directors! I had known Beau for almost two decades and had become so close to him personally and professionally that I definitely had a clear vision for the film.
Maker of Monsters: The Extraordinary Life of Beau Dick is your new documentary. What can you share about this experience?
Natalie Boll: We approached the film in a non-conventional way where we just trusted the process and filmed with Beau as life was unfolding. We did not come into it with pre-existing notions of what the film would talk about specifically. We just listened to Beau and followed him, and the story told itself. It has been a tremendous gift to be able to be so intimate with someone in the way Beau allowed us into his life and honor that Beau, his family, and his community have given us the trust not only to tell Beau’s story but continue to share his story with the world. It is a big responsibility that we take very seriously. The whole experience has been life-changing.
LaTiesha Fazakas: It has been life changing. It took us seven years to complete and we filmed for about five of those years. Since I didn’t have any prior film experience, there was a steep learning curve. Thankfully, Natalie had extensive production experience and we were blessed to have met some incredibly talented and generous film professionals who helped us along the way. I think what kept us going was the sense that we were doing something important. It wasn’t until we completed the film and Beau passed away that we realized the full extent of that. It really was a walk through destiny to me.
What can audiences expect from the film?
Natalie Boll: When my co-director LaTiesha first approached me with the idea to do a documentary on Beau, she said, “I just feel everyone should meet Beau.”
This film gives you the opportunity to do this. He was such an inspiration to so many people, and that magnetic connection has come through in the film. The film also gives you an opportunity to learn about the Canadian history and activism that helped shaped Beau’s art. Many people after the film approached me and said watching the film had taught them a lot about Canadian history and issues that they did not know. However, they left feeling positive and uplifted and inspired to help make a change. People who know Beau feel like they spent some time with him again and people who have never met Beau have left the theatre feeling like they know him now.
LaTiesha Fazakas: I think they can expect to be moved, to be entertained by the mischief of Beau, and to be informed about the very real issues our country is facing.
What was the biggest challenge in making the film and how did you overcome it?
Natalie Boll: The biggest challenge was funding. We approached all traditional funding sources, and everyone turned us down. So the film became a passion project. A lot of volunteer hours and a lot of collaborations with many talented people. In the end, this was a blessing. We were able to film for as long as we felt us needed and we had full freedom to tell the story exactly how it was without any restraints.
LaTiesha Fazakas: The biggest challenge was also our biggest blessing, and that was financing. We struggled so long without funding, which was very stressful. However, because of this, the film took much longer to complete, which allowed us to capture some very important moments that we wouldn’t have if we had completed it in two years. The lack of funding also allowed for the generosity and kindness of professionals, which I think gives an authenticity to our film. It was a heartwarming and affirming experience.
“Believe in yourself.”
What was the most rewarding part of this project for you?
Natalie Boll: That we can share Beau’s story.
LaTiesha Fazakas: Watching the audience respond to the film has been incredible. I feel so blessed to hear the laughter and see the tears when others watch the film. And nothing could have prepared me for the profound feeling I had when an audience member, who was a residential school survivor, said that they felt like their pain was heard and they were given hope and pride. That’s deep.
What’s the most important advice you’ve received in your career?
Natalie Boll: Beau tells a beautiful story about a log in the film. This story mirrors the journey to make the film and a fascinating lesson in life. I would love people to watch the film to hear the advice because it takes time to learn the lesson.
LaTiesha Fazakas: Believe in yourself.
What books and authors have been influential in your directing career so far?
Natalie Boll: Right now author Yuval Noah is inspiring me.
LaTiesha Fazakas: I’ve always been interested in people’s stories, so I really love memoirs. My favourite is probably The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. I think her ability to be honest about the complexity of tragedy while also giving a sense of hope really speaks to me.
What other projects are you working on right now?
Natalie Boll: Right now I am working on two projects. The first project Beau inspired me to do. He always spoke about your family, and I didn’t know much about my history and ancestors, so I am currently working on research for a documentary on my family in Bermuda and the colonial history of the island.
The second is a personal story on the international refugee crisis and drownings in the Mediterranean Sea.
LaTiesha Fazakas: I am busy with my gallery business, a book project, and an institutional exhibition in New York next spring. But I have a seed growing for my next film project. I’m waiting for it to sprout before I say anything more.
Where can people find out more about you online?
Natalie Boll: People can find the film on social media @makerofmonster and me @natalielizboll.
LaTiesha Fazakas: www.fazakasgallery.com/about
Thanks to Natalie Boll and LaTiesha Fazakas for speaking with us!
Canadian audiences can see Maker of Monsters: The Extraordinary Life of Beau Dick on March 29th and April 1st in select cities. For more information, please visit MakerofMonsters.ca.