I AM NO BIRD Still 4 Mariposa St Films I am Ilsa Melchiori What do you actually do Emily Baker

4.8 WHAT DO YOU ACTUALLY DO? Q&A WITH EMILY BAKER

I’ve got a range of diverse and interesting people coming up on the What Do You Actually Do series answering a few nosey questions about their work within creative fields. Over time I’ll be sneaking in more and more ‘not often asked’ questions including those about the all shameful, yet all necessary, money.

But that’s later.

Up today we have teacher and documentary film maker Emily Baker talking about how she splits her time between teaching children in custody and working on Mariposa St Flims upcoming project I Am No Bird.


Describe what you do in 5 words or less.

E: Make docs and teach kids.

Now expand…

E: I direct documentaries, so that’s half of what I do. I’m currently directing my second feature, working title I Am No Bird, which follows 4 women from around the world through their wedding ceremonies. And then the other half of what I do is work in the Vocational Education team at Parkville College, a school serving students in custody. I love both my jobs.

I AM NO BIRD Still 2 Mariposa St Films I am Ilsa Melchiori What do you actually do Emily Baker copy
Film still from I Am No Bird

What has your career journey been like? 

E: Really fortunate, and continually supported by other people. I started out as a journalism under-grad who felt pretty unenthused about mainstream media. I wrote to some guys who made a short film I really loved, and they told me to come to the States and work on their feature, Beasts of the Southern Wild. That was an incredible opportunity, which led to me working on other great films and documentaries. That, in turn, gave me the confidence to do my own documentary, SPOKE, for which I rode my bicycle across the United States. When I got home to Australia, I worked in VFX on a bunch of big Hollywood things, before deciding I’d like to teach. I’d volunteered to teach Saturday school for a few years, and it was something I really loved.

Best part of your job?

E: The best part of making documentaries is having a vehicle to step into someone else’s life and see something you otherwise never would. On this film, that’s included experiences like seeing traditional Naga dancers in North-East India and visiting a Pentecostal Church in Dandenong. Both are experiences I wouldn’t have had without film.
The best part of teaching is seeing a kid’s confidence grow. It’s a great feeling to take a kid from thinking they’ll never understand a concept, to getting it and feeling great about themselves. It’s the best.

Worst/hardest part of your job?

E: The most boring part of filmmaking is trying to get funding. I’m pretty impatient so for my last project I just used Kickstarter funding rather than grant bodies. I just wanted to make it, I didn’t want to wait. But I’m taking a different, slightly more professional approach with this one!
The hardest part of being a teacher is wanting to protect your students from harm.

I AM NO BIRD Still 3 Mariposa St Films aI am Ilsa Melchiori What do you actually do Emily Baker copy
Film still from I Am No Bird

What does your typical work day look like?

E: It really varies a lot! When I was in production, I was basically just following these generous, patient women around and filming their everyday lives. Now I’m in post [production] I spend a lot of time in the studio, huddled in front of a computer with a cup of tea.

What percent of your time is spent on work that pays the bills vs your own creative projects?

E: About 50/50. I’m very lucky.

I AM NO BIRD Still 4 Mariposa St Films I am Ilsa Melchiori What do you actually do Emily Baker copy
Film still from I Am No Bird

What are your favourite apps to use for work?

E: I don’t really use any apps for work? Sorry, not cool enough.

What is it like working for yourself?

E: I don’t really consider it ‘working for myself’ because while I do earn a little money from SPOKE, it’s nowhere near enough to cover costs. All that comes from my day job, and I have bosses there. I used to do more freelance film stuff, but I found it didn’t leave much time or energy for my own work. So I don’t work for myself, I definitely have a boss (hey Dan)! But I’m really fortunate to work somewhere that’s been flexible and happy to accommodate me.

What is your current work playlist?

E: Haha. WELL. At the moment on Spotify I’m digging of Montreal, LION BABE, Coda Conduct, and some old Turkish stuff by Nilufer that’s getting me inspired for my film. Also that one DJ Khaled song with the Biebs that’s everywhere right now.

I AM NO BIRD Still 2 Mariposa St Films I am Ilsa Melchiori What do you actually do Emily Baker copy
Film still from I Am No Bird

Best career advice/tips you could give someone?

E: I don’t really feel qualified to be giving advice to anyone, but I would say to ask for help and be grateful when you receive it. People are only as good as the help they are given, I don’t believe in the ‘self-made-man’ concept overly.

Can you tell us about your next project?

E: My current project, I Am No Bird, follows 4 women from around the world in the lead-up to, and on the day of their weddings. We shot in Australia, India, Turkey, and Mexico, on a BlackMagic as well as Super8. Currently, we’re in post-production and seeking finishing funding, so if you have too much money give us a ring.

I AM NO BIRD Still 4 Mariposa St Films I am Ilsa Melchiori What do you actually do Emily Baker

What’s your next step/move? Any future dreams/goals?

E: To finish this film and let everybody meet the four intelligent, strong, and diverse women it features. Also to get a cronut.

I Am No Bird is currently seeking funding to finish the project. If you are interested please head over to the website to get in touch with the team and find out more.

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