One Day on Earth

The World's Story is Yours to Tell

Curse of the Black Gold - Trailer from Talking Eyes Media on Vimeo.

This week we bring you documentary filmmaker and co-founder of Talking Eyes Media Julie Winokur.

Check out her work at

Who are you and what is your profession?
My name is Julie Winokur and I run a non-profit company called Talking Eyes Media. We produce issue-driven films, books, exhibitions and multi-media that helps shift the social meter in a positive direction. I started the company seven years ago with my husband, photojournalist Ed Kashi, and we've produced projects as far reaching as the impact of oil exploitation on the Niger Delta to the personal strain of family caregiving in our own lives. Our work is always passion driven and tries to capture the complexities of emotion, intensity, and dignity that is the human experience.

When we founded Talking Eyes, we dedicated ourselves to going beyond making powerful media to engaging with grassroots advocates and educators who are actually addressing the issues we tackle. Our work appears across a broad range of outlets, including PBS, National Geographic Magazine,,, MediaStorm, the New York Times Magazine, and the websites of various NGOs, most recently Oxfam.

Can you tell us a little about your background and upbringing?
The truth's out...I'm a Jersey girl. This is something I spent years apologizing for, but now that I've moved back New Jersey, I've grown to appreciate the quirkiness of the place and the substance of the people. I grew up in one of the most functional families I know, and I'm convinced it was my solid upbringing that gave me the fortitude to tackle tough subjects. My family clearly defined the importance of social justice and the responsibility of the individual toward the greater good of the community. The ethics compass was very active in my household, and the notion that a life worth living involves making a contribution to society.

What inspired you to be a filmmaker?
My path to filmmaking was very circuitous. I got a degree in Dance Criticism from the University of Michigan and then returned to New York to dance professionally for a couple of years. The burnout came quickly, so I 'fell back' on my writing credentials. I worked for several years as a magazine editor and then as a freelance writer. I wish I had discovered filmmaking sooner, because it's the ultimate combination of skills I had been developing all along without realizing what I wanted to do when I grew up. On the bright side, my print background gave me a major head start on understanding how to develop a script. Getting the story and pacing to flow are the hardest parts of the filmmaking process, and my writing gave me a great appreciation for the rhythm of language, while my dance background gave me an awareness of the visceral dialogue of music.

I got into filmmaking by accident. My husband and I did a long term project called Aging in America, which spanned seven years of fieldwork. Throughout, I had been recording my interviews on a small DAT recorder, in the hopes of producing some radio pieces. By year five of the project, we decided the interviews should be done on camera so we could include excerpts in a traveling exhibition of the project. Once I got camera in my hands, I was hooked. Before I knew it, I had one hundred hours of tape and no clue what to do with them. All I can say is I owe a debt of gratitude to the elves at Apple who invented Final Cut Pro. I am largely self-taught, and it was sheer luck of timing that made cutting a film attainable for me.

Who are your heros?
My parents are among my heroes because they had a phenomenal capacity to give. I've also met many heroes among the people I've documented, but one woman in particular impacted me in my early twenties. I never learned her name, but she was an older English woman who had raised her children and then once they were independent she moved to Nepal so she could volunteer to help young girls learn office skills in order to find jobs and lift themselves out of poverty. She didn't settle for her comfy, middle class English life and dream about doing something. She took action. I've always held her up as a role model.

What do you feel you want to shoot on 10.10.10?
It's impossible to say what I'll shoot on that day. It totally depends where I'll be. My life often takes me to places I wouldn't have predicted, but there's always something magical there to be revealed.

Why is this important to you?
I see this project as a time capsule, one that allows a lot of people from different sensibilities and backgrounds to visualize our world simultaneously. It's a moment that we can unify our experiences under one umbrella, which is incredibly powerful at a time of such discordance around the world.

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