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The Importance of Being Earnest

Documentarian Lori Joyce exposes Idaho and beyond.

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She has to smile and endure people who don’t know the difference between a documentary and a feature and who ask her for a script as a prerequisite for funding. But her gratitude and resulting work have been rewarded critically and financially and she finally has been able to sign on with a producer’s representative, who is currently at work getting the funding and distribution for the film she’s making now called Tribe All.

Joyce also sees herself as an advocate for all Idaho independent filmmakers, telling anyone who will listen, “We’re good. If you give us the money, we will make a great product for you.”

Her activism has included participation in Idaho Film Day at the Boise Statehouse to educate lawmakers on the benefits to the economy that could come from tax incentives for filmmakers. House Bill 592 awaits Gov. Butch Otter’s signature and, with that, money to fund the film incentive program.

Perseverance is the cornerstone of her advice to aspiring filmmakers.

“If it’s your passion, never give up. Keep going, no matter what.” Joyce also tells young filmmakers to connect with an experienced filmmaker who’s been through all the ups and downs.

She herself is working with a young woman who is trying to make a film about food injustice. The young woman called up discouraged because someone had just given her a donation of $50. But Joyce reminded her to be grateful, because the $50 would buy ink for the printer or pay the electric bill.

“Sure, you need thousands of people giving you $50, or one person to give you $50,000, but you just have to keep going and believe in yourself and your project. It’s all part of the creative process.”

The creative process is the carrot that keeps Joyce holding on through the money aspect. Her favorite time on a film is when it all comes together in the editing room.

Joyce likes going through all the footage and matching it to the on-screen words of the interviewees; she likes adding the music and writing the narrative script.

“In a documentary, it’s backwards. You shoot the film, see what you have, and then you write the script.”

Asked if she has ever started working on a film and found out that it turned out to be completely different from what she thought it was going to be, she answers, “The one I’m working on now has had three different names. It started out as The Presence of The Goddess and now is Tribe All. 

 Joyce never knows what her next project is going to be: “I always say that whatever film I’m working on is my last. That I’m retiring and have nothing more to say,” she jokes.

She’s leaning towards doing features rather than documentaries, comparing the reenactments used in documentaries to the process of creating feature films.

“A lot of the same processes are used to get something inside your head on film,” says Joyce. “I’m open to ideas from other people. Film is a very collaborative process.”

However, she stresses that whatever form her next project takes, it will have to be something she is passionate about.

She is especially drawn to women like those she is encountering in her film, Tribe All. The film is about what women are doing around the world to save the earth. She is currently shooting in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, India, Europe and the United States. The film is slated for completion in 2009.

“This is about women who take leadership roles in their communities to make positive changes. Women who are not afraid to speak out and use their positions for change,” she says.

Fellow award-winning filmmaker Heather Rae sees Joyce as one of those kinds of women.

“Lori Joyce is a truly independent filmmaker. She chooses to live in Idaho in the mountains. She addresses delicate and profound themes. She stays true to her vision and does not adhere to conventions. We need these kinds of filmmakers, and even better in our beautiful state.”

As history has shown, when Lori Joyce dreams, she dreams big. Her ultimate in achievement would be every filmmaker’s, the Academy Award. And why not? Many would say she shouldn’t have made it this far the way she has.

“It all just evolved. Sometimes I wonder how I got here,” she says with wide-eyed honesty. “It’s still amazing to me.”

Chris Munson first met Lori Joyce in 1997 and Munson was intrigued to find out the story behind her friend. Munson majored in English literature and has been a teacher, a writer, and is now honing her multi-slacking skills.

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