In 2015, Hart Ginsburg founded Digital Tapestries in response to his experiences as a psychotherapist. Inspired by the healing potential of art, he aimed to serve the diverse needs of his clients through interactive books and short films. He soon expanded his visual materials by developing a workshop format, offering film screenings as well as panel discussions. Each of Digital Tapestries’ productions – films, books, and workshops – encourages meaningful dialogue and human connection and encourages participants to reach beyond a surface level response by awakening to their own humanistic capacities.
Since its inception, Digital Tapestries has grown into a team of artists and professionals that draw from digital media, art, social work, psychotherapy, and communications. His latest experimental short is called Healing. It was our pleasure to speak to Hart about the making of his film and his work as a filmmaker.
How did you start making films and what was the first film project you worked on?
After living in Japan and returning to Chicago, I enrolled in graduate school to pursue psychology. At that time, I began to wonder how humanistic psychological theory and principles could inform our everyday experiences and conversations as a way to reduce stigma around mental health challenges. In response to a need for more creative visibility on such topics, one of our earlier films was Aijo, meaning “love” in Japanese, which explored themes of depression and relationships. After graduate school, as a therapist I focused on working with refugees and, more recently, returned to film. So I guess this has been a circular process.
What was the inspiration behind the making of Healing?
Somewhere between being a psychotherapist and involved in film, I was interested in exploring human vulnerability and the precarity of our times alongside the virtual landscapes, where therapists and clients connect and disconnect. So in these circumstances, what is it that keeps people feeling psychologically grounded and safe? Within that context, we hope that Healing provides our viewers an experiential journey of reflection and existential discovery.
What is the most challenging aspect of being an independent filmmaker in the film industry?
Definitely, not an easy question, but, generally speaking, it is difficult to stay consistent with one's intentions. Focusing on success, to a certain degree, can contradict one’s original artistic goals. In other words, striving for popularity at the cost of one's ethical framework can be damaging. Of course, we need balance to survive, but I would like Digital Tapestries to prioritize focusing on films that are meaningful rather than popular. So continuing to work as a therapist, which I enjoy, allows space to avoid becoming preoccupied with outcomes.
How difficult is it to fund indie films?
From personal experience, it is often more challenging than it appears. There are often expenses or costs that are unaccounted for in the initial planning stage. During college, I took classes in economics and statistics, which gave me a basic framework for understanding probability, which I find applicable in project management. So I think we need to be thoughtful in our expectations to reduce risk.
Please name three of your most favorite directors. How have they been influential in your work?
There are so many gifted and inspiring directors, but if I had to choose three in terms of their influence on our work it would be Trinh T. Minh-ha, Alain Resnais and Darren Aronofsky. Each with their own distinctive approach, challenged and expanded my understanding of film in multiple dimensions. Trinh’s humanistic unassuming way to direct films, which fluidly exists between various genres, inspires our aspirations in facilitating intersectional film spaces. Alain Resnais’s film Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), left an indelible impression in depicting the dehumanizing complexities of war and trauma without explicitly revealing them. Actually, the film’s use of silence in conveying suffering not only informed me artistically, but also as a therapist. Finally, Darren Aronofsky’s film Pi (1998), I have repeatedly viewed, each time brings another experience. Especially, in how seamlessly disparate textures converge, from the opening tai chi scene to New York City subway scenes. I could keep going on, but I will save you some space.
How did your film go into production and how did you finalize the cast and the crew?
The films I work on are collaborative, but often I begin the process early on before officially starting production by doing some filming and creating an initial storyboard. So that when we reach the more active production phase it is less demanding. In terms of cast and crew, the most important qualities I look for are honesty and reliability. No matter how skilled or famous someone is, if they don’t show up, there isn’t a film. Of course, skills are necessary, but to a certain degree they can be learned. So far, I have been fortunate to collaborate with outstanding individuals from various backgrounds and lived experiences, who both inspire and challenge me in good ways.
What is your plan for further distribution of the film in order to reach a wider audience?
As for distribution, this is new terrain for us. In the meantime, Digital Tapestries, our production organization, has facilitated several online healing workshops, which incorporate film and music to engage and strengthen our communities. The participants have included overseas guests from Taiwan, Philippines and Japan. In these divisive times, it was comforting to see diversity transcending perceived barriers. From these roots, we are aiming to participate in other inclusive spaces such as museums, where communities and arts intersect.
What do you recommend to other filmmakers regarding the making and the distribution of independent feature films?
In terms of the making of independent films, one thing that has been helpful for me is to be engaged in supporting immigrant communities. It is in those spaces where unexpected ideas can organically emerge. Also being around other positive-minded people with different lived experiences can naturally broaden and inspire our lives as well as artistic praxis. So outside of film endeavors, if you can find a way to connect with other diverse communities it might be useful.
What is your next film project and what are you currently working on?
We are exploring other short films as part of a Healing trilogy as well as different types of films such as music and meditative films to encourage individual discovery and communal engagement.
Why do you make films?
As a therapist, working with immigrants and refugees broadened my understanding of humanity through their resilience, humility and kindness. In particular, witnessing them write beautiful poems and vivid paintings of their countries of origin was profoundly moving. In a small way, I attempt to respond to these formative experiences by providing inclusive spaces for healing. Thereby, film became one such way to open up a therapeutic dialogue beyond the limitations of language, socioeconomic factors and stigma. We hope to keep learning.