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We Live In Public

Director Ondi Timoner talks to Dazed about her latest film, which explores our relationship to the internet, and its relationship to us

Ondi Timoner burst on to the scene with the Grand Jury Prize-winning rockumentary Dig! which followed the trajectory of friends then foes The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols, and now she has made what may be the most timely film of the past decade. We Live In Public follows the somewhat crazed projects of Josh Harris – "the most influential internet pioneer you’ve never heard of" and manages to reveal something very important about contemporary life in the process. We caught trained our sights on her to find out just who is watching who...

Dazed Digital: How’s it going?
Ondi Timoner: It’s all rather hectic. The film's just been released in America and I’ve just got off the road from touring the world for the last month. I wouldn’t say I’m great but I have my health. I should be pretty thankful. I’m also starting another film right now.

DD: What’s the film about?
Ondi Timoner: It’s about Robert Maplethorpe and Patti Smith. It’s going to be a narrative film. Then I’m going to make a film about global warming and economics called Cool.

DD: You like to keep yourself busy I gather?
Ondi Timoner: Yeah. You kind of have to in order to survive. Especially after We Live In Public I kind of have to keep working. I put ten years of my life into We Live In Public and I hope it comes out and continues to be embraced by everybody. With the economy the way it is, it’s not the best time to be making films. We’re working on viral and word of mouth.

DD: How did you find yourself doing documentaries?
Ondi Timoner: I’ve always been interested in directly connecting with people. I picked up a camera when I was 19 and went across the country on spring break and started asking people at toll booths and convenience stores things like what makes them happy, what they fear the most and what they think about gays in the military. It was amazing. People would just talk to me because I had a camera in my hand. I remember I asked one guy what do you fear the most and he replied ,‘Women with video cameras!’

DD: You seem to spend a lot of time with your subjects…
Ondi Timoner: Time creates this incredible narrative. You can’t always do that, but in the case of We Live In Public it wasn’t ready. His vision started in 1999, but it took time for that vision to come into fruition as far as I could tell. I think we’re at this tipping point where the virtual world is trumping the physical – we get to question where we are moving, what are we gaining.

DD: What was it that turned you on to Josh in the first place?
Ondi Timoner: Well, he was one of these eccentric entrepreneurs spending his money in incredible ways. So when people were buying houses and cars, he was buying bunkers. So when I saw The Bunker in early stages of construction I asked him what he was doing, he said, ‘I’m putting one hundred Manhattanites here, putting cameras everywhere.' I just had to cover it. I was actually going to make a film about that event but he stole the tape saying he didn’t like the way he looked. Hilarious considering he was this puppetmaster overlooking these hundred individuals for a month.

We Live In Public is on general release from Monday November 16