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Film Wed Apr 27 2011
Davy Rothbart had no problem opening up to a video camera about his complicated love life, in part because his friend David Meiklejohn was behind it.
"One surprising thing about documentary film is how quickly people forget about the camera," says Rothbart, the subject of the "romantic documentary" My Heart Is An Idiot and creator of Found magazine, which publishes bizarre and/or hilarious notes, photos, homework assignments, ticket stubs, drawings, and more that readers submit. "The first couple of days (or weeks, maybe)" in front of a camera "people are hyper-aware of [it]. And then the camera quickly becomes invisible, and the subject just feels like they're hanging out with you -- they forget about the camera even being there, and just act totally naturally."
Meiklejohn, a filmmaker who'd known Rothbart since 2002, originally wanted to make a documentary about the Found tour: Rothbart and his brother Peter traveling around the country, showcasing the kinds of finds they publish in the magazine or on the website. The Rothbart brothers, Meiklejohn says, "always wished some of the hilariously weird happenings on the road could be documented. With all the amazing people they'd meet, and all the curious stories they heard, they realized they wanted to share the experience."
But shortly after starting to film -- Meiklejohn joined the tour for two months each in 2004, 2005, and 2006 -- he realized that the majority of his conversations with Rothbart were about love and relationships. Then, he says, "Davy and I started to talk about the film in terms of its romantic arc. ... We simply couldn't stop talking about love." Rothbart even started asking advice from people he met on tour, including Zooey Deschanel and Newt Gingrich -- who "astonishingly," Rothbart says, had some great advice -- and the person who knows him best (i.e., his mom).
"For me," Rothbart says, "the magic of the Found notes" is the fact that they can make people "relate to and sympathize with a stranger and what they're going through. By the same token, I think that, within the ups and downs of my love life, there's a lot that people will relate to in some way."
See My Heart Is An Idiot at Intuit Gallery (756 N. Milwaukee Avenue) Saturday, April 30, at 7pm. A Q&A with Rothbart and Meiklejohn follows. "One scene in the film actually takes place in the same room at Intuit where the film will be screening," Meiklejohn notes. "It'll be a very meta evening."