Micro Interview: Jack Morgan
Something Like Home is a documentary exploring the impact of language and education on the lives of four Syrian refugees in Turkey and Jordan.
Producer Jack Morgan speaks with Film Pittsburgh about mission, authenticity, and cities with character.
Film Pittsburgh: If “Something Like Home” were the offspring of two other films, who are its parents?
Jack Morgan: We've been compared to the White Helmets before - which we're proud of - but we didn't model any other documentaries. In fact, I kept my plan to turn the footage from this journey into a documentary a secret from the team until the time was right, so as far as the team was concerned, our mission with this project was simply to tell people's stories authentically - regardless of the format. When it came time for me to push for a short documentary as the vehicle for doing this, I emphasized that I wanted the audience to feel like they were in the room with us, like they were physically on the journey every step of the way. I'm proud of how it turned out.
FP: What do you find unique about working in short film?
JM: This was our first film, so the short answer - no pun intended - is that we don't know yet. One thing that I find remarkable about short films in particular is their ability to carry you through a wide and deep range of emotions in such a constrained time period; I think it's a great example of constraints adding to creativity, and less being more.
FP: Any wisdom for aspiring filmmakers?
JM: Wisdom is a strong word for a man that just admitted this is his first film, so I'll answer it as a designer and art director instead - intent is key. Ask yourself the question early on: "Why am I making this?" If it's because you want to make something great, because you want to make the audience feel something, or just because it's fun - those are great reasons. If it's to make money or get notoriety, I think you're much less likely to walk away with something you're proud of and that will stand the test of time.
FP: What upcoming projects are you working on?
JM: I'm always working on getting multiple new projects off the ground and while I like to move fast and get things done, sometimes you have to let an idea marinate for a bit. When we created Something Like Home, my broader ambition was always to continue documenting the very human experience of learning a new language, so I created an umbrella brand for this called 'People of Duolingo,' with the mission of finding and publishing powerful stories from people around the world. My team and I are working on building this out as a long term project, but we haven't decided which medium is best for the message just yet.
FP: What is your favorite thing about Pittsburgh?
JM: The people and the character of the city. I'm from a blue collar area of East London, England - and there are many parallels between the two. Both have risen, fallen and risen again, and you can see that reflected in the personalities of Pittsburghers. I find the people warm but direct. They're authentic. What you see is what you get. In today's day and age, that's very refreshing. I guess you could say Pittsburgh has always felt Something Like Home to me... sorry, I couldn't resist.