Michelle Conlin (“No Impact Man’s” partner) is my oldest and dearest friend. When Michelle and her family moved to Minneapolis our eighth grade year we became fast friends. The school we attended had a strong theater program and Michelle had lead roles in school plays such as Member of the Wedding and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Michelle also had a side career in professional regional theater, starring in prestigious performances such as Lee Blessing’s world premiere of his play Eleemosynary. I still remember reading in the Minneapolis Tribune that Michelle had given “a superbly deft performance.” I thought Michelle might go on to be a stage actress, but she decided to pursue journalism instead. When we were in our 20’s and in graduate school — she in journalism and I in film — we talked about working together creatively in some way, but it would be a while before we found the right opportunity.
Cut to twenty years later. I had spent the intervening years making social issue documentaries, and Michelle had built an impressive career in journalism in print and on television. In 2006 when Colin came up with his No Impact book idea, Michelle and I knew we had found a project on which to collaborate. As working mothers and friends who lived on opposite coasts, the documentary would be a way for us to work together as well as reclaim aspects of our childhood friendship.
Once Colin agreed to the project, we jumped in. Being based in New York, my directing and producing partners Justin Schein and Eden Wurmfeld covered the weekly shooting. Michelle and I engaged in carbon friendly telephone calls and emails to brainstorm ideas and prepare for the daily shooting.
Over the course of the No Impact year, I went to New York regularly for extended stays, crashing on the sofa to afford an insider’s view of No Impact family life. I could roll out of bed and start shooting as Michelle and Colin woke up in the morning, or capture them late at night when they would have some of their most intimate conversations.
Both Michelle and Colin were very generous and let us shoot situations they weren’t sure they wanted in the film. Michelle’s comfort in front of the camera is apparent and there’s no doubt in my mind that this comes from her years of training as an actress. Michelle and I made it through the making of NO IMPACT MAN, friendship intact, and are now looking for new ways to collaborate as filmmaker/journalist and possibly even as director/subject again.