Alec Keshishian is no stranger to the musician bio-doc format, with Madonna practically pioneering the genre. Truth or dareA look at the singer’s personal and professional life in the 1990s Blonde ambition trip After three decades they are back Selena Gomez: My Mind & MrIt chronicles Gomez’s mental health journey while looking at the state of celebrity in the social-media-and-soundbite era.
My mind and I, which debuted Nov. 4 on Apple TV+, chronicles Gomez’s mental health journey, from receiving a bipolar diagnosis to publicly disclosing that diagnosis and advocating for mental health education. “Unlike other music documentaries (recently, a popular format for reimagining famous images), Gómez’s project operates in a rawer, grittier register,” reads Lovia Garky’s review of the doc. THR.
Keshian spoke The Hollywood Reporter about My mind and I And its journey to the screen.
I read that you had 250 hours of footage in editing. How did you decide what not to include?
Now, you read other people’s takes and one guy’s like, “Well, he’s not talking Only murders in the building. “I’m like: But it won’t happen until my film is done. I’m included Selena + Chef? I am telling a specific story about her. I think we are used to documentaries and we are used to long documentaries. I asked for an extra year to edit something short of two hours and 30 minutes. We live in a world of less attention spans and yet movies seem to get longer and longer and longer. Less is sometimes more. I knew I could release a two-hour, 30-minute cut and please her fans who never tire of her. But I want us to mean something to people who are not her fans. That’s what I always told my editors: I’m not looking to spray Selena Gomez’s room. I want a very distilled and focused version of this story so that you spend 93 minutes feeling differently about your own life and Selina’s life.
Concert documentaries and celebrity documentaries are very popular Truth or dare. Is that omnipresence familiar to you? My mind and I?
None of that affected my story. I have my own beauty and style of storytelling. I understand: I don’t want to make a social media documentary. I don’t want to work with someone, no matter how brilliant they may be, who ultimately wants to direct the documentary themselves. I was really lucky and careful to make sure I worked with people who respected on some level the artistry I hoped to bring to the project. And that, as I bond with my subject, my vision on that screen and the subject through my eyes. And the beauty of that true documentary is the duality of the subject and the filmmakers looking at that subject creating a truth that none of them could have achieved on their own.
The documentary probably started as a concert doc and then became very different. Do you know what the story is at what time?
It was just like what happened Truth or dare. When I said to Selena on my first day in 2019, “OK, we’re going to shoot Kenya,” she wanted me to shoot it as a charity kind of film that was going live on her website. And the first day I shot it, I was like, here’s a documentary, and I knew what it was. We were flying [Kenya] And she was in a dilemma on that flight about whether or not she should declare herself bipolar. I was like, wow, the tension here is that she’s out of a mental health facility, she’s literally in the first stages of her own recovery, and yet she wants to share her story to help others.
Selena’s label Interscope is involved in the doc, and her management company, Lighthouse Media + Management, also produced the project and is run by your sister, Allen. From an outsider’s perspective, this may seem like a weak link for the filmmaker.
in what way
In that they have a vested interest in Selena’s image being a certain way, and you’re actually making a documentary about something that’s not that image.
What’s interesting is that when I did the 2 hour and 30 minute version, Interscope and Lighthouse said, “This is great, it’s ready to go out.” And I said, “No, no, no, it’s not.” That version is in some ways more faded of darkness. I think Selena is really lucky. She has a label that wants nothing more than to support her humanitarian mission. And Lighthouse, in the mental health space and in the philanthropy space, is constantly striving to bring its hopes and dreams to life. Allen was the one who first alerted Selena to some of those charities and charity situations, and she’s very on board with that. So, no, I felt incredible support. I don’t think I could have done it without Interscope and Lighthouse. Yes, I have heard stories of great documentaries where managements came in and took over the editing of everything. I got nothing.
How did you build the filmmaker-subject relationship with Selena?
What she saw helped Truth or dare And she knew exactly the level of access Madonna gave me. She could see it. When she talked to me about it, this was in 2015, I told her that I am the first person she calls in the morning and the last person she talks to at night. We became best friends. And when I started in 2016, I told her, “I don’t think you’re going to enjoy the Cinema Variete process. It’s too much all the time. ” and she said “No, no, no, I will.” But even then I was very cautious. There’s a scene in 2016 where she breaks down after her dress rehearsal, and I’m in the dressing room before anyone else. She walked in, and I got down on my knees while she was sitting, and I held her hand, and I talked to her, and I told her, “It’s normal. People feel it. It’s okay.” After a moment of reassurance, she said, “We don’t need to film this. Unless you’re cool with filming it.” And she said, “No, I’m cool with it.” Because she gave me that promise and knew what it took to get something level. Truth to courage. At the end of the day, she felt that I was more interested in being a decent man for her than getting a movie or a paycheck to make a Selena documentary. And that builds trust. And I guess that’s just my mindset about it all.
Does that closeness of subject affect knowing what to include and what not to include in your filmmaking?
I think all filmmakers love their story or they love their subject in the documentaries I make. And not to the point where I can’t say, we need to show your body image problem because we need to understand the stress you’re under. Because I’m able to make those decisions serve the story and they give me an understanding of what she’s going through. I’m not trying to make an objective documentary. There is nothing like that. And those who pretend to be objective, the second the camera shoots something and the second edits it, it is subjective. So, my subjectivity comes from a place where I like the people I decide to work with and shoot with. I know it’s different if you’re Andrew Jarecki, you’re doing something very different. But what I do is, if I don’t fall in love with them, it takes so long to make these documentaries, it’s like a marriage. I don’t want to be with someone I don’t like or respect. I’ve heard stories, because some of the people I’ve worked with have worked on others, where the subject and the director end up hating each other and they don’t talk. I can’t imagine it because it’s hard to open.
Which scene most improves your understanding of who Selena is?
I love that scene with her neighbor Joyce. That scene makes me angry. [Shooting in] Texas showed me this idea, she’s not the kind of person who thinks, “Thank God I’m out of here.” She does not look down on anyone. In fact, she sees people. She is not one to run from her past. If anything, sometimes, she overthinks the past, as she says in one of those scenes, “The past makes me depressed because I have all these regrets.” But there is a courage and humility of such humility.
In addition to showing Selena’s mental health recovery and journey, the documentary is a look at fame in the social media age.
There is a big underlying theme about celebrities and the isolation of celebrity and the dark side of celebrity. Sometimes people ask me, what is the difference Truth or dare And now. I was 24 when I did Truth or Dare, I’m more of a white haired person now. I, myself, have always seen celebrity as a somewhat surreal construct that harms people. [and it] Everyone’s goal is now ubiquitous. And I’ve seen the effects of that structure not only with really talented people, but with every young person who is now desperately trying to create images and maintain their reputation. And I don’t know how happy they are underneath it all because fame can be isolating in its own way and you’re constantly working on the surface. You are constantly working on the presentation. I’m talking about people who are actually doing social media. So, I would like to point out the reputation up to a point. I want to let people know that it’s not all fun and games. She is not having a good time in Paris. Granted, these are first world problems, you might say, but if you want to know what it does to someone’s mental health, that level of isolation — it doesn’t make people happy.
After Truth or dare You said you don’t want to do another documentary. Do you feel the same after this?
I won’t rule it out. I love nothing more than other interesting people approaching me and saying I want to do something that will stand the test of time.
What’s the best thing about getting a documentary like the one you made?
Self curiosity is really important. Anyone who wants to learn something about themselves; Someone who loves art and realizes that documentary art is best when working with documentary. But really, as a matter of fact, anyone willing to face the discomfort of being filmed in order to invent themselves.
The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.