Interview with Ky Dickens: Sole Survivor
Ky Dickens brought her film, Sole Survivor, to Kickstarter in the hopes of raising $18,000 to cover post production costs. The documentary film delves into the lives of four sole survivors of commercial airline crashes. It confronts the misconception that survivors of tragic accidents feel lucky. We had the opportunity to talk to Ky Dickens about her documentary and the message she wants to get across with the film.
Q: What is your background in film making?
Ky: My first feature-length documentary Fish out of Water, uses animation, narratives and historical analysis to deconstruct the seven Bible verses used to condemn homosexuality. Fish out of Water was a success on the festival circuit, winning four festival prizes and securing international distribution immediately after its release. Last winter, my short cell phone video about an abandon snowman was chosen as the “Yahoo! Holiday video of the Year” in the United Kingdom. Before directing documentaries, I made a living shooting bands and music festivals. I started my film career as a camera operator at CBS, immediately after college.
Q: Where did the idea for Sole Survivor come from? What makes this documentary important to you?
Ky: In high school, my good friend died in an accident and I was supposed to be sitting where he was sitting. Since that time, I’ve empathized with the guilt and confusion that comes along with survivorship. Many people think that survivors should feel lucky, but their reality is often quite the opposite. Survivors are frequently plagued with guilt, confusion and weighted down by lofty expectations. Families, communities and institutions around the world have neglected the struggles of survivors due to a lack of understanding. I hope this film will educate about survivorship so that survivors no longer have to live on the margins of society or on the brink of their own personhood without the resources that they need to heal.
Q: Which films have you drawn influence from for Sole Survivor?
Ky: I actually didn’t draw influence from films as much as I did from poetry. Rilke’s Book of Hours and Letters to a Young Poet impacted my thoughts on loneliness and purpose and this deeply impacted the tenor by which I told the story.
Q: Which directors have you drawn influence from for Sole Survivor?
Ky: I draw inspiration from good storytellers. I love Terrence Malick because he understands that stories are bigger than just the character at the center of a film. His narrative work constantly reminds the viewer that life hangs in a perfect balance, not just in the tangible present, but as it spans through time. Though our human relationships, memories and emotions seem monumental as they happen, they are fleeting and ephemeral in the sweep of the universe. And though this sentiment can make us feel small and significant, I think it makes our life on earth unimaginably rare and precious. For me, all this comes around to a burning drive to tell stories that seek to better understand our purpose, destination and origin.
Q: Who is your target audience? What message are you trying to get across to them?
Ky: Members of regional communities impacted by the plane crashes featured in the film have demonstrated tremendous (and growing) anticipation for the release of the film. This includes the wide network of victims’ family/friends – but extends far beyond to include the broader communities, as it seems that everyone has a strong recollection of the crash, the people involved and the second, third, and fourth degree connections they possess to the lives lost and the survivors spared. We are working with the support groups organized in each community to promote support for the film locally and regionally, and intend to bring the film to festivals and theaters in these communities to meet their interests.
The film will offer messages that will engage the interests of a variety of specialized groups, including, but not limited to: survivors of trauma with an interest in exploring the ongoing process of healing; professionals like first responders, mental health professionals, doctors and nurses, whose roles all are featured in the film; members of the aviation community who have vivid and informed memories of these crashes; scholars, students and others with an interest in the role media has in shaping the experiences of individual subjects.
The film’s ultimate focus on the impact that national policy has on the realities of transportation safety will ensure that the film’s message is relevant for all of us, each time we board a plane, travel by rail or set foot on a bus.
Sole Survivor has forged a strong relationship with ACCESS, a national bereavement support network for those touched by aviation disasters. Their support for the film and its purpose will help us to reach broader audiences throughout the country.
If you are interested in making a donation to Sole Survivor, you can visit its Kickstarter page here: http://kck.st/OeCetN