In Focus: Jeremy Ambers on Impossible Light

Jeremy Ambers on the Bay Bridge

Jeremy Ambers on the Bay Bridge

JEREMY AMBERS, IMPOSSIBLE LIGHT

Impossible Light is the feature-length debut of Jeremy Ambers. Jeremy has been involved in many facets of video and film production for over 14 years. He is currently a San Francisco-based documentary filmmaker. He has served as assistant editor for Who Gets to Call It Art? (2005), and editor/producer of Under Four Trees (2014). An editor and producer of television programming and corporate video, he was also senior editor/ post production supervisor for HouseSmarts (2006–2009), nationally syndicated on NBC.

Impossible Light will have its San Francisco Bay Area premiere at SFIFF57 on May 5 at a free outdoor screening at the Exploratorium and screen again on May 7.

 

How did you first discover your subject(s), and what made you decide to make a film about them?

I met Ben Davis early on in the process of creating The Bay Lights. He was at a community fundraising event in the South of Market neighborhood, and he was telling people about this crazy idea to create the world's largest LED Light sculpture on the side of the Bay Bridge. 

I have always held a special place in my heart for the Bay Bridge - probably because it's a constant underdog to the Golden Gate - and, for some reason I had always fantasized about climbing the cables. When I heard him talking about the idea, I thought to myself, 'this would probably be the best opportunity I'll ever have to hang all over that bridge.'

I asked them if I could document their journey because of the scale of the project. They said, "sure, but we have no money." 

I replied, "that's okay, neither do I."

If they failed, I would have nothing to show for 3 years of my life, but if they succeeded, I would be documenting a part of art history. The desire to succeed is what drove this film to completion. But that desire was completely fueled by the dedication of such a small team working on The Bay Lights, and the seemingly insurmountable obstacles they had to overcome. I figured that if they can do something so grandiose, I can at least make a film about it.

 

What do you see as the greatest challenges for filmmakers today?  

The entire process of making a film is extremely challenging. My personal challenges of making Impossible Light were that it was my first film, I wasn't really a part of any sort of 'filmmaking' group to bounce ideas off of, and I didn't have the time and energy to go out and secure funding for the film.

There are so many great ideas for films out there, and it is literally a full time job for someone to go out and secure funding against all of the other great projects. I would guess about 80% of this film was made using a one man crew: shooting, producing, recording audio, editing, etc. I didn't have the ability to also spend my day working a crowd-funding site or hitting up friends and family for loans. 

Not to mention, this is my first film, so I didn't exactly feel confident in asking people for money when I wasn't even entirely sure of what I was doing out of the gate. But I like to tell people that this project was, in many ways, my film school. I can't even begin to tell you all of the lessons I have learned over the past 3 years. I only hope to snowball that experience into an even more successful future.

 

A still from IMPOSSIBLE LIGHT

A still from IMPOSSIBLE LIGHT

 

What new opportunities are making the biggest difference to your filmmaking process?

I think the access that I have been given on this film has not only allowed me to take the viewer places they probably will never get to go, but it has also introduced me to a number of people with interesting ideas and projects in the works. So hopefully that opens me to new opportunities moving forward.

I've also recently had the privilege of participating in the Film Festival circuit, and it has introduced me to all sorts of great filmmakers and people around the film industry - both here in the Bay Area and around the country as a whole. So that has given me so many new opportunities to learn and talk shop with other people who have been/or are currently in my shoes. That experience has been absolutely priceless.

 

Describe what impact San Francisco Film Society or Bay Area filmmaking community support has had on your film.

Last summer, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to screen an early rough cut of 'Impossible Light' for the San Francisco Rough Cuts program. I found that experience to be essential to the completion of the film.

There were many long days and nights where I sat and stared, and toyed with the film. Having an audience of filmmakers and people who are generally interested in film sit and watch 'Impossible Light' in near-final rough cut form was a great way to show the film to fresh eyes. Otherwise, I would show the film to close friends and family, and they would say "it's amazing!" But that's what I would expect these people to say to me. I needed to hear from impartial folks who watch lots of documentaries. And the Rough Cuts event didn't disappoint. 

Even though the film was nearly complete, I took a few steps back and examined all of the feedback I received that night, and I feel it made me work harder to achieve a better end product. It took another 6 months before the "final" film came out, and I have no regrets about screening my film to that audience.

 

Check out the trailer for Impossible Light below!