The burgeoning filmmaker behind ‘The Things We’ll Show Our Kids’ talks spontaneous footage, style and genre, and her own relationship to memory

It’s sort of a strange experience: looking at your parents’ yearbooks. Reading the love letters they saved from adolescence. Watching their old film reels. These memories are often rare to come by. But when they do appear—when they’re passed forward, from one generation to the next—it’s almost always a shock. To see the ones we know so well, in a context that’s entirely unfamiliar, is a destabilizing yet humanizing encounter.

In her short film, The Things We’ll Show Our Kids, burgeoning filmmaker Ava Marks plays with this niche shared experience. In conversation with Document Journal, she speaks on avoiding genre, creating with like minded friends, and carrying her camcorder wherever she goes.

Document Journal: What inspired you in the process of making The Things We’ll Show Our Kids?

Ava Marks: The idea for the film came from a conversation I had with my friend Jackson on his roof in Brooklyn. It was late at night and we were listening to music, talking about our parents and what it’s going to be like when we eventually become them—how we are going to have to be completely available, and responsible for other lives than our own.

I only recently realized that my parents were people. I know that sounds silly, of course—they are humans. But I didn’t realize they were actual people, who’ve lived experiences outside of being a mom and a dad. Before they had kids, they lived entire lives. Then I realized that, to my kids, I’ll only ever be ‘Mom.’ I’ll have known them for their entire lives, but they will only have known me for a slim portion of mine. The only way to give them a slight understanding of my time—before them—will be through all of the memories that I [choose to] show them.

Document: How do your personal interests manifest in the film?

Ava: I often say that if I wasn’t in school, I would be traveling a lot more. I’d be taking photos and making films on a more personal level. Sometimes, I feel that art school can really drain one’s motivation to create for themself. But [The Things We’ll Show Our Kids]—it’s really a slice of my life. I’ve changed a lot, and will continue to do so, but this piece feels like it represents the sort of core of my surroundings, of my life. Instead of making [a film] for someone else’s viewing experience, I tried to make one for myself to look back on, as a sort of collection of memorable snippets of my time here.

I’m finding myself drawn more towards creation than curatation. I spent so long trying to make things that were perfect, and now I’ve realized that they don’t have to be, as long as they make me happy.

Document: Were the film’s vignettes directed or spontaneous?

Ava: The film is an accumulation of past events that I captured in the moment—whether that be on shoots, or just regular days spent with my friends. The footage is a mixture of spontaneous and directed imagery. I’ll see someone doing something that I think looks visually interesting, and will try to loosely recreate it. Or I’ll see something in a landscape that I like, and I’ll feel the need to document it in the way I would imagine it in a film.

Instead of making [a film] for someone else’s viewing experience, I tried to make one for myself to look back on, as a sort of collection of memorable snippets of my time here.

Document: Who are its actors?

Ava: The people in the film are a few of my close friends. I’m very fortunate to have a group of creative, adventurous friends who have an urge to create in a similar way to me. I mostly like casting work with people I know. I think it creates a really exciting, uplifting work environment when you can share the experience of creating with people in your life whose opinions you value.

Document: What kinds of equipment do you use, and what’s your editing process like?

Ava: Most of the footage for this film was actually taken on a variety of camcorders. At first, I was borrowing a friend’s, trying to use it whenever I could, but I eventually got my own and carried it everywhere.

The way I chose to edit was based around how I see my own memories, inside my head—sort of a blob of files that are constantly popping up, sometimes out of nowhere. The film was definitely a puzzle, in terms of editing—trying to fit everything together somewhat cohesively. It was a lot of fun, figuring it out.

Document: How would you define your filmmaking style?

Ava: I make films in the way I make images. I always look at things as stills first, then relate them into moving image. I’m not trying to fit into a certain style or genre—to be honest, I don’t particularly believe in those things. I mostly like to make work with rough ideas, and figure out what it fully means later.

I know what my work means to me, and how it looks through my eyes. But to someone else, that vision might be completely different, and that’s okay.

Document: What’s the most important lesson you’ve taken from your film education?

Ava: To keep going, even if a project feels like it’s stuck in the mud. Just keep creating, keep moving. I had a professor who, after every critique, would simply say, Keep going—even if you don’t want to, just go take a walk every day and film something. Shoot something, even if it turns out terrible.

I’m hoping that, in the future, I’ll keep making work that feels close to me—and that I can figure out some new ways of presenting that work that aren’t completely realistic or conventional.