Ross Kauffman on What to do with Your Life

November 10, 2014

Hello all!! It’s a glogtastic day over here at the academy. Three classes left in the term. Exactly one week till thanksgiving vacation. The mountain is open. There’s no formal dinner tomorrow night. Oh and exams start Thursday… Oh well. We’ll all get through. Remember Hannah’s moment today at assembly? We can do it! I’m downright inspired with the end of the term in sight. Anywho,

Exactly a week ago, Gould students and faculty had the incredible opportunity to meet and talk with Ross Kauffman, producer and cinematographer, best known for Born into Brotherls: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids (2004) and E-Team (2014) which was played in Bingham for everyone. He’s won an Emmy (2006), an Oscar (2005), Best Documentary at the High Falls Film Festival (2004) and many other awards for Born Into Brothel’s and the Cinematography Award (2014) at the Sundance Film Fetival for E-Team. In other words, his documentaries are incredible. I sat down with him in between classes to ask a few questions. Here are some insights into his mind.

Q. What’s your best Halloween Costume? (Gotta break the ice somehow. This was relevant because Halloween was only three days previous to this interview)
A. “Paul Bunyon. I carried around a real ax around all day and it was awesome.

Q. What’s your definition of uncomfortable? What makes you uncomfortable? (On to the real stuff)
A. “Humidity, I don’t like humidity.”
Q. Were you ever uncomfortable out in the field?
A. “All the time, on so many different levels. The main thing I feel uncomfortable about is that I might not be getting the right footage. Like the footage isn’t interesting, its boring, and I’m not capturing the story. That’s a very uncomfortable feeling. Like am I going to go back home with nothing? And I always feel that. A lot of the time I think ‘oh I wasting my time, I’m not good at this’. That insecurity, that’s a big source of discomfort. Physical discomfort comes from traveling to India, Africa or some of these other places. It’s hard to just do regular things, like take a bath or shower. Then there’s the emotional discomfort of being in different places. Where you’re seeing a lot of not really nice stuff or your seeing people go through pain and you can’t do anything about it. That’s uncomfortable.”


Q. Advice for highschoolers, seniors? What should we do with our lives?
A. “It’s really hard to figure out what to do with your life”

   “Be open to different things, relationships, forming relationships or friendships. Being open to different people just because your curious about people, be curious. You’ll be amazed at the amount of different people you’ll meet and the possibilities that will open up to you because you’re open to other people. You’ll meet people in all walks of life and then in one of those walks of life you might say ‘wow that looks interesting I never thought about doing that for a living, I’m going to look into it’.

   Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask people for their time. They might not give it to you, but don’t be afraid to ask them. Be persistent, but not obnoxious. For example if someone emails me saying ‘can we talk I’m making a movie out’ of the blue I might not get back to them. But if they email me again, like in two weeks, and then they email me again in three days and say ‘hey I don’t want to waste your time or my time if you don’t have time to talk let me know’, I’ll email them back right away. It’s a tried and true method. They’re not being obnoxious, but they’re being persistent. A lot of people will just help other people out as long as you show that motivation and drive. I think Paul Newman said it’s 90% tenacity and 10% talent. I don’t know if that’s true, but that’s what he said.

    And just be open and try to be open to the possibilities. Try to listen to your feelings. When your feelings say ‘wow I really like that’, sometimes it won’t seem so easy to follow them and sometimes a lot of people will say no to you. Like everyone said ‘no, don’t even bother trying to go into the film business it’s really competitive and you’ll never make it’. It is competitive and it is hard. Even though I have success I still feel like I might fail. But go with your feelings and try to listen to them and be true to who you are. It’s not easy but if you can do it, its pretty fun.

…Just some inspiration for your Monday night. Good luck studying everyone! And maybe take some time to take Ross’s advice.
Till later,



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