Friday Book Club | Making the Invisible Visible.

August 7, 2020

Friday Book Club | Making the Invisible Visible.

May 29, 2023

Chip: We’re going off-script today with a Q&A with one of the most fascinating documentary filmmakers in the world. Yes, he’s written books but the visual feast of his films is what we’re going to discuss today.

Louie Schwartzberg has been on the big TED stage, on Oprah’s Super Soul Sundays, and his YouTube videos have surpassed 30 million views. I got to know him when he spoke at our Airbnb Open festival in 2016. Louie, how would you characterize yourself and what are you up to these days?

Louie: It’s great to reconnect. I’m a storyteller who takes audiences on journeys through time and scale. You might have heard about my critically acclaimed documentary, Fantastic Fungi or Moving Art, my documentary series that has reached hundreds of millions of viewers on Netflix. For the last four decades, I’ve been shooting time-lapse photography of nature, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, non-stop. With my work, I’m able to compress time and put you in sync with different forms of life within our interconnected world. My work makes the invisible visible.

Chip: Yes, your work is exquisite as it’s like a Wonderful World of Technicolor Disney but in nature. It’s almost like you help pieces of nature that most of us think of as inanimate and you give it life. Tell us more.

Louie: We walk by flowers every day. We think they're static, but they're not. They just exist in a different metabolic rate than our own. Every living creature or plant has its own metabolic rate. To a redwood tree that lives 500 years, we look like time-lapse ants just scurrying around! To a mosquito sitting on your arm, we look like giants moving in slow motion. By seeing nature at this scale, I now appreciate the fullness and richness of time. I realized how every minute of my life is full of tremendous potential. Even though my life has changed with each new decade, I am guided by nature’s spirit of resilience and collaboration.

Chip: Hanging out with you and watching your films is a consciousness-shifting journey. You remind me a little of Dacher Keltner, one of our MEA faculty who is a professor at UC Berkeley and may be one of the world’s leading experts on awe. In fact, he and one of my co-founders Jeff Hamaoui are teaching an MEA workshop Dec 13-20 on the subject of Awe, Wonder and Curiosity. What’s next for you?

Louie: Everything I’ve learned comes together in my new Wonder & Awe podcast. In each episode, I’ll host a conversation about our natural world featuring two unique guests. It all began on August 4 with the legendary mycologist Paul Stamets, who shared his long history in the field and his vision for how mycology will shape our future. He was joined by Merlin Sheldrake, a young artist, biologist, and the celebrated author of Entangled Life. So, we’re offering a little intergenerational collaboration as well.

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