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Interview with Liz Marshall: The Ghosts In Our Machine

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Liz Marshall, photo by James Heaslip

Liz Marshall is a Toronto-based, award-winning filmmaker of Water on the Table, which featured Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians. Her latest project, The Ghosts in Our Machine (TGIOM), is a multi-media documentary featuring the lives of animals through the lens of animal photographer Jo-Anne McArthur. Liz says, "Animals are central in our lives yet they are invisible members of society. With the exception of our companion animals and a few wild and stray species within our overly developed urban environments, we experience animals daily only as the food, clothing, entertainment, animal tested biomedical research and consumer goods we make of them. Animals are hidden within the shadows of our highly mechanized urban world.

The Ghosts In Our Machine is a cross-platform documentary in development. Liz is currently using the on-line site indiegogo to raise funds for the next stage of the project: 
Her film seeks "to uncover the dark recesses of our anthropocentric society to illuminate the lives of individual animals used for human profit and consumption." In a rabble.ca interview, we asked Liz Marshall about the origins and nature of her new multi-media film and on-line project.


AK: Is the goal of this project to have a feature length documentary?

Liz Marshall: Yes, absolutely, our hope is to have a successful theatrical release, international broadcast and festival premiere(s), and a strong semi-theatrical distribution path. It is ambitious, I know, but this issue needs to be on the radar, part of public discourse, and we hope that TGIOM is a part of that wave. We will see what's in store!

AK: Are there other goals? In particular, can you elaborate on your vision for the multimedia aspects of this project, including the website?

Liz Marshall: THE GHOSTS IN OUR MACHINE is a documentary film and an online immersive narrative experience. This is why we refer to the project as a “cross platform” or “cross media” project. They are partners: the film will take viewers on an emotional cinematic journey, and the online channels will be an interactive, educational creative space. The online presence has already begun, and it will strategically roll out over time, part of its role will be to build an audience leading up to the release of the film. And the film will point people to our online experience, to go deeper. These parts work in concert and will be beautifully orchestrated. Paul Shoebridge & Michael Simons of The Goggles (http://www.thegoggles.org/) are new to our team. These guys are masters of political art and interactive storytelling for the web. I am a huge fan of their work, especially of Adbusters and Welcome to Pine Point. If we get funded for the “new media” component of the project, these guys will design the online experience.

AK: Who is your target audience and how do you plan to reach out to them and engage them?

Liz Marshall: We want to reach a broad colourful spectrum of animal lovers! This includes the most obvious demographic: activists. We also want to attract people who love animals but whose consumer habits are detrimental to animals - they are either unaware of this, or uneducated about how to make changes. We hope that they engage in this project.

Community engagement across social media platforms will be the engine that drives the unveiling of the narrative leading up to the premiere of the documentary. We will peel back the layers along the way; there will be a constant unfolding. I like to think we are already building an international network (especially via our facebook page) that is wider than activist circles – don’t get me wrong, the activist circles are crucial because they are the most invested and they are and will continue to be the champions of the project.

AK: When did you first plan to do this project and what inspired you?

Liz Marshall: The impetus? I give credit to my life partner Lorena Elke. She is an unwavering, deeply principled vegan and animal loving activist.  We have jammed about ideas for the last seven years or so. The conceptual approach didn’t click for me until the last couple of years as I watched Jo-Anne McArthur’s photographic documentary series We Animals flourish. Jo has been a friend of ours for a while and I love her images, they are what I refer to as “animal centric”. What compels me now more than any person are the animals. Their stories inspire me to go further and to be utterly consumed by this. I live and breathe my projects and I am in this for at least the next 3.5 years, probably longer.

AK: Can you tell us more about the issues you'll be covering in addition to your first feature on animal experimentation and animal rescue?

Liz Marshall: The heart and soul of this cross-platform documentary are individual animals used for human profit and consumption – food, fashion, entertainment, biomedical research and consumer product testing.
It is an exploration and I am interested in facilitating a creative and consciousness raising experience for people, one that helps us all reflect, pose questions, learn and empathize. The plan is to film these stories in Canada, the US and in Europe, following Jo as she photographs them, over the course of many months. We will do some filming this summer; I am excited to get going.

AK: How are your experiences with the award-winning Water on the Table documentary informing your current project?

Liz Marshall: I think TGIOM is a natural extension. Water On The Table poses the question: Is water a commercial good like running shoes or Coca-Cola? Or, is water a human right, like air? TGIOM will prompt people along the way to consider whether non-human animals are mere property to be owned and used by humans or are they sentient beings deserving of rights? This is a question, like the one for water, where the reflex is obvious: of course animals are sentient beings! ...Okay, so then why are there billions of them suffering behind closed doors all over the planet, being used as products for our human desires, addictions and needs? We need a revolution of consciousness now about our treatment of these beings. I am equally compelled by the content as I am by finding the right tone and style to express this moral proposition.

AK: Can you tell us more about your launch on indiegogo and how it can serve to meet your fund-raising goals for the next stage of the project?

Liz Marshall: We have launched an online fundraiser via Indiegogo because we need support to achieve our next immediate goals. There are perks for contributors, and it’s a great way of being part of our growing community. In addition to the perks we provide on our campaign page we also have a fun contest for anyone who donates $20.00 or more between now and June 22nd (our half way mark). Your name will be included in a draw and eligible to win a Cow Jones Industrials Vegan Handbag (http://www.cowjonesindustrials.com/.  The English Retreads Handbag is made with a combination of recycled pet fabric and recycled innertube. Made in Boulder Colorado. Retail value is $150.00.
Thanks so much for your consideration, any amount helps!


IF we get over what we're asking (sometimes these online fundraising campaigns raise more than the target), we will happily make a donation to the tremendous ongoing work by Jo-Anne McArthur of We Animals.


Photo of Liz Marshall by James Heaslip

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