Search This Blog

Friday, January 13, 2012

Filmmaker Turns the Cameras on Her Own Family

By Aaron S. Robertson

Alyssa Bolsey on a mission to uncover the life and times of great-grandfather, inventor of the Bolex movie camera, in an unfolding documentary project that’s sure to inspire.

Imagine this: One of your direct ancestors touched the lives of millions of people, either directly or indirectly, through innovative yet practical inventions, ideas, and foresight. The problem? The world really doesn’t know too much about him. He passed away a half-century ago nearly broke and in obscurity. So many details of his life appear to be lost to history.

Jacques Bolsey, inventor of the Bolex camera
A young Jacques Bolsey.
For Alyssa Bolsey, a filmmaker from La Crescenta, California, the above-mentioned is not just an imaginative scenario. It really happened. The man in question is her great-grandfather, Jacques Bogopolsky, who lived from 1895–1962. Bogopolsky, who also went by the names of Bolsky and Bolsey, was a renaissance man in the truest, purest sense of the term. The Ukrainian-born doctor, inventor, artist, and futurist seemingly lived the life of a nomad, with his adventures taking him across Russia, Switzerland, France, and the United States.

And now the younger Bolsey finds herself in one of the biggest fights of her life, a battle taking place on two fronts – she’s not only taking on time, distance, and history to recover and preserve her own family’s past to hand down to future generations, but also to put a long-lost visionary’s ideas and work back in the public spotlight. Perhaps the world can still benefit from them.

In an exclusive interview, Bolsey took time out to share her love for film, what is currently known about her great-grandfather’s life, meaningful advice to aspiring filmmakers based on her trials, and ways people can get involved with the project, either monetarily or through time and talents.

“I had always been interested in film and have been making short films since high school,” Bolsey said, saying that film school was the next logical step for her after high school. She started work on The Jacques Bolsey Project in 2005, devoting about a year’s worth of time to it before having to put it on the backburner for a stint in the corporate world, working for a talent agency. But the project was always on her mind, and she returned to it about a year and a half ago, armed with a full-time devotion to it and a dedicated team that shares her passion.

The adventure began when Bolsey’s grandfather – Jacques’s son – passed away. She traveled across the country to attend a family memorial, and she soon realized that he had held onto many of his own father’s belongings. Curiosity set in, and before long, she found herself spending considerable time going through boxes upon boxes that had barely been touched – if at all – in four decades. They had the water stains and dust to prove it.

THE JACQUES BOLSEY PROJECT (Development Teaser) from HME on Vimeo.

One of the treasures to come out of the find is a journal Jacques Bolsey kept between 1927-47. But deciphering its contents hasn’t been easy. “His writing is very microscopic, and it’s in multiple languages,” Bolsey explained, adding that at times it was taking up to eight hours per page to translate.

Though Bolsey emphasized that the project is still ongoing and research continues to unveil many new developments, she said she would like to see it completed by spring of 2013, though that can certainly change.

Bolsey’s advice to aspiring filmmakers: “Don’t be afraid to start publicizing your project and getting the word out about your film right from the start.” Bolsey said she wishes she had focused on the publicity side of The Jacques Bolsey Project a lot sooner, as she finds herself left wondering if she could be a lot further along with the film as far as funds, helpful connections, and the like. The filmmaker also emphasized the need to assemble a team. “It’s really important to have more passion behind your project than just your own,” she said, adding, “And it really helps to have support to lean on and bounce ideas off of.” And finally, avoid getting stuck in the mindset always second-guessing yourself. “There isn’t one right way to make a film or documentary, and I’m still learning that,” she said.

There are many ways people can get involved in this project. Bolsey said that monetary donations are always needed and greatly appreciated, and a number of sponsorship opportunities are available for such donations. Extra hands are always welcomed in a variety of areas, as well. Also, anyone who has either original film footage or still photos shot from Jacques Bolsey's cameras between the 1920s to the present is invited to submit their material for possible inclusion in the documentary. In addition to the Bolex movie camera, Bolsey invented the Alpa and Bolsey 35mm still cameras.

Those interested in learning more about the project or getting involved can e-mail Bolsey at: .

No comments:

Post a Comment