Photographer/filmmaker Gail Mooney and her 23-year-old daughter went on a 99-day journey around the world to shoot Opening Our Eyes, a documentary that follows nine people who are creating change across the globe. One of the subjects (and the inspiration for this project) Maggie Doyne, 23, is helping impoverished kids in Nepal through her BlinkNow Foundation. Another, Dr. David Marnaw, founded a volunteer non-profit medical organization in Thailand. Mooney, who is now busy editing 150 hours of footage, is raising money to help fund the film’s final cut. Her goal: $7,500 by January 5 (donate at Kickstarter). We asked the visionary globetrotter:
What are you hoping to achieve with this documentary?
Our whole goal is to motivate and inspire others as to what an individual can do. Even the smallest act can make a positive difference in somebody’s life, or anywhere in the world, so the more people that see that, the more power it has.
How did you discover the men and women you profile in your documentary?
The people that have been interviewed and filmed were all found either via someone we knew or someone we knew who passed that along to someone they knew. It was all pretty close connections.
Whose story most deeply impacted you?
They all did for their own reasons. Certainly Maggie because she was the inspiration for the notion that if she’s doing what she’s doing at 23 years old, there must be hundreds, thousands like her. But every person for their own reason because they were all so passionate and dedicated to what they were doing. It was pretty much their calling. That in itself was nice to be around. It was inspirational.
How did the trip impact your relationship with your daughter?
Well we got to know each other as people and you usually don’t get to do that until your kids have kids or when you become a mother. Then, all of a sudden, you have a different relationship with your parents, with your mother. She saw me 24/7, and likewise. We saw how we reacted to different situations, good and bad. Certainly it was much more broad a look at who we are rather than just related.
What lessons have you yourself taken away from this project?
Oh gosh, so many. I think that even though I probably have known this for as long as I’ve been a photojournalist, I can use my craft—my images, my films—to make a difference. To create awareness. And it’s even more powerful now than when I started in the business over 30 years ago because of the Internet. But so many little things too. Learn to be more patient, everything has its time. There’s a time for everything and you just kind of have to go with that.
What lessons are you hoping to leave other people with?
That even the littlest thing that they can do can be a very powerful thing because that usually pays it forward. You tutor a child. That child grows up to be a different person because you help them and then they affect other lives. So when people say, “Oh, I can’t do that”—it doesn’t need to be an overwhelming thing. It can be a very simple, simple act, and you never know how profound the consequences can be from that.
What advice would you give someone that does want to make a big difference in other people’s lives but doesn’t know where to start?
They should look at what they’re interested in themselves. What they’re passionate about, because then they’ll want to share that. So if they love theater, great. If they love painting, fabulous. Whatever they’re passionate about because that’s how so many of these people got into it. A tango therapist was our subject in Buenos Aires and she loved dance so now she helps people with tango therapy. So that would be my advice. Start small and see where it goes.