“Summer Pasture” Filmmaker Lynn True

by journojames on February 13, 2012

Originally published Mar. 1, 2011

LOS ANGELES – In the documentary “Summer Pasture,” a hard-working young wife, Yama, points out to her husband with mild annoyance that “no one was watching over our yaks.” Locho, her husband, a herder who seems to spend more time in front of a mirror checking his own complexion than his grazing animals, blames their runaway “naughty horse” for taking him away from his herding duties.

Scene of nomadic life from "Summer Pasture," Photo courtesy of Documentary.org

“Little things like that are really telling of a typical couple,” said Lynn True with an amused smile, the producer and director of the movie. “That’s what I was looking for.”

There are a number of scenes like this one throughout the movie and it was revealing in many ways.

“Summer Pasture” offered an intimate glimpse of Tibet and traditional nomadic life in the 21st century, which is seldom seen by outsiders. But, it also showed that, despite the faraway setting, the every day struggles, worries, and hopes of the young Tibetan couple and their infant daughter were largely universal and easily recognizable.

“I didn’t have a set idea of what the film needed to be,” said True, after a screening at U.S.C’s School of Cinematic Arts. “We didn’t go in with a particular agenda. We were just really excited to have the opportunity to see how a typical family lived inside Tibet.”

Filmmaker Lynn True, Photo courtesy of ITVS

Dressed casually in a pair of jeans and a button-down blouse, the self-assured and articulate New York-based documentarian told the small audience during the Q & A session that she and her filmmaking partner, Nelson Walker, lived with Locho and Yama for three months in the harsh conditions to get their movie. She said the actual shooting of the film went smoothly without too much difficulty. They shot over 200 hours of footage, which was good in one sense, but not-so-good in another.

“The edit was a nightmare,” said True in a somber tone. “It just took so long to translate. And with no plan and no script, it was a constant process of trial and error.”

The film was finally completed after two-and-a-half years of post-production work. The total cost of the film was around $250,000, according to True. She said a lot of personal loans and credit cards were used to finance the project.

Baby Jiatomah and Yama in "Summer Pasture," Photo courtesy of Coveringmedia

The thoughtful and easy-going graduate of Brown University said that she studied architecture and urban studies in school but she always had an interest in photography and film. She said she started interning and working as a production assistant after graduation. One day she found herself in an editing room and she instantly fell in love with it and filmmaking.

“We would love for this to be shown in China,” said True. “But we’re really interested in just telling a personal story about an actual regular Tibetan family. We wanted the film to ring true for them (Locho and Yama), more than anyone else.”

True said the movie was recently bought by “Independent Lens” and that it would be shown on PBS later this fall or early next spring.

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