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HBO Interview with Beyoncé

Klaudia//February 16, 2013
HBO: What made you decide to make a documentary?

BEYONCÉ: I decided to make a documentary for a number of reasons.

First of all, I just wanted to cut through the noise. We live in a celebrity-obsessed culture where there's a lot of information traveling and a lot of talk, but if you really take a look you'll see that for the most part, it's not me doing the talking. Making a documentary was a chance to show who I am and what I really care about.

And it was a new experience for me and an opportunity to examine my thoughts and emotions in a new way, to examine how I look at the world and the people around me, especially during a time when my spirit was put to the test. I was starting a business, launching a record and keeping a big secret inside of me, and it was a way to maintain my sanity, to keep my grip on the world.  I learned so much about myself in making this film, and that is what art is for me, an exploration of self.

HBO: How did you begin or approach the process? Did you have an idea in advance of what you wanted the story to be? Or did you discover themes and storylines along the way? 

BEYONCÉ: I don't think you'll find one documentary director who'll say that he or she knew right from the start what the film is going to be like in the end. Unlike fiction films, documentaries are really created in the edit process. All I knew going into this was that I wanted to share my point of view on life... I wouldn't have released a film just for the sake of self-documentation,  I wanted it to express what I believe to be true about life - that it's not random, that everything has a reason and that we need to be conscious of life's little clues and how the dots all connect or we miss out. 

HBO: Were there any surprises that happened during the filming that took the story in a different direction than you had planned?

BEYONCÉ: I guess the biggest change came when I decided to include my personal video diaries in the film. When I recorded them I had no idea that they would see the light of day. The thought of it never even crossed my mind. One day I asked to put theses video files in my secure archive. My co-directors asked me if I would consider sharing them and using them in the film. I wasn't sure how they would look or feel in the context of the film but they actually ended up being the best way to put everything in perspective and to keep myself honest.  The life moments, thoughts and feelings I was having off the stage when I was alone with no cameras and free to just express myself was part of me and my story.   

HBO: What films or filmmakers were you influenced by? How did you work with your DP to determine the look and feel of the film? 

BEYONCÉ: I really liked R. J. Cutler's film on Anna Wintour, and also, another documentary I loved was ‘The Eye Has To Travel’ about the incredible Diana Vreeland who tremendously impacted fashion and women during the last century.  

Working with my DP was really about establishing a point of view. Ed has been documenting me with a video camera for about 8 years, and that footage shows the twists and turns that make up my journey. The footage that I shot over the years shows my point of view. So, finding that balance in the film between my internal point of view and his external point of view was an interesting challenge in the making of this film. I think that it was a successful process and the edit did manage to balance the two viewpoints into one cohesive experience. 

HBO: How long did you shoot and how much footage were you working with when you started editing?

BEYONCÉ: Back in 2005 I made the decision to start documenting my work because I wanted to make sure it represents my intentions. It was a good decision to make but it also meant that we had about 7,000 hours of footage when we started to edit this film! 

HBO: What was the biggest challenge of the editing process?

BEYONCÉ: The edit was very challenging because we had different kinds of footage that normally wouldn't be put into one film. We had footage that documented the making of my album 4, we had my own private footage and archival footage and we had the show I did at Revel in Atlantic City. Telling one cohesive story with all those elements is not an easy task. What we ended up doing was use the diaries to complete what was hidden from the eye in the B-roll camera and using songs from the performance as story elements that helped to weave the film together.  It was a very interesting process.  

HBO: What other challenges did you face in directing a documentary about yourself?

BEYONCÉ: I guess the main challenge was staying objective. I became a character in the film and I was constantly judging myself. Sometimes my instinct would be to remove moments where I came across as weak or vulnerable, but I didn't want this to become a fluff piece; it was important to keep it real. That was the goal to begin with and I had to stick to it.  I made my co-directors tell me the truth where I might have had a blind spot, to keep it objective and truthful.

HBO: If you were interviewing yourself here, what would you ask?

BEYONCÉ: I'd ask "Were you out of your mind?" But really, exposing myself like this is a little uncomfortable for me. Some people would say "What did you do that for?  This can only damage you!"

HBO: With all the media attention that surrounds you, were you concerned about sharing an intimate part of your life?

BEYONCÉ: It is very hard for me to publicly expose my deepest emotions. I've always been very protective about my private life, so sharing my deepest moments with the world was challenging. But I wanted to say something about my perspective on life, and I hope it comes across in the film the way it is intended, in a way that is raw, artistic and sincere. 

HBO: How is making a film like making an album? Does it allow you to express yourself as an artist?

BEYONCÉ: Film has a very wide canvas, it represents an entire reality. The voice is much more intimate and mysterious because it exposes an element of that reality. In a movie, sound plays only one part of what makes up the experience, on top of that you have cinematography, editing, drama, storytelling- you have life! 

It's hard to compare the two art forms. The recording studio is where I feel most comfortable, film is located outside of my comfort zone, but that's precisely why making this film was such an incredible experience for me.

HBO: Would you like to make another film?

BEYONCÉ: It opened up so many possibilities for me to express my thoughts and emotions. I am both humbled and excited about filmmaking, it really exposed me to new horizons and opened up my artistic appetite. 

HBO: What is the next challenge you'd like to take on?

BEYONCÉ: I'm a big believer in the element of surprise, so why don't we keep certain things a mystery...