Scott Petersen began his film career 20 years ago working on the feature Zebrahead. He went on to work in the office of John Hughes (Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller's Day Off) and then began working in television. He has done work on Antiques Roadshow, Rescue 911, Unsolved Mysteries, BBC, VH1, The Food Network and more.
Scott's documentary work includes the award winning Out Of The Loop (1997) which told the story of the underground music scene in Chicago, and the award winning Scrabylon (2003) which explored the world of tournament Scrabble. Both documentaries went on to be broadcast on PBS.
His latest work, "The Renaissance of Mata Ortiz" documents the story of how an American treasure hunter and a Mexican artist transformed a dying desert village in Chihuahua into a flourishing artisan community. The documentary has been funded entirely by Scott thus far and is now in post-production, but he needs additional funds to finish the project. The opening scenes for the documentary can be seen below.
Baja Bound caught up with Scott in June of 2010 for a quick interview:
Baja Bound: How much time were you able to spend in Mexico while filming for "The Renaissance of Mata Ortiz"?
Scott Petersen: I took three trips to the villagetwo to three weeks each during the summers of 2007 to 2009. I also shot a few interviews and events in Southern California.
BB: How receptive were the artists in Mata Ortiz to being interviewed and filmed for the documentary?
SP: The artists understand the value of publicity, so most were more than happy to speak to me. When you first arrive in the village, many people will invite you into their house or gallery to see their pottery. They're very friendly. The main artist in the documentary, Juan Quezada, told me he used to be very shy when he was a boy, but has done dozens of interviews over the years and is now very charismatic. The younger artist in the movie, Diego Valles, is a natural on camera. He became comfortable enough to make fun of me (in English!).
BB: What was your favorite experience while traveling in Chihuahua?
SP: Meeting new people and exploring different cultures. This documentary took me to places that I never knew existed and those experiences were truly priceless. I was very lucky to see some incredible art and foster relationships with some amazing people. I now have a whole new group of people in my life. In cinematic terms, the light in that part of Mexico is beautiful. It's difficult to take a bad picture there.
BB: The subject matter of your documentaries has ranged from the Chicago music scene, competitive Scrabble and now the revival of Mata Ortiz pottery. How have the ideas for your documentaries come about?
SP: I'm fascinated by subcultures. You can find subjects anywhere: magazine articles, news programs, even just walking down the street. For this one, I happened to see a short film on the village and thought that it could make a great feature-length doc. Once you train your brain to look for stories, it becomes very easy to find them. Of course, completing the movie is much more difficult.
BB: Any plans for the next documentary?
SP: As an independent filmmaker, I'm concerned right now with finishing this movie and then distributing it. I'll probably spend the next two years on distribution, so I haven't had time to think about starting another doc yet. I do have a ton of ideas that I'd love to do, but I only have so much time and finding money is increasingly difficult. I need a fairy godmother or someone to help pay for these projects so I can concentrate on the actual productions.