Local couple shares Kodak moment

and daughter Jane with the digital camera.
and daughter Jane with the digital camera. (Frederic Lumiere)
Posted: August 05, 2011

IT WOULD HAVE been very awkward if Sara Martin and Edward McNelis had broken up between submitting footage for Kevin Macdonald's documentary "Life in a Day" and its release today. Amid the other moments meant to capture the average person's life on July 24, 2010, is Martin and McNelis celebrating their first anniversary as a couple.

McNelis, a Bensalem-native and Penn student, heard about Macdonald's project through ads on YouTube and Google. He hounded Martin to participate. Martin demurred at first. After a dinner celebrating their union and just minutes before Macdonald's deadline, McNelis finally convinced his girlfriend. He turned on his camera to capture the two lying in bed chatting.

"We wanted to at least try to be a part of this time capsule," McNelis said.

The pair's appearance in "Life in a Day" is incredibly ordinary. Every couple talks in bed. But that's the point of Macdonald's film, to document how people around the world live their lives in the simplest of terms. In a YouTube address, Macdonald called it a "record of what it's like to be alive on that day."

Frederic Lumiere, a Doylestown-based documentary filmmaker, figured that to make the final cut, he needed to make his footage stand out. While working on his most recent film, a History Channel documentary called "World War II in HD," Lumiere's then-4-year-old daughter Jane said to him, "When you're finished doing your show with soldiers, I want to do a show with you." On July 23, 2010, she reminded Lumiere again that she wanted to work with him. That's when it hit him: Give Jane the camera.

Lumiere trained Jane on a cheap digital and told her to simply document her day. "She shot her whole day. We had three or four hours of footage," Lumiere said. "You really got the point of view of a child, like you could see up the nostrils of adults."

Lumiere actually had a similar idea to "Life in a Day" about 20 years ago. He planned to gather footage from different parts of the world all taken at the same time. He even made a trailer for it. But YouTube and the cheap cost of video cameras have made the idea much easier to realize on a global scale. "I realized this is the only time to be able to do it on this scope," Lumiere said.

Macdonald also asked each participant to answer three questions. Jane is included answering the question, "What do you fear most?". Her answer: witches. "It's her seven seconds of fame. But what an amazing thing for her to look at when she's 18."

Similarly, Martin and McNelis have a video record of their first anniversary. They recently celebrated their second. The camera-shy Martin is still perplexed as to why their footage was chosen for inclusion in the documentary.

"It's just an intimate moment between two people," she said. "I have no idea why people would want to watch us."

- Molly Eichel

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