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The film project about what makes us human

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The film project about what makes us human
Photo: Linda Coussement
16:42 CET+01:00
Linda Coussement is a woman on a mission to film people's personal stories as she slowly travels the globe - with the aim of spreading a message of empathy and connectedness. After spending a month in Vienna she is now en route to Budapest. She spoke to The Local about her project.

When did you first come up with the idea for your project How It Is To Be You?

The idea came to me a few years ago when I was on a hike in Normandy. I started thinking about writing a manual on how to be human, but then realised that was a bit presumptuous. So instead, I thought I could take a look at how other people live their lives and the lessons they have learnt. In May this year I decided to follow this dream and I did a documentary film-making  course in Berlin for two months, and since then I've been travelling.

Why did you decide to do the project as a series of videos?

It's hard to get noticed online in the sea of content that is out there, and I think that video seemed like the best way to do justice to people's stories - plus I wanted to learn a new skill.  

What were you doing before?

I'm from the Netherlands and have around ten years experience in the world of business consultancy and I also did a lot of work in the startup world in Amsterdam. Working with startups showed me that you really can pursue a dream and just go for it - that's what I like about entrepreneurs. The experience helped me be less afraid of taking the jump, and building my art project/business from scratch. At the moment it's all being funded by my savings but those won't last for long so I'm looking into alternative ways to fund it - such as crowdfunding.

How do you find your subjects?

So far, I've found people in quite accidental and serendipitous ways. In Berlin I wanted to find an ‘anarchist' type and I ended up looking at a dating website and found a picture of an extreme-looking man - who turned out to be an anarchist living a polyamorous lifestyle. He was open to the idea but then introduced me to his partner, a male born transgender artist who I ended up filming with. My second film profiles a banker who quit his job to become a papermaker, and he was my AirBnB host in the Czech Republic. I'd love to visit every country in the world but I don't know if that's realistic… But I do want to capture a sense of cultural diversity.

You're now working on two video portraits made in Vienna, tell us more.

One of the people I filmed with is a friend of a friend, an architect who is very interested in Taoism and Tai Chi. He's going to China for a year or two to learn more and plans to come back and set up a school in Vienna. My second story is about a Swedish man and a German woman who are in their 70s. He helped her escape from East Germany in 1965 and they have been together ever since, based in Vienna. It's an incredible story.

All the people I've spoken to so far have touched and inspired me. When you make an effort to really talk to people and listen to them, you learn so much. My plan is to make a longer documentary film about the whole experience at the end of the project - but that depends on resources and funding.

We'll be featuring Linda's Vienna stories in the next couple of weeks.

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