Filmmaker Sarah Gerber has followed one of the “Lost Boys” displaced during the Sudanese Civil War, as he returned to his village to build a school. She has also documented a woman whose coffee business totally transformed her mountain community in Honduras. The beauty lies not just in these incredible individuals’ stories, but also in the special bond Gerber forms with her subjects.
“The relationship we have is going to last a lifetime,” Gerber says. “We were just strangers who met at one point.”
These people find their way into Gerber’s life in different, sometimes even unexpected ways. Take the trip to Laos—it was with a former beauty pageant winner who moved back to the small Southeast Asian country to work on various community development projects.
“And we connected through Twitter,” Gerber states, well aware of how amazing this sounds.
Gerber is now focused on turning this documentary into a feature-length film and doing research for another possible feature—all new ventures for the storyteller.
But Gerber is used to challenges. After graduating with a double major in fine arts and English from a small liberal arts school in Michigan, Gerber headed back west to her hometown of Berkeley, California. But the job search was daunting.
“Job searching was such a soul-sucking process,” she says. “I said, ‘You know what? I’d rather start my own company.’”
Gerber then launched Twenty Twenty Studios, which combined her photography background and her newfound interest in filmmaking. She began to focus more and more on the latter.
“The heart for me is storytelling,” she says. “There’s so much more available to it through film.”
Gerber travels the world to shoot her documentaries. Her north star: helping people share what’s important to them by telling their unique stories. That’s where she got the name Twenty Twenty Studios from—her business is all about bringing these stories into focus.
Twenty Twenty Studios is currently a one-woman show working out of WeWork Berkeley. (She does share the office with her husband David, a life coach.) Her team is composed of professionals that she brings on for each project.
Gerber says one of her biggest current challenges is allowing other people to do some of the work. Her impulse is to do everything herself.
“I need to learn to give up creative control,” she says matter-of-factly. “I can’t do it all myself if I’m going to scale.”
As she travels around the world, Gerber says that she sees each destination through a new lens.
“It’s very personal and affects my work on a personal level,” she says. “It’s amazing to have these experiences of travel and different cultures incorporated into my work, not just as a pastime or vacation. It brings a different level to travel.”
On May 22, Gerber’s documentary The Way Back to Yarasquin will be screened at the Global Voices Film Festival, which showcases independent films created by women around the world. For more information and tickets, visit here.
Photos: Sarah Gerber, Simone Stewart