Q&A: Director Cathy Pearson on ‘Get the Picture’

Sweeping in scope, Cathy Pearson’s Get the Picture reveals the fascinating story of war photographers—a group so concerned with documenting humanity they’ve risked everything to reveal conflicts at their most extreme. Photojournalist John G. Morris began his career as a photo editor for some of the world’s most important publications in the 1930s. Having worked internationally with legendary photographers, such as Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson, as they documented every major event and catastrophe from World War II onwards, Morris shows the stunning images he helped bring to the public’s attention decade after decade and shares the stories of those who captured them.


Please describe your film in your own words.

Cathy Pearson: Get the Picture covers serious subjects: the coverage of conflict through photojournalism, a sensitive view of humanity, and a search for peace in the world. Even though there are some difficult things to look at in this film, I wanted the audience to leave with a heartfelt message.

What inspired you to tell this particular story? 

CP: I had what I believe to be a serendipitous meeting with John G Morris, who features in the film, in a café in Paris one evening in August 2009. He sat next to my friend and me and talked about so many different subjects with us. He was clearly an elderly man, but I had no idea at the time that he was into his 90s; he is so sharp and witty. So it was really John, his charm, his life and times that inspired me.


He’s 96 years old and has lived an amazing life. What is the one thing about him that surprised you the most? 

CP: His interest in all matters of the world. I have had conversations with him about art, politics, yoga, meditation, history and, of course, romance. His curiosity seems to keep him very youthful.

Your film is beautifully shot. Did the fact that your film was about a picture editor, legendary war photographers, the founders of Magnum, etc., inform your decision in selecting your cinematographer Richie Donnelly? 

CP: There were actually four directors of photography, so it would not be fair of me to single one out. They all did a great job, I think.


What do you want audiences to take away from your film? 

CP: An optimism for and gratitude towards life. And a resolve that we must all work together to create peace and fairness in the world.

Do you have one piece of advice for aspiring filmmakers? 

CP: Make sure you have something worth saying in your work, and keep going until you get the job done. Rejection is commonplace, especially when seeking funding, but the limits we come up against can be opportunities for a new creative angle. Keep an open mind and enjoy the process.


What are you most looking forward to at the 2013 Hamptons International Film Festival? 

CP: Seeing John Morris have his moment with his friends and family from New York at the screening of the film. He will be 97 years old shortly afterwards, and I think he deserves a big round of applause for the way he lives his life and for all that he has experienced.

Get the Picture screens in the Focus on UK Film section at HIFF 2013.
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Cathy-Pearson-headshotWith 18 years of film production experience behind her, Cathy Pearson recently completed her first documentary feature film as producer/director. Get the Picture was named “Best Irish Documentary” at The Jameson Dublin Film Festival this year. The film has been taken on by Content Media Corporation for international sales.