(KRON) – A Bay Area filmmaker with an intimate family story added another Oscar nomination to his resume earlier this year. The film, “How Do You Measure a Year?”, is one that can easily resonate with all families, and when KRON4’s Pam Moore saw it, she wanted to know more.
Filmmaking has been Jay Rosenblatt’s life for 40+ years: studying, teaching, and creating films. Most, he says, are personal in some way.
His daughter Ella has been the subject of several of the films, but “How Do You Measure a Year?” is the project that took the longest as he tracked his daughter’s evolution through childhood.
From the adorable age of 2 years old, through the sometimes challenging teen years up until Ella was ready to head off to college, he asked similar questions, seeing his daughter react differently each year to his efforts. He never looked at the 16 hours of video until Ella was 20.
“At the very least I thought it would be an archive for her… a tape of each birthday,” Jay explained. “When COVID hit I had some extra time on my hands and I thought I should look at the footage and see if there’s a film there.”
Now 22 and living in New York, KRON4 talked with Ella about the film and her dad – the bright moments during those years of interviews and those not so bright.
“It was an opportunity to have a more formal check-in with each other there that you don’t usually do day-to-day,” Ella said.
“The checking in meant a lot to me,” Jay said. “And that fact she was willing to do it… it showed she had some sort of trust in me and that made me feel good. There were some rough years where she was sullen, withdrawn, didn’t want to participate. Luckily I kept filming and just filmed that.”
“Those awkward teen years, they were hard to watch, and sometimes I have to skip over the middle years, but in terms of the movie as a whole, I think they help it feel authentic and I think it’s an awkwardness a lot of people can connect to. So for that, I’m glad they’re in there,” Ella said.
Jay has more than 30 films to his credit, two Oscar nominations, showings at Sundance and more. His day job also involves storytelling at the Jewish Film Institute.
“Storytelling is essential to humans. That’s how we connect as humans, through narratives,” Jay said. “That’s how we deal with our own growth. We are always telling ourselves our own stories and that creates memories.”
Creating memories is what he did for his own family.
“I’m definitely glad looking back, we were able to do it every year,” Ella said. “It’s been affirming on the back end hearing people just remind me how special our relationship is.”
Several of Jay’s films will be shown in March. The Jewish Film Institute’s next film event is Winterfest in February.
“How Do You Measure a Year?” as well as one of Jay’s other documentaries on bullies, are now airing on Max. Ella went to the Academy Awards with her dad.