The Secret is in the Eyes

By Kiki Murai

This is a series we like to call UNCAPPED. A look at Herb and Dorothy behind the film lens. What did director Megumi do to capture the scenes that she did for her first film HERB & DOROTHY? And what can we expect in her new film, HERB & DOROTHY 50X50, due out September 13?

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There’s usually more to the story than what the film camera can capture – and many times, those stories are just as delightful than what we’re able to include in the film.

I sat down with Megumi recently to ask what was happening behind certain scenes in her first film HERB & DOROTHY, and second film, HERB & DOROTHY 50X50. Say for example, when this particular image was taken at the National Gallery of Art in the early days of shooting the first film, HERB & DOROTHY.

You may remember it.

Herb looking at Chamberlain Sculpture at NGA viewing room copy


Herb, Dorothy and Charles Ritchie, Curator at the National Gallery were in discussion when something caught Herb’s eye. As if led by some invisible force, Herb left the conversation and walked straight toward the object.

Thankfully, Ian, who was working the camera noticed Herb’s movement, and followed him.

“I’ve never seen it in this position,” Herb says, as his eyes pierce through the John Chamberlain artwork.

Curator Molly Donovan joins him, “I think it just ended up that way but it can go any…”

“No, I remember getting it this way.”

“Well, let’s see,”

“I’m not used to seeing it this way. This makes it seem more contemporary…”

Molly changes the position of the artwork, as Herb watches closely.

“Yeah,” Herb says. “I like it better that way.”

“Me too.”

Dorothy joins in.  ”That’s the piece we got when we first got married. We went to a studio. And it’s the first piece we bought together.”

(See the full clip here.)

Looking back on this scene, Megumi says it was shot before she knew the Vogels well, before she knew exactly what story she was telling in HERB & DOROTHY. Well into the filming of that film, she was frankly lost, because the Vogels would not explain to her what they saw in the works they liked (and purchased).

When interviewing artist Lucio Pozzi, she shared that she was having trouble accessing Herb and Dorothy’s thoughts, and he said it was not in the words they spoke, but in their eyes.

“He’s like those dogs that dig underneath for truffles or the treasure they’re looking for,” said Pozzi. “And his eyes become intense.”

Before starting to shoot on this day, Megumi shared with the crew one important tidbit: Stay focused on their eyes.

Moments like these make a documentary.

That night, crew members Ian (with the camera) and James (in charge of the sound) treated Megumi to dinner at a local Japanese restaurant in Washington DC.  “I had so little money making this film that they actually treated me to dinner!” Megumi recalled. “I’ll never forget them.”

Earlier that day the crew had warned Megumi that they knew very little about art. (Megumi had met them that day for the first time, as they were a local crew in Washington DC.)

But that evening, around edamame and sake, the conversation went something like this:

“I really like Jackson Pollock!”

“You know, I really enjoy Andy Warhol.”

And on Ian and James went, discussing the artwork they filmed that day.

That, shall we say, is the Vogel Effect.


See the Vogel Effect for yourself on the big screen – our new film HERB & DOROTHY 50X50 opens this Friday at IFC Center. Reserve your spot here!

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